A Flash of Scarlet Part 17

Richelieu did indeed have great ambitions for himself and for France, these naturally involving the annexing of more and more territory. To this end, he would employ historians to research France’s ancient rights to the crown and give just cause to his ambitions. Add to this the perennial fact that France was surrounded by the Hapsburg dynasty creating a situation requiring constant vigil.

The Duchy of Lorraine, in northeastern France, was always a mix of German and French culture and gained great wealth and independence by her relations with the surrounding countries, always being able to gain allies from one or the other. Duke of Lorraine, Charles IV, who had also been influenced by Gaston d”Orleans against Richelieu, refused to pay his homage for the duchy of Bar. In the summer of 1633,  Louis XIII and the Cardinal marched to Lorraine to confiscate the duchy.

The Duke Charles’ sister, Marguerite,  had been married to Gaston, Louis’ brother, in secret without the King’s permission. Charles now offered an annulment of the marriage by way of concession as well as offering his brother, Cardinal Nicholas-Francois as an alliance for Richelieu’s niece, Madame de Combalet.  Richelieu refused stating instead that he would accept only the capital city, Nancy and that Marguerite should be placed in the King’s care.

Charles would never accept the surrender of Nancy. The city was placed under siege during which time Marguerite escaped and found her way back to Gaston and the Queen mother where the marriage was legitimized by the Archbishop of Malines. Marguerite was now the Duchess of Orléans. Once again, Monsieur, as Gaston was known,  defied his brother, the King. This situation did not perturb the Cardinal but the Duke had provided him with sufficient reason to carry out his plan for reconquering Lorraine. Assistance from the Duke’s Spanish allies had been checked by the Protestants, he had lost his sister and Richelieu had set up a parliament in Metz. When the King and Richelieu left Lorraine garrisoned by French troops,  Charles left Lorraine in his brother’s hands while he joined the army under the Holy Roman Emperor.

While at Metz, several attempts were made on Richelieu’s life by assassins sent by Marie de Medici’s advisors, his life saved by the vast network of spies he employed. Gaston then made a treaty with Spain to invade France with an army of generals supplied by the Dutch. To this, the Cardinal created a league of nobles who pledged themselves to preventing the accession of Gaston should Louis fall. In any event, Spanish aid did not materialize and Gaston’s favorite Puylaurens began negotiations with Richelieu which themselves did not materialize. Puylaurens was implicated in the refusal of Gaston to accept the annulment of his marriage to Marguerite, this time by the French clergy.  Gaston had written to the Pope refusing to accept the annullment based on the fact that it usurped the Pope’s authority. Puylaurens knew this and had failed to divulge it to Richelieu with whom he was now in favour. When Richelieu discovered he was also seeking support from the Spanish again, he was exiled to Vincennes where he died,  a fate shared by many of Gaston’s friends.  Gaston was by this time reconciled at court and though he pleaded for his friend it did little good.

With Gaston’s reconciliation, Richelieu’s mind turned back to the unfinished business of the war against the Hapsburg Empire. While the rest of  Europe was willing to capitulate to the Holy Roman Emperor,  Richelieu knew that the only security for France was to stop the encroachment of her borders. He could not leave his former allies, Sweden, Holland and Protestant Germany in a weakened state. In May, 1635, Louis formally declared war against Spain, though Phillip was his brother-in-law. Again, Richelieu changed sides, supporting the Huguenots .

In spite of protests on their part, the entire country was mobilized for war, the nobles, the clergy and the people. The clergy, whose land had been previously untaxed were now asked to pay their share of the more than one hundred million francs a year. The people ever willing,  had no idea of the crush that was to come. Some would protest but to small avail. The Protestant Henri de Rohan, formerly Richelieu’s enemy at La Rochelle, now commanded an army against the Duc of Lorraine and was then commissioned to re-enter the Valtelline, once more to block the road between Austria and Spain. When Richelieu failed to pay the Grisons, rightful owners of the land a promised indemnity, they turned on Rohan whereupon he left the Valtelline to help gain Alsace.

Initially, the war did not go well for France. The Dutch were not happy with being invaded again, Germany was falling into Imperialist hands, Lorraine was barely being held and the Milanese invasion had failed. Add to that the deaths of the Ducs of Savoy and Mantua, two important allies. Spain had seized the Isles of Lérins and the navy barely recovered that due to the arguing between its commanders. Imperial troops crossed the borders into Picardy and captured La Capelle and La Catelet at their head, John of Werth, a Bavarian terrorist of the day.

In the terrible heat of late July, 1636, the people of Paris cried out against the Cardinal who with the King was sheltering in the country.  She was largely undefended, her walls torn down to build his palace, his ungratefulness to the Queen mother, his failure at war, his alliance with heretics. Richelieu returned to Paris, once again his mind creating order out of chaos. He knew the people well, knew they were devout Catholics and called for the bishops to hold processions . The people were called to pray for their country and large gifts were made to the convents. Then he rode through the streets of Paris alone with no guards ordering all trades to  assemble to give help to their King. Once again he showed himself to be master of the situations he found himself in.

The gates of Paris were locked against those trying to escape, all privileges suspended. All men capable of bearing arms had to present themselves, all non-essential commerce cease . All owners of a coach must donate one horse, all peasants to work on new fortifications of Saint-Denis. Gifts of money poured in from all corners to supply the army. When Corbie was taken near Amiens, the army advanced there under Monsieur and the Comte de Soissons. The enemy was held in check at the Somme until all danger was past, in the middle of September. Werth and his men left.

While the enemy was repulsed everywhere, the two commanders once again plotted against Richelieu. It was decided by Gaston and de Soissons that he must be assassinated and the time was right.  The King was busy meeting with his ministers and Richelieu was alone at Amiens. Six men, met with the Cardinal in the courtyard at Amiens. One stood behind him with a knife waiting for a signal from Gaston. Two men stood on either side of the Cardinal. Moments passed, then suddenly Gaston turned to go up the stairs frozen with fear, he could not do it. The man facing the Cardinal was left abandoned and embarrassed. The Cardinal bade the men goodnight and left. They sheathed their knives.

Eventually, the conspirators left court for their homes but continued to send complaints to the King against Richelieu none of which he seemed to take seriously. Once again, after some manipulation by the Cardinal, Gaston presented himself for reconciliation with his brother, the King but there were indeed other enemies of the great Cardinal.


A Flash of Scarlet Part 16

Not long after the execution of Henri de Montmorency, the Cardinal once again fell ill, this time for 3 months. It is not hard to imagine succumbing to the stress and hatred that surrounded him. On his way from Toulouse to Bordeaux where he was to escort the Queen, he received news that the loyal Maréchal de Schomberg, rescuer of Toiras and defeater of Buckingham had died of apoplexy.  Then, Gustavus Adolphus was killed at the Battle of Lutzen, weakening the Protestant alliance with France. The Cardinal worsened, giving a “cause de celebre” to his many enemies among them, Madame de Chevreuse who openly planned her position next to the Queen. Once again with terrific strength of will, the Cardinal recovered and meted out a terrible vengeance. Chevreuse was exiled from court while her partner, Monsieur de Chateauneuf was disgraced and in prison from whence we know few people escaped alive. The King rushed from Paris and celebrated with the Court, the seemingly miraculous recovery.

Again, Richelieu continued to exercise his wealth and creativity by purchasing more land and refurbishing the many country houses he owned, among them, Rueil, Limours and Bois-le-Vicomte. He felt limited by the Palais Cardinal which he had purposely built so that it would not out-shine the King’s palace. He then purchased his family home of Richelieu and the former lands of the Montpensier family, their neighbours.  The old chateau was torn down and its former outbuildings used to create the chateau of today. He was not given permission by the Pope to tear down the chapel, however. There is little left of the Chateau de Richelieu started in 1625 and finished in 1633,  once thought to be surpassed in beauty only by Fontanbleau.

Chateau and Town of Richelieu 1633

The Cardinal naturally extended the decor to include the many artistic treasures he had accumulated over the years.  Figures of mythological statues filled the gateways and from the ruined House of Montmorency, the famous Slaves of Michel Angelo stood near a variegated marble stairway. He wished for his officers and nobles, to build a town where they could stay when attending court and this soon rose up. While war with Gaston d’Orleans drew ever nearer, he focused on acquiring new paintings and statues. Here are some of the remaining parts of a town that the Cardinal never actually visited in spite of 8 years creating it and a link to the actual town today.

Paris was the place Richelieu spent his remaining years, at the Palais -Cardinal completed in 1634.  There he lived in almost royal splendor. Allegorical paintings of his life made of mosaic were embedded into gold ceilings. Paintings by famous artists, among them, Phillipe de Champagne who painted the now famous portraits of the Cardinal. The palace was filled with art treasures from all over Europe, the gardens clipped and formal.

Image result for palais cardinal paris

Le Palais Cardinal-Paris 1634

Richelieu’s charity was spread widely between his household pages who received the same training as royalty to the sick and poor of the streets. A number of gentlemen waited on him constantly and he had 5 private secretaries ( this often leading to academic confusion over what he actually wrote himself). Among them were the Prieur des Roches, Charpentier, Chéré, Mulot, Rossignol and at times, his private physician, Monsieur Citoys. Pere Joseph and his Capuchin clerks controlled an army of spies at home and abroad. Among his most confidential counsellors were the Bouthilliers and Monsieur de Noyers and Leffamas, head of the Paris police brought him reports of enemies. Jules Mazarin, later to become his successor became his most trusted diplomat. His aides-de-camp were the Cardinal de la Valette, the Archbishop of Bordeaux. The Marquise de Brézé and Marquis de la Meilleraye were created Marshalls of France. He had an army of pamphleteers and writers working under him the most well-known was Renaudot who founded the Gazette de France under the Cardinal. When he travelled, 12 instruments travelled with him along with a force of guards which included 200 musketeers, one hundred horse and a troop of gendarmes. These were quartered in and around the palace.

A normal day, when he was not ill, would begin at eight in the morning and end at eleven, after which he would sleep only for a few hours before his restless mind would cause him to commence writing. At dawn he would sleep for a few more hours and then rose to greet the King’s ministers. After hearing mass he would give an audience to anyone who wanted to see him until midday. After midday dinner, he would see the King and receive his ambassadors or attend public events. In the evening, he might stroll in his gardens, chatting with a friend until evening prayers.

Naturally, at court he was not always popular with his enemies or with women although it has been said that he at least attempted to be agreeable to them. Whether the rumours of him having a mistress are true or not would have to be proven. It is certain that affairs of state would take up a good part of his time. He is said to have been rebuffed by both Queen Anne and Madame de Chevreuse. Never the less, he could be found in the company of women at many social occasions. He was on the most affectionate terms with his niece, Marie Madeleine de Vignerot, daughter of his sister Francoise. The Cardinal attempted to arrange many marriages for her but none of them came to fruition. Still she had a powerful place at court as Duchess d’Aiguillon and was close friends with the Princess de Conde and Mademoiselle d’Angennes. She became the main figure at his entertainments.

Richelieu, who loved drama and the ballet had two theatres built at the Palais Cardinal one of which in 1641 hosted the famed play “Mirame” of which he wrote the greater part. It was performed in a theatre which could hold 3,000 people. The scenery was imported from Italy by Mazarin,  now Richelieu’s right hand . It was considered an innovation of the day with mechanical moving parts, which we find charming today. Some critics did not like it and some compared the story line to the affair between Queen Anne and Buckingham. A few disreputables had been invited which upset the King but the play was a resounding success. In the end, the Queen passed on a golden bridge drawn by peacocks to a silver throne behind the curtain from where she presided over a grand ball at the end of the evening. Richelieu had accomplished what he had set out to do, make himself acceptable to French society.


Salle du Palais-Cardinal 1641 -Jacquot



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.