When Louis’ sister, Henriette Marie was married to Charles I of England creating an alliance that left Spain without an ally, Richelieu took his opportunity to gain control of the Valtellina. It is a valley in Northern Italy which borders on Switzerland. During the 17th century, it was under control of the Grey Leagues or “Grissons”, Swiss Protestants. It’s passes provided a strategic route through Italy to Germany and a means to control the encroaching Habsburgs. Richelieu knew that Spain would be sending a large part of it’s military to fight the Dutch and seeing this weakened position, offered subsidy to the Dutch while reaching out to Germans of all faiths to challenge the powerful Habsburgs. This support of Protestant factions did not sit well with many and pamphlets flew everywhere in protest. Below, the beautiful and expansive Valtellina in Northern Italy.
After her return to court, Marie de Medici built the “Palais du Luxembourg”. Richelieu decided he would have a reception there to celebrate his new status. Among the guests were the Duc and Duchess de Chevreuse. The Duchess, formerly the widow of Luynes, intrigued to bring the handsome George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham and the neglected Queen Anne together. The Cardinal not only put an end to this but terminated any prospective alliance with England over the affair.
Then, later in 1626, German soldiers marched through the Valtellina in spite of the French presence there. The Spanish had decided to threaten commerce between the northern Baltic cities and the North Sea, including the Dutch at which Denmark declared war. After consulting with the Dutch and the Danes , Buckingham requested military help from France and to to be allowed to visit for talks. Richelieu rejected his request. Then the protestant Benjamin de Rohan, who had defended St. Jean d’Angley against the King, started to raid the Atlantic coast but escaped to England when he was chased off.
Richelieu realized that any move against Spain would be protested by the Protestants in France since Spain was supporting them and that would weaken the country. In 1626, a peace agreement was signed with the Protestants and then the Spanish. This perceived turn around by Richelieu caused much upset. He just simply blamed Louis’s ambassador for overstepping and awaited opportunity.