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.

Bibliography

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 XV

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?

 

 

Through the Past Slowly

Today, I came across a wonderful article at Britannica online about the history of the French people. It aptly describes them in this way.The French people look to the state as the primary guardian of liberty, and the state in turn provides a generous program of amenities for its citizens, from free education to health care and pension plans. Even so, this centralist tendency is often at odds with another long-standing theme of the French nation: the insistence on the supremacy of the individual. On this matter historian Jules Michelet remarked, “England is an empire, Germany is a nation, a race, France is a person.” Statesman Charles de Gaulle, too, famously complained, “Only peril can bring the French together. One can’t impose unity out of the blue on a country that has 265 kinds of cheese.” 

I have to say that this has been my experience with the French people in my family. My father was emotional, brash and demanding, but at the same time filled with a natural grace that had been bred into him by his Catholic parents. Now, one of my daughters is living with a Quebecois whom she cannot understand. He is again, emotional, brash and demanding. They have a beautiful new daughter. She has made herself known plainly and loudly and is there miles ahead of you, like her father. I look forward to knowing her.

All that being said, I have found that many people have the same ancestors as I coming from France to Quebec at it’s founding. Most of them have copied a family tree put on Ancestry by some well meaning individual, the veracity of which is slightly questionable. I was like them, initially delighted to find it. But going back through it, things became increasingly more difficult. My main focus is always on BMD (birth, marriage and death) records because they are the most reliable. That is an easy way to keep the line correct. Of course, by the time you hit the 1600’s overseas, it becomes harder to find those records. For this family, that is, the Beauchamp family of La Rochelle, France, the verifiable records almost seem to start in Canada where our good friend, Father Tanguay recorded the genealogies of early French Canadian families in “La Dictionnaire Tanguay”. From there you get a lead on the parents overseas where you have to know where to look.

Things get a bit sticky when you look for the birth of Michel, the father of the two Canadian boys, Jacques and Jean. The record on Ancestry comes from a  Dutch website of contributed family trees, no idea where the information came from. Nothing on Familysearch. Basically, going further back there is nothing too solid at all. The name changes to Deschamps and goes back to Olivier who was born in Brittany. But there are not verifiable links coming up in time from there. You could be looking at years of research. One of the worst links is that of “Inconnu Marguerite Collineau de Montequerre” and Marc Beauchamp. That woman has been written about all over the net with some saying just dismiss the name altogether because there is some confusion over the place name and the surname. I had to look up “inconnu” because I am not fluent in French to find that it means “unknown”.  Anyway, you see where I am going with this? Other people’s trees can cause a lot of difficulty. I don’t like using them except to see if they have come up with some reliable sources. That being said, you can still tell a lot about the people by the few records there are and the history of the place. If Olivier (b.1534) is part of that family I would like to know why they migrated south from Brittany to Nantieul since the Bretons are known for maintaining there own culture.

Here’s a photo of La Rochelle, a beautiful place, just to make you feel better.

La Rochelle, France (Sebastian on Flickr

              La Rochelle, France
               (Sebastian on Flickr)