The Intrepids Part 2

Quebec was initially rejected as a site for permanent habitation.  De Monts, Gravé and Champlain  determined to escape the competition of traders who refused to respect the French monopoly of the St. Lawrence fur trade. They sailed south to the Maritimes where the climate was milder. While they were there they continued the  search for a route to Asia which people at that time believed existed. They wintered near the mouth of the St. Croix River where nearly half of the 79 men died of scurvy. Champlain called the place Port Royal. The company settled for 3 years at Port Royal while they  explored and searched for minerals. This was the actual first agricultural settlement in Canada. De Monts,  realizing that he could not enforce his fur trade monopoly (80 ships had already poached on his land),  decided to abandon Acadia, which then included modern day Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

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Port Royal, Nova Scotia

It is interesting to note that the explorers, De Monts, Gravé and Champlain were French Protestants. Champlain had converted to Roman Catholicism some years before. One of the reasons for the burgeoning population of the eastern coast of America was the lack of religious discrimination. Only Roman Catholics were permitted into New France. When the Huguenots left France, they took with them their skills and affluence. At the same time the French left Acadia, the English established their first settlement at Jamestown in Virginia and for them, there was no looking back.

In 1627, the colony of New France was pathetically small compared to its southern neigbours who had a tobacco based economy. What did they have to sell in Quebec? There was no market for anything but fur.  Richelieu, then prime minister to Louis XIII,  decided to end the colony’s dependence on fur and start up  the mercantile system that worked so well in France. France would supply Quebec’s needs and a market for her manufactured goods. No other country was permitted to trade or ship goods from the colony. Only French ships could carry goods to and from the colony. To that end, Richelieu established the Compagnie des Cent-Associés or Company of One Hundred Associates, of whom Champlain was a share-holder.

The company became the seigneur of all the lands France claimed in North America and had a monopoly on all commerce including the fur trade. It could also cede land to settlers in tenure. In return, France would send 4,000 French and Roman Catholic settlers and provide missions for the conversion of the natives within 15 years. This coincided with the outbreak of the French/English war. French ships bringing settlers in were captured by English privateers, the brothers Kirke. Champlain surrendered in the face of starvation. In July, 1629, he and Gravè left Quebec but Champlain still lobbied for it’s return to France. That took 3 years, since Louis XIII had not paid his debt to Charles I for his sister’s dowry.  As soon as that was resolved, English forces left Quebec and returned it to France. Champlain returned to build a fort at Trois-Rivieres. When he died, control of the colony passed into the hands of the Jesuits or “Black Robes.

In 1632, Cardinal Richelieu gave the Jesuits a monopoly over the Canadian mission field. They built and opened schools for the native children but encountered the same problems as the Recollet priests before them.  The parents would not let the children go until they were given gifts. Many of the children became ill and died or ran away. The use of corporal punishment was not a custom of the native parent.

The Ursulines opened schools for the girls in the colony with the same measure of success. Marie l’Incarnation,  founder of the Ursulines, even wrote of the problems with native girls.  We have observed that of a hundred that have passed through our hands we have scarcely civilized one. We find docility and intelligence in these girls but, when we are least expecting it, they clamber over our walls and go off to run with their kinsmen in the woods,  finding more to please them there than all the amenities of our French house.”  

Does this ring a bell for anyone?  Pictures of residential schools start to run through my mind along with my own memories of starting school with the Sisters of Charity. So we agree this problem lies in the very roots of our culture. The Ursulines did have better luck with their hospitals though, where the natives agreed to drop their elders at the “house of death“.

I think it is worth noting too that many if not most of the nuns and priests were from the nobility in France . The Jesuits were very well educated men. Many women would enter a convent during times of trial in their lives or when they were widowed. One thing is certain, they truly believed in what they were doing in the name of Christ.

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Arrival of the Ursulines Marie de Jesus 1928

The Intrepids

Canada would indeed not exist without the courage and persistance of a few intrepid souls. From the explorers Cabot and Cartier to Samuel de Champlain, founder of Quebec,  who himself went to the great Richelieu for help in establishing the foundling colony. The Canada that my ancestors came to was hardly different than it had been for hundreds of years. It was primarily inhabited by aboriginal peoples who had migrated here following the melting glaciers. As they came, they developed means of survival appropriate to their surroundings, fishing on the coasts, hunting first the giant mammoths and then the bison on the prairies, learning to cultivate corn in the east. Among them trade networks developed and wars were fought.

When explorers and fishermen sailed from Europe to Canada, they brought disease with them, measles, tuberculosis and smallpox which soon decimated the aboriginal populations. Rats poured off the ships and the seeds of foreign plants were carried in on the bottoms of shoes. In 1603,  Champlain arrived at Stadacona, later to be called Quebec and set up a small fort. The men soon got scurvy but were helped by the Montagnais, who brought them pine tea to drink. They also brought furs to trade which would keep the little company going. Champlain embraced the aboriginal way of life and was soon going with them on their travels. As he travelled he drew maps and pictures of what he saw.


                                    Habitation at Quebec                                            Charny-Wikimedia

In 1615, he travelled 1000 miles to the home of the Huron people. What he saw surprised him, the Huron people were farmers and they were settled. They grew squash, corn, beans and tobacco which they traded along the lakes and rivers of northern Ontario and Quebec. The Huron homeland was on a small peninsula on Georgian Bay, in Lake Huron where more than 20,000 people lived. This was the Huron Confederacy, a nation of matriarchal tribes. The women chose the chiefs.


The enemies of the Huron were the Iroquois which means “rattlesnake”,  a name given them by the Huron. They called themselves the People of the Longhouse. The Iroquois spoke the same language and lived the same lifestyle but were age-old enemies. Since the French had arrived they were fighting for control of the fur trade routes. Atironta, the Huron war leader,  had asked Champlain to fight alongside the Hurons to which he agreed since the colony was dependent on the furs brought to them.  The attack failed and Champlain was wounded in the knee but the French were now Huron allies. At the same time, Catholic missionaries started to come to Huron country looking for conversions, among them, Jean de Brebeuf.

Champlain was determined to make New France a permanent settlement believing it would bring wealth and honor to his King and country. Soon labourers, artisans and farmers began to arrive, among them Louis and Marie Hebert, the first settlers of Quebec. A sailor named Abraham Martin also arrived in 1620 and farmed where the Plains of Abraham stand. Soon, religious orders began to arrive, the Ursuline teaching  nuns and Paul de Maissoneuve founder of Ville Marie,  to whom my ancestors would be connected.

Champlain for his part was kept very busy up to his death in 1635, he was continually sailing back and forth to France looking for support from the King or to publish his books. His marriage to Helene Boullé, 31 years his junior had been made mainly to gain him respectability. She spent most of her life in France, spending only 4 years in Quebec after which she entered a convent. Champlain became known as the Father of New France.


    Samuel de Champlain           H.D. Holmfeldt

If your are interested in how the Woodland people lived you can watch this film.


A Flash of Scarlet Conclusion and Sources

There is much to be learned from history. What has made the great Cardinal so fascinating to people from all walks of life? For the politician, it may be his political policy or “le raison d’etat”, described by Oxford as “a purely political reason for action on the part of a ruler or government, especially where a departure from openness, justice, or honesty is involved.” 

The term more commonly used is “the national interest”.  One might interpret it as doing whatever you have to to prevent the enemy from gaining control during war. This could involve destroying ships that may be taken or even creating alliances with former enemies. Winston Churchill found himself in just such a situation during WWII. You can read about that here.  Richelieu found himself allied with the very people, French Protestants, he had held under seige. Local and religious interests gave way to those of the nation.

There is also the story of not only Richelieu’s rise from impoverished nobility to the most powerful personage in Europe but the rise of France itself. He had restrained the Hapsburg dynasty and the power of the nobles to threaten the monarchy. A navy was created and colonies established. Richelieu had paved the way for the next King, Louis XIV, to rule as an absolute monarch and Louis carried on his policies making France the most powerful country in the late 17th century.

That being said, one should not discount the power of Louis XIII himself for there was no way  Richelieu could proceed without the consent of the King. The image created by Alexandre Dumas in his novel “The Three Musketeers” of a weak, bumbling King is neither fair nor correct. Although Louis was a reticent and at times, volatile person, he was never the less a fearless soldier and just arbiter. Together, Louis XIII and Richelieu fought against incredible challenges , both died prematurely, giving their lives for their country.


JOSEPH BERGIN,  Power and the Pursuit of Wealth. 1985. Yale University Press, New Haven and London

                                    The Rise of Richelieu. 1991. Yale University Press, New Haven and London

JEAN-VINCENT BLANCHARD,  Eminence Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of France. 2011. Walker Company,  New York

ELENEANOR C. PRICE, Cardinal de Richelieu. 1912.  McBride, Nast & Company, New York

JOSEPH BERGIN AND LAURENCE BROCKLISS ED., Richelieu and His Age. 1992. Clarendon Press, Oxford

HENRY BERTRAM HILL , The Political Testament of Cardinal Richelieu. 1961. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison Wisconsin.

A. LLOYD MOTTE, Louis XIII, The Just. 1989. University of California Press,  Berkley, Los Angeles, London

A Flash of Scarlet Part 19

The relationship between Louis and Cinq Mars continued on. The 22 year old more than enjoyed the splendors of court life and advantages that would be bestowed on him. He had already been made Grand Equerry. When Richelieu found that Cinq Mars had his own mind, he thwarted his ambitions in every way possible, barring him from sitting on the Royal Council.

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Henri d’Effiat Marquis de Cinq Mars

Cinq Mars having already been secretly involved in the plot to kill Richelieu in Sedan now allied himself with his friends, Fontailles and de Thou. This plot would include Gaston d’Orleans, the duc de Bullion and the Spanish government.  De Thou, though struck with conscience, would not betray his friends. The winter of 1642 seemed an opportune time to attempt to influence the King to quit his Minister.

Richelieu and Louis  were to travel separately to Roussillon and the Spanish campaign. Both were ill. By this time, Richelieu was so ill he had to be transported in a large litter which took considerable time. Cinq Mars took this time to talk of Richelieu’s removal, possibly by force. Whatever Louis’ reaction, he said nothing to the Cardinal. Gaston and de Bullion decided to keep their distance which left only the Spanish treaty. 17,000 men were promised by Spain as well as payments to all 3 men to hold Sedan while the Spanish invaded France. All conquests were to be restored to Spain but when Gaston received the document he held off on signing it. Interestingly, Richelieu was about to offer command of Northern Italy to de Buillion at this time. The King left the Cardinal in Narbonne who, though very ill, was certain of a conspiracy on the part of Cinq Mars. Trying to make the King aware of this was a great difficulty from afar.

It is thought that both Louis and Richelieu may have suffered from a form of malaria which would be prevalent in the hot, swampy south of France, Richelieu also suffering from tuberculosis which had crept down his right arm. The stresses of their lives were fast catching up with them. Louis would have been 41 and the Cardinal 57 years old.

The doctors bled the Cardinal several times, and incised the tubercle on his right arm. This provided only temporary relief. He encouraged Louis to remain in the south until Perpignan was taken, then commenced dictating his will. Soon, the doctors advised moving to a healthier location. He would have to be moved in his bed because his pain was so great.

To add to his worries, the war in Northern France was going badly but soon a letter arrived from the King declaring his fidelity. Richelieu replied with a copy of Gaston’s secret treaty with Spain. It was not in Louis’ nature to react quickly. He gave Cinq Mars time to escape which he did not. He was bold, if nothing else and followed Louis to Narbonne where he was arrested. De Thou had already been arrested as was de Bouillon. Then, as was his way, Louis left Narbonne for Fontainebleau stopping just long enough to visit the ailing Cardinal at Tarascon. There, a bed was moved beside the Cardinal’s for Louis to rest on and converse with the Cardinal. In the end, he gave Richelieu authority over the fate of the traitors as well as that of southern France, his power was nearly absolute.

Cinq Mars and de Buillon were signed on the treaty anonymously only as “two men of quality” . Still there was little hope that Gaston would not give them up to save himself,  he was no longer heir to the throne. The Cardinal’s sentence would see him give up any involvement in government and take temporary exile in Savoy but not until he had confronted his two cohorts, now imprisoned. That would have been very suitable except for Louis’ intervention. One thing  Cinq Mars did have to do though was sign a document identifying himself and de Buillon as signators of the treaty with Spain. De Bouillon remained imprisoned in Casale until his wife threatened to open Sedan to the Spaniards. Still, he had to cede Sedan and Raucourt to France.

The description of the Cardinal’s trip upstream with de Thou has been a colourful one for centuries. It was an entourage indeed. Cinq Mars was travelling by carriage from Montpellier but the other two by boat up the river Rhône. The Cardinal was in too much pain to travel by horse. Large numbers of horses towed the boats from the banks of the river. As always, the Cardinal protected himself with guards in the form of musketeers who filled the first two boats. Then the Cardinal’s boat, magnificently decorated in gold and crimson velvet followed with his bed on it. De Thou followed, well-guarded in another small boat. Four more boats followed carrying courtiers and luggage. Their was also calvary on each side of the river. When the boat docked the Cardinal’s bed would be carried by shoulder slings to the residence. Doors and windows had been enlarged to make way for the bed.  Once inside he would be transferred to another bed and furniture would be brought in.  The company travelled for two weeks to Lyon where the trial was to be held.

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The State Barge on the Rhone- Paul Delaroche

When it was found that de Thou did not actually know about the Spanish treaty, Richelieu employed his chief interrogator, Laubardemont to threaten Cinq Mars into changing his story. At preliminary trial, de Thou found he had no choice but to admit to knowledge of the Treaty and so was condemned.  The Cardinal had left earlier that day and was brought news that Perpignan had been taken and that  Cinq Mars and de Thou were now headed for execution.

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Cinq Mars and de Thou Sent to Execution

The rest of the story hardly bears telling. The usual executioner was taken ill and replaced by a handyman who was ill-equipped for a clean beheading, being only in possession of a simple cleaver. The two prisoners were basically hacked to death for want of expertise and an efficient implement. The bodies were transported back in the same carriage they had arrived in. De Thou’s body was embalmed and taken to his sister. Cinq Mars was buried at the Feuillant’s convent.

The Cardinal had pause for thought as he returned to Paris. It was plain that Louis knew about the possible threats to his life and had taken no measures to prevent it. Louis had warned Cinq Mars that killing the Cardinal would lead to excommunication from the Church, condemning their immortal souls. Captain Treville, head of the King’s musketeers, then volunteered to commit the act and then seek absolution later. Louis forestalled him.

After a triumphant return to Paris, the Cardinal began to make demands that the court be cleansed of all “malicious spirits”, including de Treville, thus starting a real argument with Louis which lasted for more than a month. The Cardinal’s health continued to fail. He decided to indulge himself one last time with a privately staged performance of “Europe” which he had written with his favourite playwright, Desmaret de Saint-Sorlin. He was only able to attend a dress rehearsal. Before long he received a message from Louis. He agreed to not having anymore favourites and sending de Treville and his musketeers away.

On Friday, November 28, 1642, the Cardinal complained of a sharp pain in his side and had a high fever. On December 2, Louis came to his bedside at the Palais-Cardinal where Richelieu advised who his successor should be, Jules Mazarin. Louis fed the Cardinal two egg yolks and left to walk down the Grand gallery, hung with portraits of the Cardinal and himself. His sudden laughter echoed down the gallery behind him.

Richelieu’s condition worsened greatly later in the day. He took his final communion and was given his last rites.  On December 3rd, a different doctor was called in who gave him an opiate which gave the appearance of rallying him the next morning. That was short-lived.  With his last breaths, he asked his beloved niece, Madame de Combalet to leave the room as he was about to die. Then quietly and with prayer he was gone.  His family who owed him so much felt great sorrow; his niece, the Marechaux de Maille-Breze and de La Meilleraye.

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Death of Richelieu

The Cardinal’s body lay in state at the Palais-Cardinal clothed in magnificent Cardinal’s robes and cap, the ducal coronet and mantle at his feet. Parisians by the hundreds came to see the man whether out of hatred or admiration. Later, he was moved to the Sorbonne being carried in a carriage draped with black velvet and crossed with white satin, his arms embroidered in gold and silver. The six horses which pulled it were draped in the same black velvet.  His pages each carried a long white tapered candle. All in Paris carried a white candle, until the city was ablaze with light.

The Cardinal was originally laid to rest in a crypt at the Sorbonne. At the end of the century, his niece had a marble tomb carved for him by Francois Girardon. During the French Revolution his body was disinterred and dismembered but the embalmed head was stolen and sometimes put on display. Years later, the owner was asked by Napolean III to return it for reinterment with the Cardinal’s body. When the floor in the chapel subsided, a picture was taken of the well-preserved face.

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Richelieu’s Tomb at the Sorbonne

A Flash of Scarlet Part 18

Richelieu’s seeming paranoia continued to rise as he found the members of Louis’ court powerful and independent enough not to come under his influence. They refused to spy for him and saw him as a cruel,  mysterious despot and a threat to their own influence on the King.  Even the King’s own brother could not be trusted. Louis himself was not above listening to the accusations and complaints of his favorites.

Queen Anne, who had been befriended by the Queen Mother early in her marriage, was herself Spanish. That and her inability to provide an heir gave Louis, who was not a naturally warm person, an excuse to ignore her. Of course he had mistresses as all kings had but they were screened by Richelieu with a contract that there would be no physical relations. Louis even fell in love with one of them, Marie de Hautefort, when she came to court as a lady in waiting to Anne. The fact that there could be no relations between them was a scurge to Louis even though the pair frequently argued. Marie, who had a very religious upbringing, soon became close to Anne and refused to become an agent for Richelieu. She was soon replaced by another innocent, Louise de la Fayette, cousin to Richelieu’s closest friend, Pere Joseph.


Mare de Hautefort

Louise however, was well under the influence of Pere Caussin, the royal confessor and her uncle the Bishop of Limoge. It was just possible that she would try to turn Louis’ head against Richelieu. She sought advise from Pere Carré, advisor to the court ladies and Superior of the Dominicans in Paris. Naturally, he advised life in the convent. Pere Caussin, on the other hand asked why she should give up her friendship with Louis for an imagined vocation as a nun. In this he backed most of the court.  Very soon he found himself disgraced and banished to Brittany.  In 1637, Louise took up residence in the Convent de la Visitation where Louis visited her for some months.

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Louise de la Fayette

Anne, still ignored by Louis, felt ever closer to her family and friends in Spain after the war. She visited the Abbey of the Val-de-Grace where she would write letters complaining about Richelieu to the various enemies of France. In the summer of 1637,  Anne wrote a letter in code to Marie de Rohan, Duchess of Chevruese. The bearer of this letter La Porte, who was her valet-de-chambre, had already been examined by Richelieu and threatened with torture. He did not betray his mistress but was none the less intercepted.


Old Buildings of Val de Grace, Paris                   David Monniaux

Later, Richelieu visited her seeking a confession which she, overwhelmed, signed. She was then given forgiveness by Louis and a list of requirements for her conduct. She was to visit no convents and write no letters, her maids being set as guards over her. It did not stop there. Anne, ill with fear, was again examined by Richelieu’s own court examiner and the Abbey was searched for further papers. Nothing was found, the Abbess was devoted to Anne. At this point, the Queen was ready to flee to Brussels, taking Mademoiselle de Hautefort and the Duc de Marcillac but without evidence, Richelieu could go no further.

Eventually, Anne and Louis reconciled. Madame de Chevreuse was exiled and Marie de Hautforte returned to court, maintaining her stormy relationship with the King and her friendship with the Queen. Richelieu however, was not so easily put off . He knew that de Hautefort was a danger to him , being friends with his former enemies, Monsieur, the king’s brother and the Comte de Soissons who had already given Richelieu enough trouble.

Richelieu decided to distract Louis with a new favourite in the form of a beautiful young man, Henry d’Effiat, Marquis de Cinq-Mars. Cinq-Mars was sent on a journey with Louis where he could plead his cause;  that de Hautefort could not be trusted and that Louis would have to choose between him and her. Soon Marie de Hautefort was sent on her way banished to her grandmother’s estates not to return until the regency of Anne.

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. The 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. He was ungrateful to the Queen mother, the war was failing and he had allied a Catholic country  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.

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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