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?

 

 

A Flash of Scarlet Part IX

“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.

Marie de Rohan  Duchess of Chevruese

Marie de Rohan
Duchess of Chevruese

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.

Henri de Talleyrand-Perigord Comte de Chalais

Henri de Talleyrand-Perigord
Comte de Chalais

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.

Gaston Duc d' Orleans

Gaston Duc d’ Orleans

Anne of Austria

Anne of Austria