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 XIX

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 XVIII

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.

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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.

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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 XVII

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 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?