Short summary - Henri Coiffier de Ruzé, Marquis of Cinq-Mars
Alfred de Vigny
The plot of the novel is based on the story of the conspiracy of the favorite of King Louis XIII, the Marquis of Saint-Mar, against the all-powerful Cardinal Richelieu in 1642.
1639 Young Henri d'Effia, Marquis de Saint-Mar, goes to serve the king - goes to the siege of Perpignan, captured by the Spanish troops. Under cover of night, he says goodbye to Maria Gonzago, Duchess of Mantua, who lives in the castle under the tutelage of his mother. Young people love each other, but Mary was “born the daughter of a monarch,” and Saint-Mar must rise to get her hand. With this thought, the young man sets off on the road.
On the way, he stops in Loudun to see his mentor, Abbot Quillet. There he witnesses the execution of the priest Urbain Grandier, accused of witchcraft. However, the real reason for the unfortunate condemnation is the pamphlet he wrote against Richelieu. Judge Lobardemon, wanting to prove to everyone that the condemned is possessed by the devil, on the way to the fire brings a red-hot iron crucifix to Grandier's lips, and he involuntarily pushes him away. Outraged by such baseness, Saint-Mar grabs the crucifix with the hollow cloak and stabs the judge in the forehead.
Saint-Mar realizes that in the person of Judge Lobardemon he has acquired a mortal enemy. At night, the young man, "characterized by painful sensitivity and constant excitement of the heart", is haunted by disturbing dreams: Urbain Grandier under torture, a crying mother, Maria Gonzago, leading him to the throne, where he cannot rise, a gentle hand that turns out to be the hand of an executioner .. .
Cinq-Mars comes under the walls of Perpignan and breaks his tent where young noblemen already settled, which should be presented to the king. Driving around positions, he meets with parliamentary councilor de Tu, his childhood friend. "They embraced, and their eyes were moistened with sweet tears." Saint-Mar and de Tu are participating in the storming of the Spanish bastion, showing wonders of courage.
Saint-Maru has the honor to appear before the king. Seeing "a young pale face, large black eyes and long brown curls," the king is amazed at his noble appearance. The cardinal tells Louis that the young man is the son of the valiant Marshal d'Effia. Admired by Saint-Mar's courage, the king appoints him captain of his guard and expresses a desire to get to know him better. De Tu also receives royal praise.
Driving through the camp, Saint-Mar saves two Spanish prisoners from reprisal. Having sent them to his tent, he himself, overcoming the pain in his wounded leg, goes to the king. All Henri's thoughts are focused on how to "please" His Majesty, because he needs to "either rise or die." De Tu reproaches him for vanity. Saint-Mar assures a friend that his "intentions are as pure as heaven."
The king happily greets the young man: his appearance saves Louis from a painful conversation with the cardinal. Looking at Saint-Mar, Richelieu feels that this young man can cause him a lot of trouble. Seeing that Saint-Mar is wounded, the king orders to call his doctor and declares that if the wound is not dangerous, the young man will accompany him to Paris.
Richelieu is confident that Saint-Mar will become the favorite, and sends his lieutenant, Joseph's father, to keep an eye on him. “Let him either serve me or he will fall,” the cardinal declares.
Sitting at the head of Saint-Mar, de Thou discusses how much benefit the fatherland can bring an honest courtier, fearlessly speaking the words of truth to the monarch. Wanting to lift the veil of the future, young people, following an old belief, unfold a prayer book with a sword in order to read their fate on the pages that have opened. Smiling tightly, Saint-Mar reads a story about the execution of two holy friends-martyrs, Gervasius and Protasius. At this moment, Father Joseph enters the tent. According to the same belief, the first person to enter the room after reading will have a great influence on the fate of the readers.
Father Joseph is present at the conversation of Saint-Mar with the captives he saved. One of them turns out to be the son of Judge Lobardemon; due to the cruelty of his father, he was forced to leave his home. Saint-Mar gives young Lobardemon the opportunity to escape, but his secret becomes known to Father Joseph.
Pass Two years. Saint-Mar is the chief equestrian, the recognized favorite of Louis XIII. The cardinal is seriously ill, but continues to rule the country. Arrived at the court, Maria Mantuanska is under the patronage of Queen Anne of Austria, who wants to marry her to the Polish king. But Mary still loves Saint-Mar, and Abbot Quillet secretly betrothed them. Now the young man must become a constable in order to openly ask for her hand.
But, despite the friendship of the king, Saint-Maru does not manage to rise, and he blames Richelieu for this. Many nobles hate the all-powerful minister; from this discontent is born a conspiracy to remove the cardinal from power. The brother of the king Gaston of Orleans and Anna of Austria are involved in it. The head of the conspirators becomes the general favorite of Saint-Mar.
For the sake of overthrowing Richelieu, the rebellious nobles agree to collude with Spain and send enemy troops into the country. Having familiarized herself with the plans of the conspirators, the queen refuses to support them, but promises to keep everything that she knows a secret.
Accidentally learning about the plans of Saint-Mara, de Tu reproaches a friend for betraying the interests of his homeland. In response, Saint-Mar tells him about his love for Mary - after all, it was for her sake that he became a courtier, for her sake he wants to be the “good genius” of Louis and destroy the tyrant-cardinal. Otherwise, he can only die. De Tu is in despair: he saw Mary at court, and she seemed to him a frivolous flirt. However, for the sake of a friend, he is ready for anything, even to participate in a conspiracy.
Notable conspirators gather in the salon of the courtesan Marion Delorme and take the oath of allegiance to Saint-Maru. "King and Peace" is their cry. Having signed a treaty with the Spaniards, Saint-Mar with the young Lobardemon sends him to Spain. Having learned how far the conspirators have gone, Gaston of Orleans also refuses to participate in such a dubious enterprise.
Under cover of darkness, Saint-Mar and Mary meet in the church of Saint Eustathius. Saint-Mar tells her lover about the conspiracy and asks her to end their engagement. The girl is shocked: she is the rebel's bride! But she does not intend to change her oath and leave Saint-Mar. Suddenly, the voice of Abbot Kiyet is heard: he calls for help. It turns out that he was tied up and gagged, and in his place, in the confessional, next to which the lovers' conversation took place, the cardinal's devoted servant, Father Joseph, slipped in. The Abbot manages to free himself, but it is too late: Father Joseph heard everything.
Judge Lobardemon is ordered to procure a contract. In the Pyrenees, he overtakes the envoy of Saint-Mar and recognizes him as his son. However, the judge is filled with hatred, not forgiveness. Having taken possession of the paper he needs, he treacherously kills his own son.
Saint-Mar and the faithful de Thou arrive at the camp of the conspirators near Perpignan. Here Saint-Mara finds a letter from the queen, who asks him to release the Duchess of Mantua from her oaths so that she could marry the Polish king. In despair, Saint-Mar replies that only death can separate him from Mary, and sends a messenger back with a letter. Feeling that the conspiracy has failed, Saint-Mar dismisses the conspirators.
Having received proof of Saint-Mard's betrayal, Richelieu demands an order from the king to arrest his favorite, threatening, in case of refusal, to resign. Realizing that he himself is not able to govern the country, Louis obeys. Saint-Mar appears unexpectedly. "I surrender because I want to die," he declares to the astonished king, "but I am not defeated." The selfless de Tu does the same.
Saint-Mara and de Tu are imprisoned in a fortress. During the investigation, Father Joseph comes to their cell and offers Saint-Maru to poison Richelieu. After the death of the cardinal, the king will undoubtedly return his favor to the young man, and then he will become the patron of Father Joseph and help him become a cardinal. Saint-Mar indignantly rejects the offer of the hypocritical monk.
The judges of Saint-Mar and de Thu are Lobardemont and his assistants at the Loudun court; they sentence friends to death. But the judges themselves do not live to see the execution of their sentence: Richelieu's henchmen push them into the water, and the huge blades of the mill wheels grind them into pieces.
Abbot Kiyet is admitted to the prisoners as a confessor. From him Saint-Mar learns that the queen reproaches herself bitterly for some letter. But most importantly, there is no news from his beloved Mary ... The abbot says that the former conspirators want to free them near the scaffold itself, Saint-Maru only needs to give a sign to put on a hat. However, young people, "prepared for death by long meditation," reject the help of friends, and, reaching the scaffold, Saint-Mar throws his hat on the ground far away from him. Like the martyrs Gervasius and Protasius, Saint-Mar and de Tu perish under the executioner's ax.
The "last breath" of the young people "was also the last breath of the monarchy," the author concludes through the lips of the poet Corneille.