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On December 23, 1588 King Henri III’s bodyguards murdered Duke Henri de Guise in the King’s chamber at Blois. The next day the Duke’s brother Cardinal de Guise was killed also as members of their family and many from the Catholic League were imprisoned. Henri III was stabbed by the Dominican friar Jacques Clément on August 1, 1589, and the next day after recognizing Henri of Navarre as heir he died. François d’Or was Superintendent of Finance 1578-94. On August 3 Catholic commanders delegated him to ban Protestant worship in France, give all offices to Catholics, and to urge Henri IV to abjure his faith. Henri was probably recognized already by the Protestant army, and at St. Cloud the next day he accepted modified conditions and promised he would protect the Catholic faith and be instructed on religion by a national council within six months. Protestant rights would also be guaranteed by a subsequent peace agreement. Towns and forts captured by the Protestant Huguenots would be put under Catholic control. He would punish Henri III’s assassin and protect his servants. Thus the Catholic captains recognized Henri IV as King on August 4.
However, three days later the Catholic League persuaded the Parlement of Paris to recognize the imprisoned Cardinal de Bourbon, Duke of Vendome, as King Charles X. The Catholic League had issued coins in his name since August 1589; but they never tried to release him, and Charles died on May 9, 1590 in prison at Fontenay. The crown jewels had been mortgaged, and the King of France owed Orazio Rucellai more than 250,000 livres.
From 1589 to 1596 most of the civil war would be fought in northern France. Catholic towns on the Atlantic coast were harassed by Protestant privateers. Spain dominated trade routes in the Mediterranean Sea except for Protestant La Rochelle which was well fortified. As soldiers deserted, the royal army besieging Paris was reduced from 40,000 men to 22,000. Henri IV withdrew to Normandy and was pursued by Charles of Lorraine, the Duke of Mayenne. Many were killed as Henri’s forces defeated Mayenne’s at Arques near Dieppe September 15-21, 1589. Two days later 13 ships from England brought Henri IV munitions, food, £20,000 in gold, and fifty nobles. The Paris militia was prepared to defend the city against Henri IV, and on November 1 his army of 18,000 men killed about 800 militiamen in Saint-Germain in street fighting. Henri moved south in December, and his royal army took over the major towns in Normandy except for Rouen and Le Havre. On March 14, 1590 Henri IV at Ivre gave a speech to his 3,000 cavalry and 8,000 infantry before they defeated Mayenne’s army which had about 5,000 horseman and 12,000 on foot. About 6,000 leaguers were killed, and thousands were captured. Also in 1590 Bishop Guillaume Rose wrote the influential De justa reipublicae Christianae in reges impios et haereticos auctoritate which advocated excluding heretics from ruling.
The Council of Sixteen gave the Duke of Nemours command of the Parisian league with 48,000 in the militia. The city of about 200,000 people had food for only one month. Henri IV’s army had 20,000 men. The siege began on May 7, 1590. About 10,000 Parisians died of malnutrition and disease, and on July 23 Henri let 3,000 people leave Paris. On August 8 armed radicals demonstrated in the palace while a mob invaded the Parlement demanding “bread and peace.” Alessandro Farnese, the Duke of Parma, with 14,000 Spanish soldiers invaded France from the Netherlands, and on August 23 he was joined by Mayenne with 10,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry. Parma sent Spanish troops with food that reached Paris on August 27. On September 11 Henri IV tried another assault and then withdrew. He divided his forces, sending them to Touraine, Champagne, Normandy, and Burgundy.
The Duke of Mayenne returned to Paris on September 17 and claimed the throne, but the Parisian league favored his nephew, Duke Charles of Guise. The Sixteen presented Mayenne with six demands for reforms, but he rejected them. On April 1, 1591 Mayenne made demands on the Parlement of Paris, and they expelled fifteen suspected politiques. In January 1591 Don Diego de Ibarra had arrived in Paris as the new Spanish ambassador with instructions to support the Sixteen and Catholic princes. On September 2 the Sixteen wrote a letter with the Jesuit Claude Mathieu to Felipe II asking him to be King of France, but it was intercepted and given to Mayenne. Henri de Guise’s son Charles had been imprisoned since his father’s murder but escaped in August and was supported by the Sixteen and Spain.
On June 6, 1591 Marshal de Biron conquered Louviers, and Henri IV entered and stopped the pillaging. On July 4 Henri issued the letters patent of Mantes to win over Catholics while retaining the right of Huguenots to worship at one place in each bailliage and on Protestant estates. Du Plessis Mornay organized a meeting of Huguenots at Mantes that met in November, but Henri did not attend. He went to Rouen, and England’s Queen Elizabeth agreed to send an expedition commanded by the Earl of Essex to support him. Essex arrived in August, and the siege of Rouen began on November 11.
In September 1591 some of the Sixteen had begun criticizing the Parlement for sympathizing with the politiques. On November 6 the Sixteen elected a secret committee of ten who then issued a death warrant for three politiques. Paris was still under siege, and the Sixteen made the Sieur de Belin governor. On November 15 the Parlement’s first President Barnabé Brisson was arrested, tried, and hanged along with two other magistrates. Mayenne returned on the 28th with 1,000 troops, and on December 4 he imprisoned most of the Sixteen and had four hanged at the Louvre. Bussy-Leclerc surrendered the Bastille and fled, and the General Council of the Union of Paris was dissolved. Meanwhile 120 printers had been publishing pamphlets almost every day.
In April 1592 the Duke of Parma arrived with his Spanish army of 17,000 men. Henri and Essex ended the siege, and Parma and Mayenne entered Rouen on April 21.
For thirty years both sides in this religious war had pillaged the barns and crops of peasants who still bore the burden of the heaviest taxes. They demanded an end to clerical benefices and oppression by the nobles, lowering the taille tax to its pre-war level, requiring nobles to pay the same land taxes as commoners, hiring local tax assessors instead of royal agents, abolishing all new taxes, and banning nobles from influencing judicial verdicts. These conflicts caused the economy of France to decline from 1585 to 1596 as overseas trade was disrupted by Huguenot privateers blockading Catholic ports. Both sides minted substandard silver coins. Much colder weather shortened the growing season and caused famines. In July 1589 Norman peasants had attacked the chateau of La Tour. The army led by the Duke of Montpensier killed about 3,000 of them as the rest fled. In November 1590 Breton peasants were crushed by royalist forces at Cahaix. The Croquants rebelled in the southwest in Guyenne from 1593 to 1595, and in May 1594 about 30,000 peasants gathered at La Boule near Bergerac. The Bonnets rouges were a serious uprising in Burgundy in 1594 and again in 1597, and peasants fought in Velay in 1595.
On January 26, 1593 the Estates-General met in Paris, but the majority of the 128 deputies rejected an effort to make Felipe II’s daughter Isabella Clara Eugenia queen, resenting the presence of Spain’s ambassador and nearby Spanish troops. The French did not want a foreign king, and the Guises were also considered so as Lorrainers. People were upset and wanted peace. In March the anonymous manuscript Satyre Ménippée made fun of the motives of ambitious men who supported the Catholic League. Henri liked it and got it published. Henri IV persuaded a rump assembly to approve negotiations with him, and on April 29 they agreed on a truce for ten days. On May 16 Henri announced that he would renounce the Protestant faith, and on July 25 he abjured it in the abbey at Saint-Denis and was received into the Catholic Church. Jean Boucher preached sermons in August on his “simulated conversion” and argued that Henri should be rejected as an excommunicated heretic. Many governors offered to support him, but they demanded concessions on taxes or debts. Large amounts were paid to nobles, and the Duke of Sully later estimated that Henri spent more than 30 million livres on treaties to recover the kingdom. Henri made a truce with the Duke of Mayenne on August 1.
Agrippa d’Aubigné began circulating the manuscript of his epic poem, Les Tragiques, depicting the misery of religious wars. In the fall of 1593 the Croquants rebelled in Turenne. A royal force defeated a peasant army in Limousin in July 1594, but by then the insurrection had spread throughout Guyenne. After a poor harvest in 1594 caused starvation, the Croquants rose up again in 1595. The King offered relief on royal taxes, but provincial nobles suppressed the revolt.
The League still controlled Reims, and the Guise archbishop refused to administer the oath; so Henri IV was crowned at Chartres on February 27, 1594. He led his armies to Paris, and on March 22 the gates were opened for them. After attending mass, Henri watched 3,000 foreign troops leave the capital. About 120 leaguers refused to accept the new king, and they were banished from Paris. François d’O succeeded Governor Brissac who became Marshal of France. The Parlement and sovereign courts were renewed on March 28, and two days later they cancelled all laws passed since the end of 1588. During Easter week Henri washed the feet of the poor, visited the sick, freed prisoners, and touched 660 people on Easter Sunday. He gained the support of the theology faculty. After François d’O died on October 24, a financial council was appointed. In the next four years the King’s commissioners negotiated treaties to pacify League towns and princes, and compensation was offered. They gave 900,000 écus to the Duke of Lorraine, 250,000 to Marshal La Chatre for fortresses at Orléans and Bourges, and 492,800 écus to Marshal de Brissac in Paris.
On August 27, 1593 the Catholic League soldier Pierre Barriere had tried and failed to assassinate Henri IV. On December 27, 1594 the 19-year-old Jesuit law-student Jean Chastel nearly cut King Henri’s throat. Both men were tortured and executed by being dismembered (quartered). The parlements of Paris, Rouen, Dijon, and Rennes found the Jesuits complicit and expelled them from France.
Henri IV declared war on Spain on January 17, 1595, and on June 5 he led the royal cavalry to victory over the Spanish vanguard near Fontaine-Française. The Count of Fuentes seized Le Catelet on June 25 and then took Doullens from the French garrison. Henri consolidated Burgundy, and he entered Lyon in early September; a treaty on the 22nd confirmed the neutrality of the two Burgundies. That month Pope Clement VIII promised him absolution, and Henri agreed to appoint only Catholics to high office, to publish the decrees of the Council of Trent, and to restore Catholicism in Béarn. Fuentes attacked Cambrai and captured it in October. Henri besieged La Fere. He allowed Jews from Germany to settle in Metz, and he guaranteed their privilege to practice their religion in the city which helped Metz become a major Jewish community in the 17th century.
In early 1596 the dukes of Guise, Mayenne, Epernon, and Joyeuse were reconciled to Henri IV, but the Duke of Mercoeur held out. Henri paid Guise 3,706,000 livres and Joyeuse and Brissac 1,500,000 livres each. Mayenne was appointed governor of Ile-de-France with three security towns. Spaniards captured Calais in April and then Ardres, but La Fere capitulated to Henri in May. On November 4 an Assembly of Notables at Rouen adopted reforms suggested by the Financial Council, and the Parlement reluctantly registered a sales tax. On January 10, 1597 King Henri borrowed 1.5 million livres from Italian financiers Sebastiano Zametti and Cenami. The King implemented a 5% sales tax on merchandise in towns. A new indirect tax was added on March 10; but it was unpopular and was abolished less than five years later. On May 8 the Chambre de Justice was set up to prosecute corrupt officials, and it was used to raise funds. On May 21 Henri reproached the Parlement for obstructing him during a national emergency.
Concerned that Amiens in Picardy was divided by factions, Henri IV canceled their municipal elections in 1596. Spaniards captured Amiens on March 11, 1597. Henri IV wanted 3.6 million livres to raise an army and 450,000 a month to maintain it, but the municipality of Paris offered only 360,000 livres. Henri managed to surround Amiens by the end of August with 20,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry, and 45 cannons, and the Spaniards surrendered in September. Henri accepted a gift of 3.6 million livres from financiers in exchange for a limited pardon. Protestant assemblies had been meeting annually at different places since 1593, and in June 1597 the assembly with more than 200 delegates including 22 nobles at Chatellerault refused to let their 6,000 troops help Henri take Amiens. They published The Complaints of the Reformed Churches and circulated it widely in France. On March 20, 1598 Mercoeur resigned as governor of Brittany in exchange for 4,295,000 livres. His daughter Françoise also married Henri’s son César de Vendome who had been born out of wedlock.
On April 13, 1598 Henri IV issued the Edict of Nantes as a compromise to make peace with 92 articles that confirmed earlier edicts. They also agreed on 57 secret articles on May 2. Two brevets granted Protestants limited military and political independence and let them fortify one hundred towns they had held for eight years with royal payments of their garrisons. The Huguenots were about 7% of the population and had elected councils in nine areas. The religious qualification for holding public offices was removed. All were granted their civil rights and access to universities and professions, and Henri appointed some Huguenots as ministers. The Edict restored Catholic worship and their confiscated property. Complaints came from the Parlement, and on February 7, 1599 Henri spoke to the judges at the Louvre as “the father of a family” and explained that peace would benefit everyone. He promised to strike at factions and seditious preaching. After ten months of negotiation the Parlement registered the edict on February 25. Yet the Parlement did not allow Protestant churches in the cities except in Huguenot towns. A Catholic and Protestant commissioner were sent to each province, and Grenoble became the next parlement to ratify the edict in September. Henri kept his own religious convictions private and said they were “one of the great mysteries of Europe.”
Queen Elizabeth had urged Henri IV to help the Dutch rebels, and starting in 1598 he sent them aid secretly. While Henri had been convincing Mercoeur to give up, his envoys Pomponne de Bellievre and Brulart de Sillery negotiated a peace treaty with Spain that was signed on May 2, 1598 at Vervins. Towns captured since 1559 were to be returned. Spain gave back Calais, Doullens, and other towns to France. In December 1599 King Henri had his marriage to Marguerite de Valois annulled, but she was allowed to keep her title as Queen Margot. Henri was betrothed to Marie de Medici of Tuscany. Her dowry was set at 600,000 écus (1.8 million livres), but 250,000 of it went to reduce the French debt. They began living together and were married in October 1600. She gave birth to a son named Louis on September 27, 1601, and they had five more children.
Duke Carlo Emanuele of Savoy came to an agreement with Henri IV on February 27, 1600, but he did not keep his word. On August 11 Henri declared war on him, and 50,000 French troops invaded and seized several towns in Savoy. Pope Clement VIII intervened, and a new treaty was signed at Lyon on January 17, 1601, giving Saluzzo to Savoy and Bresse, Bugey, Valromey, Gex, and 800,000 écus to France. From 1570 to 1600 real wages in France were below the cost of living. A Huguenot assembly at Saumur in 1601 persuaded King Henri to appoint two Protestant deputies at court to raise concerns, and two more were added in 1605. Almost half the hundred publications in 1600 were by Protestants. In 1601 Henri promised to let Jesuits return to France, but negotiations delayed this until September 1603. Charles de Gontaut, Duke de Biron, fought for Henri and became governor of Burgundy in 1595. The next year he fought the Spaniards in Flanders, Picardy, and Artois, and in 1598 he served as a diplomat at Brussels, in 1600 in Switzerland, and at London in 1602. Biron had married the Duke of Savoy’s daughter and became the lord of Burgundy and Franche-Comté. In March 1602 Jacques de La Fin revealed his conspiracy. The King had Biron arrested on June 16, and he was executed on July 31.
Spanish silver from America subsidized the Catholic League and paid soldiers in France, causing inflation there by doubling prices between 1594 and 1609. After 1587 Dutch trading of grain, salt, fish, and cloth took away gold coins. In March 1599 a commission was appointed, and they discovered 36 million livres of bonds were due. Many debts and bonds were not fully paid because the King wanted increased revenue more than justice. Cities also had debts with Marseilles owing 1.55 million livres and Arles 700,000. Some taxes were increased. In May 1597 an assembly of notables had accepted a poll tax called the pancarte, but attempts to extend it to pay for the Savoy war provoked riots in Poitiers and Angers in May 1601 and a larger rebellion in Limoges in April 1602. That month Henri moved to Blois. The revolt was suppressed, and the pancarte tax was canceled in November. In 1604 former League nobles held assemblies; but the powerful Viscount of Turenne, Duke of Bouillon, who was Marshal of France, fled to Geneva, and his strongholds surrendered. Five leaders were sentenced to death in December, and the Marchioness of Verneuil was to be confined to a nunnery for life; but none of these sentences were implemented. In the summer of 1605 the King sent a force to Limoges, and six rebels were executed. Bouillon submitted in April 1606 in exchange for a pardon.
King Henri IV relied on his minister Maximilien de Béthune, the Baron de Rosny (who became Duke of Sully in March 1606). Rosny, a Huguenot, fought for Henri and was wounded several times. He began working with the royal finances in 1596, and by 1600 he was superintendent of finances, building, and fortifications. In September 1602 he made the livre tournois France’s accounting unit, devaluing it against gold in order to promote French exports. They began storing up sacks of gold coins in 1602 and by 1605 had 3.4 million livres. The next year they used more than a million on the army of Sedan but by 1607 had seven million livres. By the end of his reign in 1610 they had 5 million stored and more than 11 million livres from the budget surplus in provincial treasuries. However, because of the civil wars France had many debts, the largest being 35.8 million livres to the Swiss cantons in 1598. In the Soleure treaty in October 1602 France agreed to pay 1.2 million livres annually, and the debt was reduced to 16.7 million by 1607. Henry IV also owed 4 million livres to England’s Queen Elizabeth. During his reign Henri repaid Zametti more that 1.5 million livres. Sully increased annual revenue from 27 million livres to 60 million; he helped reduce the crown debt from 300 million livres to 196 million; and he left behind a reserve of 20 million livres.
The first decade of the 17th century was much more prosperous in France as the end of wars lowered the price of grain. In 1600 Olivier de Serres wrote Theatre of Agriculture with practical advice and dedicated it to Henri IV. In 1604 the harvest was mediocre, and Henry prohibited exporting the crop. The King strengthened the Mediterranean fleet to fight pirates, and in May 1604 he made a trade treaty with Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I. That year France began a company to trade with the East Indies and another for New France in America in 1605. The Duke of Sully managed the royal purse and advised avoiding luxuries. Royal offices were sold for loans, and the paulette tax passed in December 1604 promoted the inheritance of positions by collecting annually a tax of one-sixtieth the value of the office. In 1608 he calculated that King Henri IV had 32.5 million livres. That year Sully invested 8% of revenues on bridges and canals, and during Henri’s reign canals connected Chalons, Reims, Troyes, and Dijon to the sea. Sully believed that a foreign war could direct the kingdom’s aggressive humors “like water in a gutter,” and his building projects provided employment.
Barthélemy de Laffemas presided over the Assembly of Commerce, advised protecting new industries against foreign competition by allowing monopolies, developed the silk industry, and recommended importing raw materials without duties to promote mercantilism. He wanted taxes on French products simplified into one tax. He favored a nationwide system of guilds and uniform weights and measures. In 1599 he had persuaded Henri to ban imported silk, but Lyon merchants got it repealed.
In 1606 the Church was given the right to purchase property they had lost, and an edict excluded laymen from abbeys and priories and gentlemen from framing tithes without clerical consent. Henri IV refused to let the Inquisition be revived in France. The poet François de Malherbe (1555-1628) was invited to the court about 1605 and spent the rest of his life there developing classical rules of poetry. His rival Mathurin Régnier (1573-1613) wrote satirical verses which the Parlement of Paris banned in 1623. Charles Loyseau published his Treatise on Orders and Simple Dignities in 1610 to explain society’s current hierarchies of the three estates of clergy, nobility, and commoners.
Henri IV sent Duke Henri of Joyeuse who mediated an end to the papal interdict against Venice in April 1607, and in October 1608 his diplomats began urging a truce in the Netherlands that began in 1609 and lasted twelve years. During his reign 23 plots to kill Henri were discovered. In the summer of 1609 he prepared his army to support Carlo Emanuele of Savoy and resolve the dispute in Cleves-Jülich. The French army of 32,000 foot-soldiers and 5,000 horsemen gathered in Champagne. Some Catholics were concerned that this military expedition would be supporting Protestants against Catholics. On May 13, 1610 Marie de Medici was crowned Queen of France. She was to rule in Henri’s absence as regent, and he appointed a regency council. However, the next day as he was crossing the streets of Paris in a carriage, the Catholic fanatic François Ravaillac stabbed Henri IV twice, killing him. Ravaillac had wanted to join the Feuillants but had been rejected because he said he had visions. Jesuits, afraid of being blamed, praised Henri IV as a great king who brought peace to France. The French people generally agreed with this, and Henri IV was revered as a national hero.
When Henri IV was assassinated on May 14, 1610, immediately Chancellor Brulart de Sillery recognized Henri IV’s oldest son Louis as King of France. An hour later the Duke of Epernon, General of the Infantry, gave the Paris Parlement a message from Queen Marie de Médici, and the 8-year-old recognized his mother as Regent over his realm. She accepted the Royal Council without changes, and the Cleves expedition went forth and drove out the imperial commissioners. The territories of Cleves-Jülich were divided between two Protestants who promised to respect the Catholic religion of the people. On May 22 the edict of Nantes was reissued, and it was confirmed in 1612, 1614, and twice in 1615.
Regent Marie told the Duke of Sully in July that she would authorize all expenditures. Concino Concini had come to court in 1601 and became Marshal d’Ancre in Picardy in 1611 and Marshal of France in 1613. As he was Marie’s chief advisor, Sully tried to resign in August 1610; but he stayed on until January 1611 when Nicolas de Neufville, seigneur de Villeroy, Prince Condé, Prince Soissons, Pierre Jeannin, and Concini united against him. The treasury accumulated by Sully lasted until 1614. The land tax (tailles) revenue went up until 1616, and the salt tax (gabelles) was stable until the recession of 1619-22.
The Duke of Sully wrote his memoirs which were published in 1638 as Royal Economies and included his “Grand Design” for uniting Europe in a “High Christian Republic” with six hereditary monarchies (France, Spain, England, Denmark, Sweden, and Lombardy), six elective states (Venice, Austrian Empire, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, and Papal States), and three republics (Switzerland, northern Italy, and Belgium). A general council was to resolve conflicts of states and between sovereigns and their subjects. Sully invested in tax farms and had more than 5 million livres when he died in 1641.
Marie de Médici retained most of Henri’s old advisors: President Jeannin, Chancellor Sillery, and Foreign Minister Villeroy who were called grey-beards (barbons). Louis XIII was crowned King of France at Reims on October 17, 1610. Although not of age to rule until he turned 13, he offered healings by the touch of his royal hand to 900 sick people in one day. The papal nuncio Ubaldini, who was in Paris 1606-16, helped negotiate the treaty of Fontainebleau between France and Spain that ambassadors signed on August 25, 1612 in Madrid and Paris arranging for the double marriage of Louis XIII to the Felipe III’s daughter Ana of Austria and of Marie’s daughter Elisabeth to Prince Felipe. They also agreed to a mutual-defense alliance for ten years which would not require France to fight in the Spanish Netherlands because of the 12-year truce agreed upon in 1609.
The Protestant Henri de la Tour-d’Auvergne, Duke of Bouillon, was lord of Sedan and much territory. He had supported the cabal of Montmorency and Biron in 1601, and in 1614 Bouillon joined the Catholics Henri of Mayenne, Prince Soissons, and Epernon. The Duke of Nevers occupied the citadel of Mézieres in January, and Henri de Bourbon, the Prince of Condé, seized Sainte-Ménéhould in May. That month the Regent bought them off with pensions, and she agreed to summon the Estates-General. On June 7 letters patent were sent throughout France to elect representatives for a meeting of the Three Estates. Secret ballots were prohibited, and those chosen by the Third Estate (commoners) were mostly royal officials. Louis XIII visited Orléans with 20,000 soldiers in July. On September 17, his 13th birthday, he became of age as King, and five days later in the Paris Parlement he held a lit de justice.
The Estates-General met on October 22 in the Hotel de Bourbon near the Louvre with 140 clergy, 132 nobles, and 192 deputies of the Third Estate attending. The clergy did not want a public budget and argued that finances are like the nerves of the state and should be hidden under the skin. They wanted the decrees of the Council of Trent accepted as laws, but the Royal Council and the Third Estate rejected that. The Third Estate led by Robert Miron, President of the Paris Parlement, wanted a decree affirming the divine right of France’s King and a loyalty oath taken by all officials, preachers, and teachers, but the clergy objected. The nobles wanted the sale of offices that favored the rich and corrupted officials curtailed by abolishing the paulette tax which made offices hereditary if the officers paid this tax. They agreed to abolish the paulette tax and to balance its 1,600,000 livres of lost revenue by reducing pensions, but this enraged the nobles who received them. The States-General was replaced by the parlements and the pays d’état and after they were locked out following a royal session on February 23, 1615, it would not meet again until 1788. The Third Estate wanted an Estates-General to meet every decade. King Louis XIII summoned leading deputies on March 24, and Chancellor Sillery said the King would abolish the sale of offices, reduce pensions, and appoint a tribunal to investigate finances. Four days later the Parlement of Paris summoned princes and high officials for a discussion. An edict in 1618 included proposals, but it was not registered by the Parlement.
Montchrétien wrote his Treatise on Political Economy in 1615 and urged France to build ships and regain markets taken by the Turks, drive Spaniards out of French colonies in America, and fish for herrings instead of buying them from the Dutch.
In June 1615 Prince Condé left the court and went to his estate. He and Bouillon wanted to stop the Spanish marriages and allowed their armies to live off the land. On November 25 Ana of Austria married Louis XIII and became Queen Anne of France, and Elisabeth wedded the prince who would become Felipe IV and make her Queen Isabella of Spain. They announced that the marriage of 14-year-old Anne was consummated, though they did not live together until 1619. Bishop Richelieu was appointed chaplain to Queen Anne. The French court was traveling, and Concini had a force of 10,000 soldiers and even occupied Condé’s estates at Clermont-en-Beauvaisis. On May 3, 1616 Regent Marie promised Condé 1.5 million livres in the treaty of Loudun and a place on her council.
Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu was born on September 9, 1585 into a noble family of Poitou. His father François was a soldier and became Grand Provost of France. Armand studied naval affairs to prepare for a career in the military; but after his brother became a Carthusian monk, Armand had the opportunity to become the Bishop of Luçon which he did in 1607. He reformed his diocese according to the Council of Trent’s decrees and was a spokesman for the clergy at the Estates-General in 1614. Marie de Medici and Concini appointed Richelieu to the Royal Council.
Concini got the grey-beards removed and hired as his secretary and royal advisor, Bishop Richelieu. Concini was from Florence and had married Marie’s foster-sister Leonora Galigai. He had young Claude Mangot advising on foreign policy and Claude Barbin managing finances. In the spring of 1616 Concini invested in Normandy, and Condé resented his influence but was given a place on the Royal Council in July. In August he toasted the demise of the Bourbons and the death of the Florentine couple. On September 1 the King had Condé arrested, and he was imprisoned until October 1619. On September 24 Marie appointed Richelieu secretary for foreign affairs. He sent diplomats to Protestant courts to reassure princes that France was not intolerant of Catholics. On January 18, 1617 Richelieu warned Nevers and other rebels to disband their armies.
Charles d’Albret, Duke de Luynes, was falconer for Louis XIII, who loved birds and spent much time hunting. Luynes persuaded the King to have Concini arrested. When Concini shouted for help and reached for his sword, the guards killed him on April 24, 1617. This is what Louis wanted, and he quickly had his mother’s guards replaced with his and workers wall up the passage between their apartments. A mob dug up Concini’s body, hanged and mutilated it, and then looted his houses. His wife Galigai was charged with sorcery but was executed for treason on July 8. Mangot resigned, and Barbin was imprisoned until 1618 and then exiled to Franche-Comté. King Louis thus gained control over his government, ending the regency. Marie de Medici fled to Blois with her chaplain and chief councilor Richelieu. Sillery, Villeroy, and Jeannin returned to the Council; but Villeroy, who spent France’s money to avoid wars, died on November 12. Sillery’s son, the Marquis Nicolas de Puisieux, became foreign minister.
On December 4, 1617 an Assembly of Notables at Rouen convened 52 nobles who were 11 bishops, 15 magnates, and 26 magistrates. On January 15, 1618 the Council decreed the paulette tax abolished, but this was not implemented. In April the King ordered Richelieu to retire in Avignon. There he wrote a catechism entitled L’Instruction du chrétien in which he used the fourth commandment to honor one’s parents as justification for social authority of parents over children, husband over wife, elderly over the young, clergy over believers, magistrates over subjects, teachers over students, masters over servants, and ultimately the authority of the Church and the King over the people. Thus Richelieu believed the King must be obeyed, and he saw his duty as a prince of the Church to serve Catholic France.
From 1618 to 1623 France suffered from unusually cold weather. In May 1618 the Duke of Epernon left court to govern a province with the Metz fortress. Marie de Medici’s younger daughter Christine married Prince Victor Amadeus of Piedmont and Savoy on February 10, 1619, and twelve days later Marie escaped from Blois and joined the forces of Duke Epernon at Angouleme. Richelieu arrived on March 27. Louis XIII had Luynes deploy 20,000 soldiers in Champagne and the southwest while envoys of the Queen Mother and King negotiated a reconciliation signed on April 30. Bishop Richelieu had pleaded her case, and Marie became governor of Anjou and was welcomed by the court in Touraine.
Luynes got Condé released from the Bastille on October 17, 1619, and the prince begged forgiveness from King Louis. As conflicts arose between Marie and Luynes, several nobles withdrew from the court to be near the Queen Mother. The Duke of Mayenne left Paris in March 1620, followed by the Comtesse de Soissons and her son in June. Richelieu tried to organize her forces at Angers. In July the King toured Normandy with his army, capturing Rouen and Caen before marching to Anjou. On August 7 the royal force of 4,000 men attacked and dispersed the rebels at Ponts-su-Cé. Marie lost about 750 men, and the rest fled or were captured. Three days later she and her son Louis were reconciled again by a treaty signed at Angers. She returned to Paris and lived in her Palais du Luxembourg which had been restored and decorated by 24 paintings of her life by Peter Paul Rubens. On August 22 King Louis nominated Richelieu to be a cardinal, but Pope Paul V did not select him. In the fall the councils of Béarn and Navarre were merged under the crown of France as the Catholic religion was restored.
An assembly of 75 deputies from Reformed Churches met at La Rochelle in December, and they organized eight military circles commanded by noble governors. On April 18, 1621 Louis XIII and Luynes led the royal army south. The Huguenot towns of Saumur and Thouars opened their gates. Saint-Jean-d’Angely led by Benjamin de Rohan, Baron of Soubise, resisted for four days and then surrendered on June 25 with the honors of war; but the walls were razed, and the town was punished with loss of privileges. Périgord, Agenais, and Quercy cooperated, but Clairac was besieged and taken on August 4. The royal army of 30,000 besieged Montauban on August 17, but Soubise sent hundreds of soldiers to reinforce the city. After the army lost more than 15,000 men in combat and to disease, the siege was lifted on November 10. Louis left 12,000 men in the southwest and went back to Paris. Luynes had caught a fever and died on December 15.
Meanwhile a fleet from Brittany had attacked La Rochelle on October 7 but was repelled. Soubise led 7,000 soldiers from La Rochelle and raided Catholic towns in Poitou in February 1622. King Louis arrived with an army on April 15. Thousands of Huguenots were killed and taken prisoner during the battle on the marshes of Rié. The King’s forces seized Royan and Protestant fortresses in Guyenne as the Baron of La Force submitted. Then the royal army sacked Négrepelisse on June 10 and took Saint-Antonin before besieging Montpellier. Louis arrived at the end of August with an army of 20,000 men. Heavy rains fell, and scarlet fever broke out again. In October they made peace with the Huguenots by confirming the Edict of Nantes and granting amnesty, and the Protestants gave up eighty garrisons. The Huguenot assembly at Rochelle accepted the peace in November. Richelieu had become a cardinal in September. He was also made protector of the Sorbonne where he had studied.
Sillery and his son Nicolas were accused of misappropriation and driven from court. Public opinion in France was divided between the religious Devouts (dévots) led by Jesuits and the bons Français whose views were expressed by the cleric François Langeais Fancan who in 1623 wrote the allegory, La France mourante ou Discours du chancelier de l’Hopital au chevalier Bayard, dit sans reproche. He wrote on behalf of Richelieu, but in June 1627 Fancan was falsely accused and imprisoned while Richelieu was at war for the Devouts.
Riots erupted in Rouen on November 16, 1623 and at Poitiers a year later. Guyenne had a serious uprising in May 1624 in Figeac and Cahors. They demanded that tax collectors be handed over. After an inquiry the King’s Council granted compensation to the tax inspectors in 1625.
Marie le Jars de Gournay was born in Paris on October 6, 1565. Her life was transformed when she read the Essays of Montaigne, and she met him in 1588. After his death in 1592 his widow asked her to edit the Essays, and she wrote a long preface that was published in 1595. Her short novella The Promenade of Monsieur de Montaigne had come out in 1594. Gournay became a feminist writer and published her essays “Equality Between Men and Women” in 1622 and “Complaints of Ladies” in 1626 when she released the first edition of her complete works. In 1634 she supported the new Academie française. Gournay defended her life as a writer in her Apology for the Woman Writing when she published the last collection of her works in 1641.
On April 29, 1624 Louis XIII invited Richelieu to join his Council. The Marquis of La Vieuville was Superintendent of Finances and now led the Council. He negotiated the treaty of Compiegne with the United Provinces of the Netherlands in which the French promised the Dutch a subsidy of 2.2 million livres for their war against Spain in exchange for the use of twenty warships. However, La Vieuville was dismissed and imprisoned on August 12, 1624, and the next day Richelieu became the King’s chief minister.
In July 1620 the mostly Protestant Grisons League in the Valtellina had been overthrown by Catholics supported by Spain against a Swiss expedition, and in 1622 papal troops protected the valley that was the passage for Spanish troops going to fight in Germany. In November 1624 about 4,000 Swiss led by the Marquis de Coeuvres drove out the papal forces and occupied the valley. The papal nuncio Spada castigated Richelieu for attacking the papal forces. In February 1625 Richelieu showed Spada dispatches he sent to the Marquis de Coeuvres to delay sieges, but he added secret orders to go ahead and then ask for a pardon which would be granted. That month France’s Constable François de Bonne, Duke of Lesdiguieres, led a French and Piedmontese force of 23,000 men. During the summer they were joined by Duke Carlo Emanuele of Savoy and attacked the Spaniards at Genoa, but they were forced to retreat in November. In 1626 many Jesuits criticized the Cardinal for this. The Valtellina crisis was resolved in March by the treaty of Monçon between France and Spain which restored the Catholic Grisons but without much control because the forts were razed.
The Huguenot leader Benjamin de Rohan, Duke of Soubise, revived the religious war by capturing ships at Blavet and took control of the Charente coast by February 1625. He sent agents to issue a call to arms in Languedoc and in June captured the isle of Oléron off La Rochelle. The King’s Council sent Marshal de Thémines to the devastated Castre region. They hired Dutch and English ships and put France’s Admiral, the Duke of Montmorency, in command. They defeated the Protestant fleet on September 18 as Soubise fled to England.
The King’s sister Henriette Marie had been married by proxy to England’s King Charles at Paris on May 11, 1625. The English mistrusted her Catholicism, and after she visited gallows where Catholics had been executed as martyrs, King Charles dismissed most of her entourage on July 1, 1626. England’s chief minister George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham, visited Paris and was infatuated with Queen Anne, but King Louis denied him permission to visit France later that year. Buckingham persuaded the Huguenots to make peace with Louis XIII in February 1626, but France made a treaty with Spain on May 5. Marshal Ornano was suspected of disloyalty, and he was imprisoned with his family. On June 2 the French court moved to Blois, and eleven days later Louis ordered the two illegitimate sons of his father Henri IV (César and Alexandre de Vendome) arrested. Vendome lost the governorship of Brittany. Chancellor Etienne d’Aligre objected, was forced to resign, and was replaced by Michel de Marillac, who obeyed Richelieu.
The court moved to Nantes, and on July 8 Louis ordered Henri de Talleyrand-Périgord, Comte de Chalais, arrested for conspiring against him with his lover Maria de Rohan, the Duchess of Chevreuse. The King’s brother Gaston, Duke of Anjou, married Marie de Montpensier on August 6 and was given the duchy of Orléans, an income of 100,000 livres, and a pension worth 560,000 livres. The Count of Louvigny testified that Chalais had told him of the plan to murder Louis. On the 18th Chalais was beheaded for lèse-majesté, and the Duchess of Chevreuse was sent into exile in Lorraine, ending the “conspiracy of the dames” to make Gaston king. Queen Anne, who was to have married Gaston, admitted that he was not worth changing husbands. Gaston’s wife Marie de Bourbon died on June 4, 1627 after giving birth to a daughter.
In 1626 a royal edict warned that the ban on dueling would be strictly enforced. The Count of Bouteville had fled France for this in 1624, but he returned and killed the Marquis de Beuvron on May 14, 1627. Then the duelist Bussy d’Amboise went and fought one of Bouteville’s seconds, the Count of Rosmadec des Chapelles. Bussy was mortally wounded, and Bouteville and Chapelles were arrested and were executed on June 22.
In the summer of 1626 Cardinal Richelieu became the Grand Master and Superintendent of Shipping, Commerce and Navigation, and the Constable and Grand Admiral were forced to resign. He was given the privilege of having his own armed guards wherever he went. This militant cardinal wanted more children trained for the military and the mechanical arts rather than in the liberal arts which were reserved for the elite. He dismissed those who had worked for Luynes and replaced them with men he trusted. In the fall of 1626 Bassompierre went to England as a diplomat, and King Charles asked if he came to declare war. In the spring of 1627 Richelieu authorized merchants to engage in the fur trade in Canada.
Another Assembly of Notables met from November 10 to February 24, 1627 and worked in committees on finance, security, and fortifications. Chancellor Marillac spoke, warning that expenditures had increased to 40 million livres while revenues were only 16 million. Maintaining walls was the largest item in municipal budgets. Thousands of fortresses were demolished to save money and so that rebels could not use them while those on the frontiers remained. On March 1 the King promoted commerce by extending the privileges of merchants. That month the Count of Fargis negotiated a French alliance with Spain, pleasing the Devouts. In a comprehensive royal declaration on June 16 article 383 gave the King direct and universal jurisdiction over all of France, cancelling the Roman law that had not allowed “lordship without title” in the southern provinces. The Parlement of Paris did not register this ordinance until the King appeared on January 15, 1629.
In January 1627 the French navy captured 200 English ships at Bordeaux. Buckingham led a fleet of 80 ships with 10,000 men from Portsmouth on June 30, and they landed and arrived at La Rochelle on July 10; but the Huguenots refused to fight with the English against their King. Buckingham’s forces landed on the nearby island of Ré and besieged the citadel of Saint Martin. On September 10 soldiers in La Rochelle fired cannons at the French army building bastions around the walls. Louis XIII became ill and went to Versailles where he was not informed that England had declared war against him until he recovered. Then he left the Queen Mother to rule north of the Loire and with Richelieu led the army that joined the siege of Rochelle on October 12. The 30,000 French besiegers were isolated as the English navy blockaded the ports. French troops under strict discipline were hanged for violating the evening curfew. The last English assault failed on November 6.
La Rochelle elected Admiral Jean Guiton their mayor, and he swore he would not surrender. King Louis left the camp in February and returned to Paris. A royal assault in March 1628 failed. Buckingham was killed at Portsmouth by a disgruntled officer on August 23. Besieged people ate meat from horses, dogs, cats, and rats, and they suffered from scurvy. In September nearly three hundred people starved to death each day. King Charles sent a fleet of 120 ships with 6,000 men that bombarded the French for four days before sailing away on October 3. On the 28th the famished 16,000 Huguenots remaining offered to surrender, and Louis granted them amnesty; 12,000 had died of starvation. Louis entered the city on November 1. Catholic services were restored in La Rochelle as Cardinal Richelieu said Mass. The siege of La Rochelle had cost France more than 40 million livres, and France’s best port had been destroyed The forts at Saint-Martin on Ré were also demolished.
In January 1629 King Louis left his mother in Paris as regent and granted amnesty to all Huguenots who had taken up arms if they submitted. Passing through Susa the French army of 35,000 men routed a Spanish regiment on March 6. The King and Richelieu ended the war against the Huguenots in Languedoc, Rouergue, and Guyenne while strengthening the navy and fortifications, and France made peace with England at Susa on April 24. Soubise in Languedoc sent an agent to appeal to Spain for aid, and they formed an alliance at Madrid in May; but the city of Privas fell to the royals on May 27, and its 3,000 inhabitants were killed or fled. Louis XIII issued his Edict of Grace at Alais on June 28, hoping to end the civil war. This was ratified by the Parlement of Toulouse and was accepted by Nimes and Montauban. The Huguenots retained their churches and synods but had lost their military and political power. All fortifications in cities with a majority of Protestants were demolished.
On February 21, 1629 Cardinal Bérulle had written to Richelieu that they were beginning an “interminable war” despite public necessities and the misery of the people. Richelieu was willing to sacrifice the economy and reforms for his war against Spain. Bérulle died on October 2 at the age of 54, and many people believed the rumor that Richelieu had poisoned him.
The Code Michau revised French laws and made writing, publishing, or selling libels on political issues punishable as the capital crime of lèse-majesté. Other crimes done without royal permission which were also capital offenses included contacting foreign ambassadors, raising troops, having more arms than needed for protection, casting cannons, joining leagues, fortifying cities, summoning assemblies, and leaving France.
In April 1626 grain storehouses at Troyes were looted, and in August 1627 the house of the customs inspector was sacked. On May 29, 1628 a mob at Amiens besieged a French magistrate at an inn. In June a revolt broke out in Laval over the cloth industry and the salt tax, and people stole salt. In 1630 there were uprisings at Dijon in February, at Caen in May, at Lyons in June, and at Angers in July and August. Marillac noted on July that Parlements refused to punish those revolting. People were suffering from increased taxes, high rates of interest on loans, more offices, a depreciating currency, and a rising cost of living.
Richelieu raised another army in 1630 and invaded Piedmont in February, attacking Pinerolo and capturing it on March 29. King Louis joined Richelieu on May 10 at Grenoble, and on July 10 they defeated the Duke of Savoy’s Piedmontese army at Avigliana. With forces in Piedmont the Cardinal in armor increased his army to 20,000 infantry and 2,600 cavalry, but he ordered 20,000 more soldiers recruited and sent to Piedmont by August. A September truce with Casale expired on October 15, ; but a treaty signed on the 13th was not ratified. On October 26 the papal envoy Giulio Mazarini brought a peace treaty he negotiated at Regensburg. In 1630 Pope Urban VIII decreed that cardinals may use the title “Eminence,” which was appropriate for the lavish life-style of Richelieu whose large income came from his French offices, lands, domains, monasteries he supervised as a cardinal, and investments. French merchants used mostly gold coins for foreign trade, leaving the French people with inferior coins.
On November 11, 1630, known as the “Day of the Dupes,” Marie de Medici at her palace told her son Louis that she wanted Richelieu dismissed; but the next day the King told the Cardinal he had his confidence. He ordered the seals taken away from Chancellor Michel de Marillac who was imprisoned in his home at Chateaudun until his death in August 1632, and his brother Marshal Louis de Marillac was arrested by Marshal Schomberg, condemned, and executed on May 10, 1632. Marshal Bassompierre was held in the Bastille until Louis died in 1643. Queen Mother Marie was watched at her residence in Compiegne, but she escaped to Avesne in the Spanish Netherlands on July 20, 1631.
The civil war, plague, and bad harvests in 1627 and 1629 caused a famine in the south in 1630. Bakeries and granaries were pillaged by mobs of mostly women as food was shipped to towns where people were starving. The plague had been periodically breaking out about every eleven years since the bubonic epidemic in 1348. Chambéry and Aurillac lost half their people, and the cities of Lyon and Bordeaux more than a quarter. By 1631 about 10% of the nearly 20 million people in France had died. Communities ran up large debts that took many years to pay back.
On January 23, 1631 Hercule de Charnacé negotiated a treaty for France at Berwald with King Gustav Adolf of Sweden in which France promised to contribute one million livres a year to the Protestant King of Sweden to maintain an army of 36,000 men for the next five years. The Swedes would respect the Catholic religion wherever it was but not establish it as Richelieu had wanted. France also formed a defensive alliance for eight years with Catholic Bavaria at Munich on May 8. Although the Mercure français had been publishing court news in Paris since 1605, the first weekly newspaper, the Gazette de France, began publishing in 1631 from information usually provided by Richelieu’s secretaries. The physician Théophraste Renaudot was the editor of the 12-page newsletter with at least 12,000 copies printed.
On January 30, 1631 Prince Gaston of Orléans boldly told Richelieu that he no longer trusted him, and King Louis could not mollify his brother. Gaston left France in March and arrived at the court of Duke Charles IV of Lorraine in Nancy on April 28. On March 30 Louis XIII had warned all those who advised Prince Gaston to leave France or followed him or raised troops for him that they were guilty of treason (lèse-majesté). Gaston published a letter to the King on April 1. On the 30th he issued the Gaston d’Orléans Manifesto which argued that lèse-majesté had become failing to obey blindly Richelieu’s policies, and he noted eminent people who had been banished and imprisoned. He described the poverty he had witnessed since he left Paris.
There is scarcely a third of your peasants
who eat ordinary bread;
another third live on oat bread alone;
the last third are not only reduced to begging
but languish in such a lamentable condition
that some actually die of starvation
while the rest live like wild beasts
surviving only on acorns, plants and such things.
The least pitiful of this last group are those
who eat only the husks of the grain dipped in the blood
they collect from the gutters by butchers’ shops.1
Queen Mother Marie de Medici from Spanish territory wrote to her son Louis that she had escaped from Richelieu’s persecution which had imprisoned her. On July 22 King Louis decreed that Gaston’s officers and servants had fifteen days to return to France, or they would be prosecuted for spying and disturbing the peace. In 1631 popular uprisings occurred in Paris, Bordeaux, Poitiers, Marseilles, Orléans, and Aix.
In late 1631 France’s army invaded Lorraine and at Breitenfeld defeated Duke Charles IV who swore loyalty to Louis XIII in a treaty at Vic on January 6, 1632. Three days earlier Gaston had defied his brother Louis and secretly married Marie de Gonzague, sister of Duke Charles. On January 28 Gaston left his new wife and went to Brussels to be with his mother. On April 5 the King again warned anyone receiving officers or domestics of Marie de Medici or Gaston. On June 23 Gaston led a force that entered Champagne, but Dijon turned them away. They headed toward Languedoc where Duke Henri II of Montmorency supported their cause. Louis XIII had an army of 20,000, and about 3,000 veterans led by Marshal Schomberg defeated 5,000 rebels and mercenaries at Castelnaudary on September 1. After Montmorency was captured, Gaston and the others fled. On September 29 Gaston signed an agreement that pardoned him. Louis and Queen Anne entered Languedoc’s capital Toulouse on October 22. He refused to pardon the Duke and confiscated his property, and Montmorency was executed on October 30.
The French army led by La Force besieged Nancy in Lorraine, and in September 1633 Duke Charles IV abdicated and ceded the capital to France. That year the Parlement of Metz was organized. In 1634 King Louis imposed a French administration and a loyalty oath on people in Lorraine where a minority spoke French. The engraver Jacques Callot created scenes that depicted the miseries of war. The French occupation of Lorraine would not end until 1659. On October 8, 1634 Prince Gaston left Brussels and rode to the French fortress at La Capelle. France’s treasury paid his debts, and thirteen days later King Louis welcomed his brother at his court.
On August 18, 1634 the curé Urbain Grandier was executed by burning after being tortured in connection to witchcraft in Loudun, though he asserted his innocence. In 1635 the Académie Française was founded to improve French literature. Scipion Dupleix wrote the royalist view of Richelieu in his Histoire de Louis le Juste. He gave Louis XIII and Richelieu credit for defeating the Huguenots and the factions of the nobles, for extending France’s territory, and for assuring peace by making royal authority more absolute.
Since 1632 Richelieu had the loyal Claude Bullion and Claude Bouthillier working as superintendents of finances, and a new code for the taille tax was decreed in January 1634. Pierre Séguier became chancellor in 1635, and he was another devoted follower of Richelieu. By then the taille tax on the people gave the French government more than 39 million livres; but the financial statement of 1639 showed that total receipts were almost 79 million livres, though 47 million went to the local tax offices. The intendants could coerce people into paying, and in 1636 they would get companies of cavalry. France’s annual revenues increased from 40,875,000 livres in 1631 to 120,271,000 in 1634. Then in 1635 they jumped to 208,310,000 and fell back to 108,717,000 in 1636 and then were between the 85,179,000 in 1627 and the 115,967,000 in 1641 through 1642. The annual deficits ranged between 21,532,000 livres and 38,214,500 during the years 1625-33. In 1634 the deficit jumped to 95,350,000 and then bounced around between that and 48,156,000 in 1642.
On February 8, 1635 France renewed its alliance with the Dutch, and on March 26 Habsburg imperial troops captured the French ally Philip von Sotern, Elector of Trier. Sweden’s Chancellor Oxenstierna came to Compiegne, and on April 28 signed a treaty confirming Protestant Sweden’s alliance with Catholic France. Richelieu relied on the Capuchin friar François Leclerc du Tremblay (known as Father Joseph and the grey eminence) to keep him informed on the war in Germany, and he wrote instructions for their ambassadors in the Austrian Empire.
On May 12 Louis XIII declared war against Spain, and a week later this was proclaimed at Brussels. On May 22 a French army of 30,000 men commanded by Urbain de Maillé, Marshal de Breze, defeated the Spaniards near Avein in Liege. Prince Frederik Hendrik of Orange directed the French and Dutch to attack the town of Tirlemont on June 9, and its undisciplined sacking aroused the anger of the Spanish Netherlands. In July the French made a treaty at Rivoli with the dukes of Savoy and Parma, hoping to form an anti-Spain league in north Italy. The Duke of Rohan had been restored to favor and gained the aid of the Swiss. They arrived in the Valtelline passes on April 20, defeated imperial troops at Livogno, Mazzo, Val Fraela, and finally at Morbegno to take control of the Valtelline.
Richelieu was ill and remained in Paris as King Louis left on August 23 and captured Saint-Mihiel on October 3, but his army could not expel Duke Charles IV from Lorraine. Cardinal Louis La Valette led a French force that joined the army of Bernard of Saxe-Weimar which got as far as Frankfurt-am-Main before retreating. Louis returned to Paris aware they needed more troops. He put Bernard on his payroll so that he could direct him. Richelieu had already increased the French army to about 100,000 men, and it would double in the next five years. In addition soldiers were served by camp followers who included servants, cooks, forced labor by peasants, prostitutes, etc.
During the winter Secretary of War Servien blamed Bullion for not raising enough money, but Servien was banished to Angers. Those of noble birth were required to provide three months of military service inside the realm and forty days abroad. Richelieu wanted officers who were away without leave deprived of their nobility and prosecuted, and he advised destroying any town that might be used as a base for rebellion. Riots had erupted in Bordeaux in May and June 1635, and forces led by Duke Epernon were needed to restore order. They objected to a new tax on wine, and on August 11 Richelieu ordered Cardinal Louis La Valette not to enforce it against tavern-keepers. People had been killed in a riot at Périgueux in June, and in the summer the people of Rennes were afraid of a tax on salt and revolted in Brittany.
The Parlement of Paris had received 42 edicts by the end of 1635 creating more than a hundred new offices. Higher salaries were paid for hereditary offices, and tax officers ordered to collect more money were supposed to advance it immediately. By March 1636 Richelieu was complaining how prices had risen to cover the new tax. Lack of trade caused a recession as the price of cereals fell. The livre was devalued in March and June. People also debased coins by clipping off as much as a quarter. Richelieu ordered Chancellor Séguier to prosecute soldiers who pillaged the countryside. On June 5 about 4,000 peasants came armed to Blanzac on market day to kill the salt-tax collectors. They killed a surgeon who had suspicious letters and went home. During the summer the revolt spread to Saintonge, Aunis, Poutou, and Limousin.
Spaniards invaded Guyenne. Bernard de La Valette, Duke of Epernon, was the son of Louis de La Valette, and he led 3,000 French troops to Bergerac and tried to negotiate with the commander of the peasants. Magot denounced the nobles as traitors; but the rebel Antoine du Puy de la Motte de la Foret joined with the French forces, and on June 1, 1636 they attacked, killing Magot and a thousand rebels as his followers dispersed. The King’s army applied his justice and pardoned most rebels who submitted while hanging the worst leaders and sending others to the galleys.
King Louis in July 1636 asked the bishops to have all churches arrange forty hours of devotion with sermons to remind people that the purpose of the war was to gain a long period of peace. Spain’s Cardinal Infante Fernando led 11,000 infantry and 13,000 cavalry and invaded Picardy on July 4, capturing Le Catelet and then La Capelle on July 9. They crossed the Somme on August 4 to besiege Corbie which surrendered on the 15th. The French had to lift the siege of Dole and moved Soissons’ troops to Picardy and others to quell the revolt in Angoumois. Paris was threatened, and they mustered an army of 30,000 men. Louis XIII and Richelieu left Paris while Prince Gaston was given command of the army that went north and besieged Corbie on September 9. King Louis arrived and took command, and the garrison of 3,000 Spaniards capitulated on November 10. The provinces of Picardy and Burgundy were plundered by the armies of both sides, and disease spread. Enemies burned down villages and poisoned wells with dead horses. The price of cloth in Milan began dropping in 1636, increasing financial hardship.
Richelieu tried to negotiate with Spain’s prime minister Olivares, who would not agree to giving the French an advantage. The alchemist Dubois claimed he could turn lead into gold; but when he failed, Richelieu had him executed for sorcery. To encourage devotion the cardinal wrote his Treatise on a Christian’s Perfection.
Louis XIII had fallen in love with 17-year-old Louise de la Fayette, a maid of honor to the Queen. She was very pious, and Richelieu became concerned about her influence against his policy of allying with Protestants against Catholics. In May 1637 she agreed to enter a convent, though they remained friends. Richelieu’s police discovered a letter to Queen Anne from the Spanish ambassador in Brussels, and her emissary Pierre La Porte was arrested on August 10 and taken to the Bastille. He had a letter from the Queen to the Duchess de Chevreuse. Four days later Chancellor Séguier questioned Queen Anne who asked to see Richelieu on the 17th and confessed she had communicated with her brother, the Cardinal Infante. The King limited her entourage and monitored her letters. The Duchess de Chevreuse dressed as a man on September 6 and fled to Spain.
Duke Bernard de La Valette commanded an army that besieged Landrecies in June and captured it on July 26, 1637. After the death of Carlo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua and Montferrat, on September 22 his wife Catherine of Lorraine left the French alliance. On October 7 Duke Victor Amadeus of Savoy died, making Louis XIII’s sister Christina regent; but she was opposed by two brothers-in-law Tommaso and Maurice. She asked her brother Louis to protect her. That year the Austrian Empire made gains. Now Richelieu did not want to make peace, though the French continued to negotiate with the Austrians at Cologne. France renewed its alliance with Sweden on March 6, 1638 by promising to provide the Swedish army with one million livres annually for three years. Led by Bernard of Saxe-Weimar they made gains in Germany against the Habsburg Empire.
Marshal de Chatillon besieged Saint-Omer in the Netherlands while Condé’s army prepared to attack the Spaniards at Fuenterrabia in the south supported by the fleet led by Admiral Henri de Sourdis, Archbishop of Bordeaux. With improved conditions Richelieu proposed a truce with Spain through Pujols in Rome. Olivares responded by sending Don Miguel de Salamanca as ambassador to France, and Richelieu met with him secretly on May 14. That day Richelieu had Jean du Vergier de Hauranne, the Abbot of Saint-Cyran, arrested and imprisoned at Vincennes. A tribunal convicted him of rejecting the doctrines of the Council of Trent and of crimes against the state for which he was kept in prison until Richelieu died. While negotiating with Salamanca in May, Father Joseph was paralyzed by a stroke, and he died on December 17. He was replaced by the capable diplomat, the Abbot Giulio Mazarini.
Cardinal Richelieu built up the French navy to 41 warships plus galleys, fire ships, and supply vessels. Richelieu sent a letter in June to Chatillon reprimanding him for letting a canal supply the garrison at Saint-Omer. Marshal de Créqui was killed in Italy and was replaced by Bernard de La Valette who was defeated at Vercelli on July 5, 1638. The French fleet led by Sourdis destroyed all but one of the Spaniards’ galleons in the Bay of Getaria on August 22 and then landed soldiers. Condé blamed La Valette for refusing to storm Fuenterrabia on September 7 when the French outnumbered the Spaniards. Richelieu wanted him prosecuted for treason, but La Valette escaped to England. The French recaptured Le Catelet on September 14.
Queen Anne gave birth to the dauphin Louis-Dieudonné on September 5. Richelieu had astrologer Tommaso Campanella cast the dauphin’s horoscope, and he predicted that Louis XIV would have a long and glorious reign. Father Caussin had been confessor to Louis XIII since March 1637, but on December 8, 1638 he severely criticized the Cardinal’s policies that made people destitute. Richelieu objected, and Caussin was replaced by another Jesuit, Father Sirmond. After a siege the allied army of Bernard of Saxe-Weimar took over Breisach in December. This victory gave the French command of the Rhine valley and access to the Danube. Bernard considered himself the Duke of Alsace. After he died on July 18, 1639, the French paid his mercenaries and sent Marshal de Guébriant to command his army.
The King’s sister Christina did not like Richelieu and was influenced by the Jesuit Father Monod who had been removed by Richelieu. She refused to let the French garrison the main fortresses in Piedmont, Nice, and Savoy, and the Piedmontese turned to her brothers-in-law in the spring of 1639. Prince Tommaso besieged Turin on April 18, but Swiss troops helped her escape. Cardinal Louis de La Valette commanded French forces in Italy and agreed to an armistice for two months on August 14. Meanwhile Louis XIII and his new favorite, 19-year-old Henri Coiffier de Ruzé, Marquis de Cinq-Mars, were present at the siege which led to the capture of Hesdin in Artois on June 29, 1639. The commander La Meilleraye was made a marshal.
More taxes were raised to pay for the wars. The people of Saint-Quentin contributed 50,000 livres for fortifications in exchange for not having a wine tax, but it was imposed anyway. Those who failed to pay taxes were imprisoned as were their neighbors who did not pay for them. In Normandy a rumor spread that the government was going to impose the salt tax (gabelle), and more than 10,000 people made their living boiling seawater to sell salt. On July 16, 1639 an officer of justice was beaten to death. In Rouen an official arrived on August 20 to enforce the tax on dyed cloth. He was killed, and gangs began sacking the houses of tax-farmers. The revolt quickly spread, and a peasant army recruited from villages. They were led by Jean Va-nu-Pieds and were called “the barefoot.” Va-nu-Pieds promised to abolish all taxes since Henri IV, and by November they had 20,000 men. Goren led the revolt in Rouen. The bourgeois protected their houses and had him arrested.
Richelieu wanted the problem settled carefully because he would not sent troops; but the Royal Council sent Col. Gassion with foreign troops to crush the rebellion. The soldiers hanged rebels and looted as the barefooted dispersed. The King gave Chancellor Séguier civil and military powers in Normandy, and he entered Rouen with troops on January 2, 1640. He suspended the Parlement and the town council and set up s commission of counselors from Paris. Taxes had to be paid, and residents were forced to quarter soldiers and pay them. Rouen had to give tax farmers more than a million livres in compensation. Those in the city had to surrender their weapons. Séguier did the same at Caen and reached the Cotentin in March. This did not stop disturbances in Moulins that year, and tax rebellions in Gascony went on until 1645.
France issued a new gold coin worth ten livres tournois in March. The French renewed their alliance with the Dutch, and after a siege of two months they captured Arras on August 9. The Spaniards were driven out of Turin in Italy in late September, and Richelieu’s agents helped the revolution that proclaimed the Duke of Braganza as King Joao IV of Portugal in Lisbon. The French also weakened the Spanish empire by waging war from Languedoc and Roussillon to support the rebellion in Catalonia, and on December 16 Marshal Du Plessis-Besançon made an agreement with the Catalan Cortes, offering 8,000 soldiers. On January 23, 1641 Catalans named Louis XIII the Count of Barcelona, and three days later about 6,000 rebels and French allies defeated the Castilian army of 23,000 men at Montjuic. On March 29 Duke Charles IV came to Paris and was reconciled by a treaty that made Lorraine a vassal of France. Richelieu got Sweden and Hesse-Cassel to agree in June that none of the allies would make a separate peace.
On February 21, 1641 the Parlement of Paris was forced to register an edict that prohibited interference in affairs of state or finances or discussing them without the King’s command. The only purpose of the sovereign courts was to establish justice. In the spring Spain supported a conspiracy by the Count of Soissons, the Duke of Guise, and Frédéric Maurice de La Tour d'Auvergne, the Duke of Bouillon, who ruled independent Sedan. These and imperialist troops led by Lamboy invaded France, defeating a force of about 10,000 men led by Marshal Chatillon at La Marfée on July 6 and killing Soissons. King Louis led an army to Mézieres and took Aire and Donchery, threatening the rebels in Sedan. Bouillon submitted in August and was pardoned. The Duke of Lorraine rebelled, but the French occupied his duchy again. At the end of the year the French and Swedish allies made a preliminary agreement with the Habsburg empire to convene two peace conferences in March 1642, one at Münster for the Catholics and the other at Osnabrück for the Protestants. On January 17, 1642 the French and German army led by Guébriant defeated the imperialists at Kempen in Germany, capturing General Lamboy.
The King’s favorite Cinq-Mars resented not being promoted by Richelieu and joined the conspiracy in November 1641, and in early 1642 he suggested that Richelieu should be assassinated. He conspired with Spain to make Prince Gaston king, and Olivares signed a treaty. Though in declining health, King Louis went to Lyons and reviewed an army of 15,000 infantry and 14,000 cavalry and sent them into Roussillon where the siege of Perpignan began on November 4, 1641. The King and Richelieu sent Marshal de La Meilleraye to besiege Spaniards at Collioure, and the regiment of Cinq-Mars helped them take it on April 10, 1642.
King Louis had moved his court to Narbonne in March. Richelieu suffered with an infected arm but obtained a copy of the treaty Cinq-Mars made with Spain, and on June 12 Léon Bouthillier, the Count of Chavigny, showed it to Louis XIII who ordered Cinq-Mars arrested. He confessed and implicated his friend, the historian François-Auguste de Thou, and both were beheaded on September 12. Once again Prince Gaston was pardoned but lost his military companies and the government of Auvergne and was banned from any official position. Bouillon was arrested in Italy, but Mazarini persuaded him to put the Sedan under French protection for a pardon.
Spain had sent its navy to protect Catalonia, but the French led by Maillé-Brézé defeated them off Barcelona on July 3. By 1642 France had a navy of 63 ships. Perpignan surrendered on September 9. Cardinal Richelieu returned to Paris on October 17 and became very ill in late November. He urged King Louis to appoint Cardinal Mazarin to succeed him as chief minister before he died on December 4. Pope Urban VIII commented, “If there be a God, the Cardinal de Richelieu will have much to answer for. If there be none, why, he lived a successful life.”2 Historians estimate that at his death Richelieu had about 22.4 million livres in assets and 6.5 million in debts.
Cardinal Richelieu believed that wounds from a sword heal more easily than those from a tongue. He regarded secrecy as essential in affairs of state. He noted that popular opinion will accept fine words as true even if they are false. The qualities he looked for in a minister were ability, loyalty, courage, and application, and he found that great men are often more dangerous than useful. In judging crimes against the state he banished pity. Yet he warned against governing kingdoms based on maxims found in books.
Louis XIII became ill in March 1643. He had Bassompierre and Vitry released from the Bastille, and the Duchess of Chevreuse and his half-brother, Duke César of Vendome, returned from exile. He recommended Queen Anne as regent and Prince Gaston d’Orléans as lieutenant-general with a Regency Council that would include Cardinal Mazarin, the Prince Henri of Condé, the Count of Chavigny, and Sublet de Noyes that would make decisions by a majority vote. However, on April 10 Sublet de Noyes was dismissed for having secretly agreed with Queen Anne to lead the Regency. On April 21 the King told a delegation from the Parlement how the Regency Council would work, and his son Louis was baptized with Mazarin as godfather and the Princess of Condé as godmother. Louis XIII died on May 14, exactly 33 years after his father Henri IV’s death. On May 18 Queen Anne took her child Louis XIV to the Paris Parlement for a lit de justice. The Advocate General Omer Talon persuaded them to recognize Anne as Regent. The next day Condé’s 21-year-old son Louis, Duke of Enghien, led an attack on the Spanish army at Rocroi in which the French army of 17,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry defeated 19,000 Spaniards who suffered 7,000 killed, wounded, and captured compared to 4,000 French lost. After this victory Queen Anne made Mazarin her prime minister. Enghien’s army besieged Thionville which capitulated on August 8.
Giulio Mazarini was born at Pescina near Rome on July 14, 1602, and he was educated by Jesuits. He studied law at the University of Alcala de Henares near Madrid. In 1622 he played the role of Ignatius in a pageant celebrating his canonization. His father worked for Constable Filippo I Colonna who helped Mazarini become a captain in the papal army by 1624, and he served three years in the army, mostly in the Valtelline valley. On Christmas night in 1625 Giulio had a mystical experience when he experienced a peaceful soul. He worked as a diplomat for Pope Urban VIII, and in January 1627 he achieved success when he persuaded the Spanish liaison Gonsalvo de Cordoba to disband the papal force in Valtelline. Mazarini earned his doctorate in canon law at Rome and became friends with Antonio and Francesco Barberini, nephews of Pope Urban VIII. In 1628 Mazarini became secretary to the papal legate in Milan. In January 1630 he was sent to France to negotiate with Cardinal Richelieu during the Mantuan succession crisis. On October 26 he became famous for intervening between two armies ready to do battle at Casale in Montferrat, shouting, “Peace, peace” and persuading them to stop fighting because of the treaty signed at Regensburg (Ratisbon) on October 13 by France and Spain which recognized the Duke of Nevers in Mantua.
On June 19, 1631 Mazarini negotiated a treaty at Cherasco that brought the peace the Pope wanted and recognized the French ally Victor Amadeus as Duke of Savoy who was married to Louis XIII’s sister Christine Marie. A secret clause gave Pinerolo to France. After serving at Avignon, in November 1634 Mazarini became the papal nuncio to the French court, but he was disheartened by France’s declaration of war against Spain in May 1635. Yet Mazarini was impressed by Cardinal Richelieu, and he become devoted to France. Pope Urban VIII sent Mazarini back to Avignon and recalled him to Rome in December 1636. Richelieu gave him instructions, and Mazarini served as head of the French delegation. He was naturalized as a French citizen in 1639 and began using the name Jules Mazarin. He returned to Paris in January 1640. French forces took over Turin, and he negotiated a peace agreement on December 31 that recognized Christine as Regent. Nominated by Louis XIII, he became a cardinal on December 16, 1641, but Mazarin never returned to Rome. Before his death Richelieu arranged for his disciple to supervise the abbey of Corbie with annual revenues of about 80,000 livres.
On June 8, 1643 the Parlement of Toulouse annulled the special tribunals that empowered intendants to collect taxes. At Villefranche 10,000 armed peasants forced an intendant to reduce their taille tax to pre-war levels. A revolt began in Tours in October. Disturbances broke out occasionally for years in about two-thirds of France.
On June 6 Superintendent of Finances Bouthillier had resigned, and Queen Anne replaced him with Nicolas le Bailleul and Claude de Mesmes, Count d’Avaux. Yet Mazarin relied on Michel Particelli d’Hémery who was Controller General of Finances. Bouthillier’s son Chavigny quit on June 14, and Anne made the Count de Brienne the secretary for foreign affairs. The Queen welcomed the Duchess de Chevreuse back to Paris. On August 31 Mazarin’s carriages were attacked by masked men, apparently sent by the Duke of Beaufort who was arrested on September 2 when he went to dine with the Queen. The next day Beaufort was put in the Vincennes prison as his conspirators fled.
In the fall of 1643 the Bavarian army defeated the French led by the Count of Guébriant, who was mortally wounded and was replaced by the Vicomte de Turenne. The Count d’Avaux and Abel Servien were sent to negotiate a treaty with the Dutch and were received by the States General on December 1. D’Avaux was an experienced diplomat, having served in Venice, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Germany, and the Dutch Republic, but he was a devoted Catholic. Servien was a more skilled negotiator, and they quarreled. On March 1 they rejected the treaty proposed by the Dutch. They moved on to the peace negotiations at Münster in Westphalia and sent their letter to the German princes on April 6. Ten days later they began negotiating with the diplomats from Spain and the Austrian Empire. Henri II d’Orléans, Duke of Longueville, did not arrive to head the French delegation until June 30, 1645.
Cardinal Richelieu had bequeathed his palace to the King, and Queen Anne and her 5-year-old son Louis XIV moved into the Palais Royal. Cardinal Mazarin purchased property nearby and improved it to be the Palais Mazarin. He and Anne became close friends, and rumors suspected they were secretly married. In 1644 they imposed the toisé tax on Parisians with houses built illegally against the city walls, and the pancarte was a duty on imported food. Young Louis XIV went to Parlement again on September 7, 1645 to register disputed decrees even though Advocate General Talon complained that the lit de justice should be used only for security of the state. He noted that thousands were in prison for owing taxes. The toisé tax was canceled, but Paris was included in a tariff edict in October 1646.
Riots erupted in Arles, then in Draguignan and Marseilles in 1645, and in Grasse in 1646. Parlements and provincial Estates complained about the intendants who overruled their law courts. Particelli raised money for war in 1645 by borrowing from revenues in 1646 and 1647, and in 1648 France borrowed from 1650 and 1651. The paulette tax was canceled in December 1647, and officers protested its renewal on April 30, 1648 that required four years’ income.
Turenne and Enghien defeated the Bavarians at Fribourg in August 1644, taking Philippsburg, Mainz, Worms, and Spire. Prince Gaston, Duke d’Orleans, volunteered to lead an army to Flanders, and Mazarin approved. They captured Gravelines on July 29. That day Pope Urban VIII died. He had supported the French, but the cardinals in Rome elected Innocent X who favored Spain. On May 5, 1645 the Bavarian army defeated Marshal Turenne’s forces at Mergentheim. On the 29th Marshal Plessis-Praslin captured the port of Rosas in Catalonia. On August 3 Enghien and Turenne’s army defeated the Bavarians and imperial allies at Nördlingen.
In 1645 Mazarin mediated a peace treaty between Sweden and Denmark, gave subsidies to Prince George Rakoczy of Transylvania to rebel against Emperor Ferdinand III in Hungary, sent military aid to the Swedes fighting in Germany, and arranged for Poland’s Wladislaus IV to marry Marie de Gonzague-Nevers.
On January 19, 1646 Mazarin suggested that if Spain ceded the Spanish Netherlands to France, the French would withdraw from Catalonia and help Felipe IV restore his authority; but the Dutch felt betrayed. On February 28 Mazarin invested three million livres in the army to increase it to 90,000 men. On June 13, 1646 the French army led by Gaston besieged Courtrai. The next day France’s Grand Admiral Jean Armand de Maillé-Brézé was killed in a naval battle off the coast of Tuscany, but Queen Anne keeping power for herself declined to appoint a new admiral. Courtrai surrendered on June 28. Gaston captured Mardyck again on August 24. Enghien invested Dunkirk for 25 days before it capitulated on September 18. From this port the French could interfere with commerce in the North Sea. Marshals La Meilleraye and Plessis-Praslin landed on Elba and besieged Porto Longone (Azzurro), and on the mainland Piombino surrendered on October 8.
French troops led by the Count d’Harcourt had been besieging Lérida since May, but on November 22 Spanish forces led by the Marquis de Leganés forced them to flee. The Bourbon Prince Henri of Condé died on December 26 and was succeeded by his son Enghien, who was now called Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Condé. He led an army of 13,000 men to Lérida on May 12, 1647, but they abandoned the siege on June 18. Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria was governing the Spanish Netherlands, and his army captured the fortress at Armentieres on June 14. The French allied with Francesco I d'Este, Duke of Modena. French forces besieged Lens and captured it on October 2, but Marshal Gassion was killed. Leopold’s Spanish forces seized Dixmude on October 13. Prince Louis II of Condé took Ager in Catalonia. Rebels in Naples invited the Duke of Guise to be their general, and he arrived on November 15 to find only 700 men ready to fight the Spaniards. The French navy arrived at Naples on December 18 with 26 ships.
The French-Swedish alliance invaded Bavaria and threatened Munich. Maximilian asked for peace, and they signed a truce in March 1647. On January 30, 1648 the Dutch made a treaty with Spain. Young Prince Condé besieged and captured Ypres in May and forced Dunkirk to surrender on the 27th, though Leopold regained Courtrai on May 19 and besieged Le Catelet on June 19. Maximilian broke the truce, and French forces led by Turenne defeated the Bavarians in May. On August 20 Prince Condé defeated the imperial army at Lens, killing or wounding 3,000 and taking 5,000 prisoners while suffering 3,500 casualties. Turenne and Swedish Marshal Wrangel defeated the imperialists at Zusmarshausen on May 17 and then took Munich. Marshal Du Plessis-Praslin besieged Cremona in northern Italy from June to October but lacked supplies and had to retreat. The Peace of Westphalia was signed at Münster and at Osnabrück on October 24, 1648. Servien signed for France which gained the Rhineland, Metz, Toul, and Verdun as well as Upper and Lower Alsace. Although the Thirty Years’ War in Europe was over, the war between France and Spain would go on until 1659.
1. G. Mongrédien, 10 novembre 1630. La journée des dupes (1961) p. 215-218 in Society and Government in France under Richelieu and Mazarin, 1624-61, p. 19.
2. Quoted in Richelieu by Hilaire Belloc, p. 304.