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

 

 

 

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