A Flash of Scarlet Part Fifteen

With the removal of the Queen mother, many new honours were placed upon the Cardinal’s head. He had the title of Eminence bestowed by Urban VIII, coadjutor of the Abbot of Cluny which increased his holdings and the opportunity to further the cause of the counter Reformation, a personal dream of his. In September 1631, the King created him Duc de Richelieu and a peer of France which allowed him a seat in Parliament. From that point on he was known as “Cardinal-Duc”. He became Governor of Brittany while his friends took the fortified towns of the north. Letters of Venetian nobility were given which he might pass to any of his family members. He had become nearly as powerful as the King himself.

One of the scandals of Richelieu’s time in power surrounded his reaction to the Marillac brothers, whom Richelieu regarded as enemies of the State. They came from a distinguished and “devot” (ultra Catholic) family. Michel, the elder, was a man of many accomplishments and had sat on the King’s counsel. He was responsible for creating the “Code Michaud” which reformed legislation and was adopted by the Estates General in 1614 and the Assemblies of Notables in 1617-26. He was also Keeper of the Seals until he was implicated in Marie de Medici’s plots to overthrow the King. After the Day of the Dupes, he was arrested and died in prison shortly after the death of his brother, Louis.

Louis had been made Marshall of the army that fought in the War of the Mantuan Succession. Here we see Richelieu’s extreme in matters of state as he forced the trial of Louis Marillac under charges of “peculation and oppression” when governor of Verdun. Parliament refused to bring Marillac to trial for committing “sins that were common to his time and trade”. The trial dragged on. No one wanted to execute a good and loyal soldier. Eventually, Richelieu formed his own commission which, against public outcry, condemned the soldier to death. He was beheaded at the Place de Greves on May 2, 1632. His epitaph read “….this illustrious victim of a powerful and vindictive minister”. His wife, Catherine de Medici, died of grief a few months later. Twelve years later, the Parliament of Paris acquitted Louis Marillac of the crimes which he suffered for.

The other illustrious head that would become victim of  “raison d’etat” was that of Henri de Montmorency. His story exemplifies the struggle between nobility and the state. Henri was born into a very old and very noble family, a family descended in an unbroken line from the time of the  first King of the Franks, Clovis. As a child, he was the godson of Henri IV and the darling of the court. His was a bright and affable personality, certainly the opposite of Louis XIII and 6 years older. Never the less, at seventeen, he was made Grand Admiral of France.

His list of military services under the King was impressive. He was present at the sieges of Montauban and Montpellier, led the navy in relieving the King during the 1625 civil war, defeated the Protestants against Henri de Rohan in Languedoc, fought the Spanish in Piedmont, Italy and raised the siege of Casale. For this, he was given the title of Marshall of France.

He was also Governor of Languedoc, a province with the ancient right of autonomy over taxes and a Protestant stronghold. Richelieu had issued a central edict for taxation which the people felt was a violation of their rights and further stirred hatred towards him. As time passed with no resolution to the problem, the people began to realize that they were being stalled by Richelieu and that the matter would be ended with a swift and terrible reprisal on his part. At this, Montmorency read out a manifesto which Gaston had written, calling the people to rise, not against the King but against the tyrant who the cause of so much suffering.

The summer of 1632 saw Montmorency sign a declaration of support for the nobles of Languedoc but before he had time to prepare to meet the King’s army, Gaston rode in with an ill-disciplined and unpaid army.  In the meanwhile, Richelieu had once again taken swift action and sent two armies to hem Languedoc in from the east and west. While the other nobles of that province refused to take orders from Montmorency, the Cardinal’s troops grew ever closer to Castlenaudry until in despair, Montmorency rode to go out to face them. Gaston’s troops fell apart hearing of the approach and were quickly routed.

While many of the mercenaries fled, the good soldiers threw themselves with Montmorency, into battle, some of them losing their lives. Among them, Antoine de Bourbon, a son of Henri IV, therefore half-brother of the King. The Duke had gone to Antoine’s support as the men took flight in front of the King’s troops. The way was commanded by the Royal Musketeers who shot his horse out from under him. He was wounded and captured.

Gaston was the King’s brother, therefore he could not be punished in the same way that an ordinary subject would have been. He was spoiled and petulant, demanding money, the return of the Queen and amnesty for Montmorency. The Cardinal knew better than to trust Gaston and sent him in exile to Touraine with his nobles. Montmorency however, did not fare as well. After two months being imprisoned at castle Lectoure, he was brought to Toulouse to be tried for treason. Richelieu’s policy was to make an example of the high for the good of the state which must be united under the King. While all the country and the nobility pleaded  “miseracorde” for the great soldier, Richelieu though moved, was kept to his course by Pere Joseph, his trusted advisor. No one must again ever think of uniting under Gaston in rebellion again.

On October 30, 1632, the same day as his trial, Henri, Duc de Montmorency was beheaded, to the great sorrow and anguish of France. In his will, he left a beautiful St. Sebastian painting to the Cardinal. Hearing the news, Gaston once more took flight across France to Brussels.  Would the swift and terrible justice of the Cardinal be enough to check him?



A Flash of Scarlet Part Fourteen

It did not take Richelieu long to deal with his enemies. Within months many had been exiled, imprisoned or put to death. Mother and son however were not to be so easily defeated. In spite of promised reconciliation, Gaston led on by his followers confronted Richelieu berating him for his treatment of a women who had once given him the very opportunity to rise. It was only the Cardinal’s red cloak that protected him from the punishment that was due to him. As was his way, the cardinal listened silently while he accompanied the irate prince to his carriage . Richelieu did not doubt the murderous intent of Gaston’s followers.  Hearing of this, Louis rushed to his side. For the next while, Gaston spent his time in Orleans trying to incite a rebellion against the King and his minister. He knew it was a matter of time before the Cardinal would banish him and with that fled to Lorraine in self-imposed exile. Royalty and the court were seldom put to death.

Richelieu knew better than to trust the Queen mother though he kept up the appearance of due respect. In February, Carnival arrived, a time for hunting and celebrating. Marie would not be left behind, leaving the King under the influence of the Cardinal. During this time, Louis made a futile attempt to soften his mother’s atitude towards his first minister. When Marie would not be swayed in her opinion, he realized that there was no option but to exile her before more trouble arose at court.

The next morning under the pretext of going hunting, Louis and Richelieu rode for Paris. The King left apologies and farewells to his mother but would never see her again. He also left a letter behind asking Marie to retire to Moulins and maintain her honour as governor of the Bourbonnais. In short, she was no longer welcome at Court. Queen Anne brought her the news before she left to follow Louis . Both women, tearfully realized their defeat at the hand’s of the Cardinal.

Marie, obstinate creature that she was, refused to run off to Moulins, citing ever ridiculous excuses for not leaving Compegne. Finally, Louis realizied she would not move without some coercion. One by one, her friends disappeared. Her physician, Vautier and Bossompierre were thrown into the Bastille. De Guise for intriguing with Gaston was forced to flee to Italy where he would live out his days. The great ladies of the Court were ordered to return to their estates. The Queen mother’s closest friend, the Princess de Conti, returned to Eu where she reputedly died of a broken heart after being separated from Bassompierre, her lover.

When Marie heard that she was to be forcibly removed from Compegne by the royal army,  she once again proved herself a worthy opponent by planning another escape similar to Blois. She fled the Chateau on foot to meet with a coach and team in the forest. From there she would meet Monsieur de Vardes at La Capelle in Picardy and take shelter. Richelieu, with his network of spies, soon heard of this and sent the man’s father to close the gates ahead of time. Marie had no alternative but to flee cross country to the Archduchess Isabel in Artois. Richilieu’s triumph over her would signal the slow decline of the Queen.



A Flash of Scarlet Part Thirteen

When the war ended in August of 1630, Richelieu hearing that the King was gravely ill, rushed to Lyon.  Louis suffered from fever and dysentery so commonly caught in the hot, swampy areas of France. By the time Richelieu arrived, Louis had been bled seven times and given the Last Rites of the Catholic church.  His brother Gaston, next in line for the throne was quickly summoned and the court waited with bated breath to see the final over-throw of the hated Cardinal. Once again, Richelieu was on the precipice.

The Queen mother waited to give the signal for his arrest as an enemy of the State, the person who had blocked her ambitions.  Louis summoned the Duc de Montmorency and commended the Cardinal to his protection in Languedoc. No sooner had he done this than an internal abscess burst. It was his mother and Queen Anne who nursed him and tried to bring him under their influence. Louis was swayed in so far as he made an agreement that he would consider ending the Cardinal’s career once the Italian campaign was over.

The war did end and Marie threw a great celebration not for the end of the war but to celebrate the imminent downfall of her enemy. To her surprise, the King, now recovered was reconsidering his position with the man whose brilliance had turned the tide. He assured Marie of the Cardinal’s loyalty. She was asked to reconcile with Richelieu and attend the royal Council as usual. Marie agreed and as a show of confidence invited the Cardinal’s niece back into her employment from which she had been cast, all this just a ruse. She seethed with rage at the news of Richelieu’s alliance with the King of Sweden, a Protestant. Madame de Combalet, the Cardinal’s neice, a reserved and sensitive girl returned for her re-appointment and was met with such a berating that she fled the chamber in tears.  Still, Marie promised Louis that she would honour her committment to reconciling with the Cardinal but it took only a few minutes after his appearance for her to explode into a torrent of epithets. He was a knave and a traitor to his King and country. She would never sit at council with him again. Richelieu left.



La Journee des Dupes–  Maurice Leloir

Marie brought every pressure to bear on her son, a son who was easily confused by scenes such as these. At the hunt, he was strong and bold but in these situations he teetered on the brink of childishness. Reminded by his aide de chambre, Saint-Simon that he was after all master of the kingdom, Louis started to regain his composure and determined to put matters right. He returned to the Luxembourg, Marie’s splendid palace, where she again attempted to persuade him to release Richelieu’s ministers and replace them with hers. In the meantime the Cardinal himself arrived at the Palace.  Finding all the doors locked to the chamber,he  routed himself through a secret passage and entered . The King was surprised but Marie upon seeing him lost no time in attacking him once more. At this, he reverted to his prime tactic of propitiation and tears, asking to be sent to retirement.  The King seemed to accept this and Richelieu returned to the Petite Luxembourg  distraught, his dismissal could mean exile at the least and death at the worst. Louis appointed the two Marillac brothers as his mother had said and then left for the hunting lodge, his place of refuge.

At word of the Cardinal’s downfall, Paris breathed a sigh of relief. What ever good he had done had been counteracted by acts of tyranny. To build the Palais Cardinal, he had displaced people and their livelihoods. The Luxembourg was soon surrounded by a crowd grateful to the Queen Mother. Couriers were sent all over Europe and her return to power was celebrated with Queen Anne and Monsieur, the King’s brother.

While the Cardinal sat in despair, some of the more conscientious men of the court, decided that Richelieu should follow the King to Versailles on the pretext of saying good-bye. When he arrived there was a long conversation with Louis during which their devotion to each other was re-established, again each man realizing the critical role played in the other’s life. The announcement was made with great joy to the attending courtiers, then letters began to fly once more. A letter of appreciation and devotion to Louis and one to his family telling them that although their services would no longer be needed, not to blame Louis. Another letter to the garrulous old soldier,  Amador de la Porte, his uncle, not to attack the queen verbally as he still owed her his entry into court. Several arrests followed as Marie’s followers were displaced by Richelieu’s men. Louis had stated that he would find a way to deal with his mother and overcome the influence of her followers. It would not take long for the Cardinal to deal with them in his own way.







A Flash of Scarlet Part Twelve

In spite of the Queen mother’s rage at Richelieu’s actions during the spring campaign, Louis honoured him with the new rank of chief minister of State. This was not too soon as the Duke of Mantua found himself once again under siege by the Emperor Ferdinand of Austria, the Holy Roman Emperor. Ferdinand had defeated the northern Protestants and now swung back to regain lost territory. Again, the Grisons suffered as his army swept across to Mantua and could offer little resistance. Casale was again regained  by Spain. Champagne in eastern France was being threatened by Ferdinand’s armies. In spite of misgivings, Richelieu placed Marillac, a suspected enemy and the King’s brother, Gaston in command of the defence of the kingdom.

Richelieu was now at the apex of his power, Louis had granted him the post of Lieutenant-General de la Monts which made him supreme commander and the King’s representative  in all political and military matters. He was the man to use those powers brilliantly and decisively. As part of the Treaty of Susa, Savoy was obligated to defend Mantua should she come under attack again. Instead of openly breaking the treaty, he used all his powers to hinder the progress of the French army. At the same time, some things went in France’s favour. Plague, fever and flood forced the Spanish to retire from Mantua while Casale continued to hold. The Pope attempted to bring about peace talks but again, Savoy created endless difficulties about the terms for allowing the French through Savoy to gain Montferrat.

Richelieu waited no longer, he swept his army over the Alps to Susa while it was still under French control and set up his headquarters. Charles Emmanuel, the Duke of Savoy holding the area between the French and Spanish armies, continued to play both sides. While Richelieu set up camp he was plotting with Spain to close the passes behind the French army and delayed supplies purchased by France for Casale. In a moment, Richelieu turned his army not towards Casale to relieve her but straight towards the Savoyards themselves which sent them running back to Turin. The army slogged on through early winter weather, crossing swollen rivers and enduring rain and sleet. Richelieu rode at its head surrounded by guards. The men cursed him as they followed him into Rivoli but were well rewarded by Savoy’s fire and wine.

Knowing that he would be leaving his rear flank open if he proceeded against Spain and Austria, he decided on another decisive move. He would block the gateway passes between Dauphine and Piedmont. France would hold the keys to Italy. In May, Richelieu met Louis at Grenoble where together, they conquered Savoy. The Duke of Savoy later died of despair at the loss of his kingdom. Mantua had been sacked by the Emperor’s troops, it’s treasures and the beautiful Gonzaga palace destroyed.

The King and Richelieu continued sending troops to reinforce Pinerolo. Louis’ Italian armies joined with the French troops but disease weakened them. The Duke of Savoy’s son, married to Madame Christine of France, decided it would be wise to ally with France which allowed peace negotiations to continue . The chief agents in them were who else but Pere Joseph, Richelieu’s old friend and an Italian diplomat who served the Pope, one we would hear about in the future,  Gulio Mazarani, a young man destined to succeed the Cardinal.

In late October of 1629, The Austrians and Spaniards withdrew from the war, Mantua was returned to Savoy and Casale was relieved.  The Cardinal had triumphed but he must still return to France and the danger that awaited him there.


A Flash of Scarlet Part Eleven

Ironically, just days after the capitulation of La Rochelle, a great storm broke out which destroyed the moles or earthen works Richelieu had built to prevent the British from gaining access to the city.  Crossing the river Loire on his way back to Paris, the Cardinal nearly drowned along with his Chancellor. At the same time, the Duc de Nevers, Charles de Gonzague, was blockaded in at the fortress of Casale in Northern Italy by Spain and Savoy. With the siege over, France would finally be free to come to his aid.

Cardinal Richelieu at the Seige of La Rochelle- Henri Motte

De Gonzague was one of the great nobles of France and would have been heir to the throne of Constantinople. He had been on Crusade with Pere Joseph and was distrusted by the Queen Mother who voiced her displeasure at the thought of the King marching to his aid. This was not to mention the fact that Alphonse, Richelieu’s brother had been made a Cardinal in celebration of the victory against the Huguenots. The rule was that two brothers could not be cardinalized. Then France marched off to war against two Catholic countries, Spain and Austria. The Cardinal maintained his stance that the honour of France was at stake if they did not back the Duc’s right as hereditary ruler of Mantua.  He promised the King that the war in Mantua would be resolved by May so the issue of Rohan and the hold-out Huguenots in Languedoc could be dealt with. Again, Richelieu drew the withdrawal card and once again, Louis promised to support him in his cause. Marie was enraged.

Charles Gonzague-Duc de Nevers-Mantua

In January, 1629, Louis marched south to join the troops that had only a short rest after La Rochelle. The Cardinal met with Conde to discuss how they would strike a final blow to the Huguenots in Languedoc. Louis decided to continue into Savoyard territory in spite of the wintry weather to capture Susa. It took one month to get to the foot of the Alps and another to scale them. Susa was at the top of a fortified gorge and though others balked at the idea of climbing to the fortress, Louis showing himself as the bold soldier he was climbed through the snow. While he was finding a way up and behind the enemy barricades, the main body of the army drove straight at the enemy. The royal musketeers scaled the walls and drove them back down and towards Susa. After that,  with his usual energy and speed, Richelieu relieved Casale. Below, what Louis XIII may have been looking at as he approached the Alps.


Mount Genevre, French Alps

It did not take long to take Languedoc, though Rohan had made an agreement with Spain to keep up the rebellion. The Huguenots did not have a regular army.  The royal army over ran the area, destroying crops and driving the people into the mountains. The small stronghold of Privas  insisted that their commander St. André de Montbrun should make terms with the King but Louis emphatically refused. The surrender must be unconditional. The troops entered and sacked the town during which time a terrible fire broke out.

Louis’ character required him to hang the commander but his hand was stayed by Richlieu. He could be surprisingly humane once he had achieved his goals. Though he was ill at the time, the Cardinal rode to meet the inhabitants and placed twelve young girls in the care of the Dame de Chateau d’Autremont. He was presented with an infant who was found in his dead mother’s arms whom he found a nurse for. He ordered the child be called “Fortunat Privas”. Compared to the other atrocities in Germany through the Thirty Years war, this was quite exceptional.


Areas Involved in the Mantuan War

The King’s army continued to sweep south capturing all the small towns until they came into Nimes where a final victory in the Huguenot war was realized. Richelieu had achieved the first great end of his policy, to subdue internal rebellion and unite France. Once conquered, he offered a general amnesty. The Duc de Rohan retired to Venice as a free man.  Liberty of Conscience as laid out in the Edict of Nantes was reaffirmed but all  Huguenot fortifications had to be razed. All the Protestant towns submitted except for stubborn and determined Montauban. Richelieu was left to deal with this on his own as the King left for Paris. Though ill with fever, he spent weeks arguing with the town deputies until finally they submitted. He entered the town in the middle of August, harangued by the Protestant ministers and stayed long enough to see that the ramparts were being destroyed. He then returned to Paris to face his other enemies, the Queen mother, Marie de Medici and her court,  a court ablaze with resentment and jealousy.





A Flash of Scarlet Part Ten

The Chalais conspiracy, also known as the Affair of the Dames, increased Richelieu’s determination to crush the nobles and make the King supreme. To this end, he created two new edicts. The first, destroyed all feudal strongholds in Brittany and then all over France not needed for the defence of province or kingdom. Naturally, the peasant population was more than happy to help in smashing gates and tearing down walls six feet thick which had threatened their liberty for centuries, a signal perhaps of the revolution to come years later.

The other edict forbade dueling, previously ignored by the nobles who continued fighting day and night over the merest quibble. Richelieu brought royal authority forward once more. The penalty was death. In the face of this,  Francois de Montmorency, Duc de Bouteville, a famed duellist who was banned from France, undertook a duel with the Baron de Beuvron. It was a triple duel and both the principals survived but one of the adversaries was killed. Beauvron escaped to England but Bouteville stopped overnight on the way to Lorraine. The dead man’s mother arrested them. (note that you could make a citizen’s arrest at this time). The two were brought back and imprisoned in the Bastille until a short trial took place where both were sentenced to death. At the Place de Greve amid the voices of a public outcry, the two were beheaded. Paris watched in terror and disbelief at the power and relentless action of the Cardinal.

These executions were followed by another tragedy, the death of Gaston’s wife Marie de Bourbon,  after childbirth. The moment had been so awaited, joyfully by Gaston and his wife and trepidatiously by the King and Queen. A boy would be heir to the throne. However, a girl was born, Anne Marie Louis,  who would become the famed “Grand Mademoiselle”. The death of Marie once again released the young Gaston to his wild ways. He was only nineteen years old. Louis attempted to interest him in “the hunt” but that was not to Gaston’s taste, he was a Parisian. Then Louis bought Richelieu’s house at Limours for him to redecorate, a favorite pastime of royalty.

About this time, the threat of war with England began to raise it’s head. Richelieu had ignored the several pin-pricks thrown at him by Charles I, who was not happy with his new wife’s French retinue and replaced them with people he thought were more trustworthy. The English supported the Huguenots and the Cardinal was not yet ready to deal with that situation but found himself having no choice. Many people supported the idea of war against France, in order to rid themselves of him, Buckingham had not ceased his anger and ambition and there were quarrels and piracy on both sides of the sea. Enemies rose up, both Catholic and Protestant, Soubise in England, Rohan in Languedoc, Charles of Lorraine (influenced by the crafty Madame de Chevreuse), the Duke of Savoy and the Comte de Soissons, the duchess, Isabel of the Low Countries (the Dutch Republic) was trying to get Spain on England’s side. Richelieu did not trust the Spanish ambassador, Olivares. He knew an English victory would leave France divided and vulnerable against the rest of Europe.

In the winter of 1627,  England prepared her ships for war, her destination, La Rochelle. The islands of Ré and Oleron were the main defenders of La Rochelle. Louise had built new forts there since the last Huguenot revolt. That allowed Richelieu to divert his attention to the massive amount of letter writing he would have to do to mobilize the coast for attack, many of which can still be read today. The peasants must not be molested, many of them neighbors from his old Luçon days, just up the coast. Some of his letters, addressed to the Rochelaise, assure them that the preparations are for their own good and that as long as they are co-operative, they will have nothing to fear. While the funerals of Bouteville and Madame were carried on in Paris, ships were sailing from Portsmouth for the French coast.

As Louis travelled down to the west coast, Gaston was appointed lieutenant-general of the armies in Poitou. Later in the year, the Prince de Condé  and the Duc de Montmorency would  check Henri de Rohan in Languedoc.  By then, the English were blocking the Isle de Ré. The Huguenots had admitted the Duc de Soubise to the city showing their intentions although that may not have been the wish of all of her citizens. This lack of cohesiveness became a threat to the country and Richelieu, pushed on by the annihilistic Condé, was set to crush the rebels. Meanwhile, Louis had become so ill that he was forced to stop his travels to Orléans. Then he received word that the Marquis de Toiras was blockaded in on the fort of Saint-Martin by the Duke of Buckingham. This forced the Cardinal into a position he was not fully prepared for, having always worked under the King in matters of war.  As he sat by Louis’ bedside hour after hour, his mind raced with military matters and of how to relieve the isle from the threat of starvation.

He decided to use his own money in aid of the war and to send provisions by small boat to Ré. Then he invoked the treaty with Spain to gain aid but that country would not participate until the outcome was more assured. In October, Louis recovered and the two joined the army at La Rochelle where they were able to drive Buckingham back to England.

Louis and Richelieu at La Rochelle

Louis XIII and Richelieu at La Rochelle




A Flash of Scarlet Part Nine

“Broken faith, false promises, secret intrigues and plain trickeries”, these are some of the words used to describe the Treaty of Monzon implemented by Cardinal Richelieu in 1626. At stake, control over the Vallentine valley a passage valued by the Spanish in connecting them to their allies the Austrians, both enemies of France and part of the encroaching Hapsburg powers. Richelieu was determined to keep France in control of her own destiny and would do what needed to be done, not an easy task.

Marie de Medici, the queen mother and her court were incensed at his alliances with Protestant countries as well as their loss of power over the King. Their influence over the Catholic community caused the negotiations to stall out several times before Richelieu finally prevailed. England had almost forced the Huguenots to an unprofitable peace with Louis XIII and Charles I had married Henrietta Marie. The Duke of Savoy had not even been considered. The Grisons had been granted control over the valley but only Roman Catholicism would be allowed and the people could elect their own magistrates. They however, had to pay the Grisons an annual tribute. The forts in the valley had to be razed weakening the protection of Venice. Richelieu worked at an appeasement for them afterwards.

With this new peace, the Cardinal set out to accomplish some of the plans he had made. He called an assembly of Notables, princes, archbishops crown officers, presidents of the law courts and the provost of the merchants of Paris. They were invited to advise the King, within certain confines of course. With this they gave their consent to Richelieu’s plans. His most popular measure was the building of a navy.  With Michel de Marillac at their head, the Notables voted for the purchase of forty-five battleships. The resources were available in France, she would no longer be a victim of piracy or the loss of fishing rights.

Richelieu had purchased the Duc de Montmorency’s post and created the new office of Grand Master and Superintendent-General of Navigation and Commerce. He had also abolished the old office of Constable of France when the Duc de Lesdiguerres died in 1626 and created the office of the War Minister for himself. In spite of all this, his poor health still plagued him with unpredictable migraines which would often force him to take leave in the country. His life was constantly under threat.

One of the plots to depose Richelieu involved Henri de Tallyrand de Perigord a young man from a very old and noble family. Like many of that time, he was young and hot-headed. He served under Louis XIII at the Siege of Montauban and became the King’s favorite and head of his wardrobe. He was taken in by a group headed by Marie de Rohan (Duchess of Chevreuse), Gaston, the King’s brother and Queen Anne herself who wanted to stop the marriage Richelieu had planned for Gaston to Madame de Montpensier. Each person involved had their own reason for plotting against the Cardinal. Chalais and his group would pay a surprise visit to Richelieu at Fontainbleau and say they were making way for Gaston to visit. A brawl would be provoked and the Cardinal would be stabbed by accident. The group had also tried to draw in other European countries which could result in war.

Marie de Rohan  Duchess of Chevruese

Marie de Rohan
Duchess of Chevruese

Unfortunately Chalais had told a relative about the plan who then made him report it to Richelieu. The group unaware of this travelled to Richelieu’s house where he left them without an explanation and then rushed to Fontainebleau where Gaston stayed. In the morning he awoke to Richelieu standing over him, handing him his shirt and saying that he should have given him more warning if he was going to visit so he could prepare properly.

This affair took its toll on the Cardinal causing him to send a letter to Marie de Medici saying that he couldn not continue in this way. At this Louis decided he must take action and replied in a letter saying that he would always stand by his First Minister under any circumstance. Evidence was found against Chalais through the Cardinal’s spy network and the ensueing interrogation resulted in a charge of “lese majeste” (treason).  Chalais’s mother begged the King to reverse his order of beheading and quartering but he only reduced it to beheading.  The group kidnapped the executioner thinking to help Chalais but he was replaced by a prisoner who was promised to have his sentence commuted.  He did not sharpen his sword and only succeeded in injuring the young man. He kept hacking. The priest told him to put Chalais back on the block, then someone handed him a hatchet. It took 19 more blows to finally kill him. His mother who had been praying in a nearby church came to get his body and buried him with little ceremony.

Henri de Talleyrand-Perigord Comte de Chalais

Henri de Talleyrand-Perigord
Comte de Chalais

Gaston, Louis’ brother could not be executed, he was of royal blood. Instead Richelieu decided it would be best to keep him in sight. After giving him a huge amount of money for cooperating and an “appanage” or gift of the Duchies of Orleans, de Chartres and the Comt de Blois, he agreed to marry Mademoiselle de Montpensier. Madame de Chevreuse was banned from France and took refuge in Lorraine which belonged to the Hapsburgs. Queen Anne was in disgrace.

Gaston Duc d' Orleans

Gaston Duc d’ Orleans

Anne of Austria

Anne of Austria