“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.
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.
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.