A Flash of Scarlet Part XIV

It did not take Richelieu long to deal with his enemies. Within months many had been exiled, imprisoned or put to death. Mother and son however were not to be so easily defeated. In spite of promised reconciliation, Gaston led on by his followers confronted Richelieu berating him for his treatment of a women who had once given him the very opportunity to rise. It was only the Cardinal’s red cloak that protected him from the punishment that was due to him. As was his way, the cardinal listened silently while he accompanied the irate prince to his carriage . Richelieu did not doubt the murderous intent of Gaston’s followers.  Hearing of this, Louis rushed to his side. For the next while, Gaston spent his time in Orleans trying to incite a rebellion against the King and his minister. He knew it was a matter of time before the Cardinal would banish him and with that fled to Lorraine in self-imposed exile. Royalty and the court were seldom put to death.

Richelieu knew better than to trust the Queen mother though he kept up the appearance of due respect. In February, Carnival arrived, a time for hunting and celebrating. Marie would not be left behind, leaving the King under the influence of the Cardinal. During this time, Louis made a futile attempt to soften his mother’s atitude towards his first minister. When Marie would not be swayed in her opinion, he realized that there was no option but to exile her before more trouble arose at court.

The next morning under the pretext of going hunting, Louis and Richelieu rode for Paris. The King left apologies and farewells to his mother but would never see her again. He also left a letter behind asking Marie to retire to Moulins and maintain her honour as governor of the Bourbonnais. In short, she was no longer welcome at Court. Queen Anne brought her the news before she left to follow Louis . Both women, tearfully realized their defeat at the hand’s of the Cardinal.

Marie, obstinate creature that she was, refused to run off to Moulins, citing ever ridiculous excuses for not leaving Compegne. Finally, Louis realizied she would not move without some coercion. One by one, her friends disappeared. Her physician, Vautier and Bossompierre were thrown into the Bastille. De Guise for intriguing with Gaston was forced to flee to Italy where he would live out his days. The great ladies of the Court were ordered to return to their estates. The Queen mother’s closest friend, the Princess de Conti, returned to Eu where she reputedly died of a broken heart after being separated from Bassompierre, her lover.

When Marie heard that she was to be forcibly removed from Compegne by the royal army,  she once again proved herself a worthy opponent by planning another escape similar to Blois. She fled the Chateau on foot to meet with a coach and team in the forest. From there she would meet Monsieur de Vardes at La Capelle in Picardy and take shelter. Richelieu, with his network of spies, soon heard of this and sent the man’s father to close the gates ahead of time. Marie had no alternative but to flee cross country to the Archduchess Isabel in Artois. Richilieu’s triumph over her would signal the slow decline of the Queen.



A Flash of Scarlet Part VI

Being implicated in the coup Marie de Medici had attempted against her son, things did not look favorable for Richelieu. No one, not even the Capuchin friar, Tremblay, could persuade Louis to allow him back at court. At this point Richelieu again donning a submissive pose, asked the King to name a place of exile and he was sent to Avignon. During the year he spent there, he wrote the famous catechism, “Instruction du Chretien”which would be read across the country every Sunday at mass. Marie, ever dependent on Richelieu,  continued to push for the post of Cardinal which was granted in 1622. The King having returned from war,  presented the red biretta at a ball in Lyon. Thence Richelieu would be dressed ceremonially as such; a Prince of the Church.


Cardinal Richelieu -Armand Jean du Plessis -(Phillippe de Champaigne)

The scarlet color  represented the willingness to shed your blood for Christ, although Richelieu stated that the color he now wore would always remind him of the vow he took to shed his blood in the service of the Queen (Marie). The “cappa magna” or great cape had a very long train on it (as in a bride’s train) which had to be carried, quiet magnificent.

He maintained his post at the head of Marie de Medici’s household which enabled him to provide well for the members of his family. He continued to be protector of the Sorbonne and acquired the land and manor of the family home.  Louis was unable to find a First Minister who could control the royal finances at the time and after the then Minister, Le Vieuville asked that Richelieu be appointed in an advisory capacity to the council, Richelieu refused. After some thought, Louis realized that something had to be done. Le Vieuville was arrested for disrespecting the king’s authority and the people of France welcomed someone they felt they could trust because he was a religious man. They were worn down from years of poverty and war just as Richelieu was worn down from his long and uncertain climb to the top . His problems with migraines still persisted. The King was a somewhat enigmatic character who could just as soon go riding off into the forests on extreme hunting forays as go to war. The nobles were still out of control and violence prone, dueling was a major cause of death at the time and the aristocracy was always looking for ways to tap the King’s fortunes for themselves. The Protestants were agitating the people for religious reform and the country was surrounded by Habsburg powers , in particular Spain, whose fortunes by now were dwindling. Had Richelieu learned enough to prove himself to the King and people?






A Flash of Scarlet Part V

Louis XIII was certainly not the man his father was except perhaps in matters of war. He was a sensitive child who had been born with a double row of teeth. The constant beatings bestowed on him by his tutor and the favoritism shown to his brother, Gaston,  made him into a rather melancholy person who would much rather be out hunting than enduring the pressures of court. Henry had engaged Charles d’Albert de Luynes to teach Louis the hunt, in particular the art of fowling. Louis grew attached to Luynes, perhaps finding the friend he had longed for, someone who shared his interests,  a “favorite”.

Charles d’Albret de Luynes

Although Louis had come of age in 1614, his mother kept a tight hand on the reigns of the kingdom, many of her policies,  aided by Concini,  had set the country in turmoil. She had reversed Henry IV’s anti-Spanish policy, squandered France’s fortunes and bowed to the demands of the nobles. When it seemed that she was gaining too much power along with her favorite, Concini, Luynes had him assassinated. How strong of an influence Luynes had on Louis’ decisions at this time, one cannot say but at that point, Louis seemed to “come into his own”. He did stand on a billiard table and shout to Richelieu that he was “finally free of him”.

Marie was exiled to Blois with Richelieu who immediately sent an ingratiating letter to the King stating that he would inform the King of activities at Blois. Soon after, Henri du Plessis , who was still serving the court,  came to Richelieu with news that the King was contemplating sending him away from Blois. The letter had obviously not impressed Louis in the way he hoped but rather,  showed that Richelieu could not be trusted. He decided to make for Coussay, a manor he owned from which he was promptly commanded by the King to not remove himself. Then he was sent back to Lucon, to again take up his duties of Bishop. Ever industrious, he wrote “A Defense of the Principal Articles of the Catholic Faith”,  a book preaching obedience to the King.

This was not enough by any margin, though and one may count this time as one of the lowest points in his life. 5 months later, he was sent from Lucon to Avignon along with his brother Henri and his brother-in-law, Francois de Pontcourlay. A search was made for documents to incriminate Richelieu but none were found. Then Francoise his sister died in labour and her child soon after. Richelieu cancelled the lease on his house and wrote a directive regarding his belongings and burial.

In the meantime, Marie plotted her way out of Blois and made a daring escape to the Chateau Loches in Angouleme. From there she sent a message to Louis saying that she was prepared to make war for his own sake and that Luynes had been a bad influence on him.  Then a letter was sent to Richelieu to join her in Angouleme.  Louis retaliated to his mother’s threat by stating that he was not afraid of going to war. Richelieu was called to mediate a peace and called for  the designation of “safe places”. As part of the “Peace of Angouleme,  the Duc d’Epernon, who had helped Marie escape was pardoned and a date for the Queen’s return to Paris was set.

Richelieu’s return to court was not applauded by most of Marie’s courtiers and that eventually led to Henri du Plessis being challenged to a dual by the Marquis de Themines. It was over in an instant. Henri was dead along with the male line in the family.

The reconciliation between mother and son was of little significance however, as rebellion began to swirl around the Queen mother who refused to return to Paris. Many who saw this as an opportunity to rise themselves, began to congregate around her. Along with Gaston,  Louis’ own brother, she headed a revolt of the nobles which was soon put down by the KIng. Again, Richelieu mediated the Peace of Angers between mother and son which allowed Marie to take up residence at Angers.

Places of Exile

Places of Exile for Marie de Medici

Luynes, who had his own agenda in all of this, including the execution of Leonora Galigai, Concini’s wife, as accomplice to his crimes. He would gain all her possessions on her death. She was beheaded in 1617 for crimes against the King. Marie would be devastated by this, she had grown up with Leonora and the gulf would widen between her and her son, another court intrigue.

One can see here the predicament Richelieu found himself in during these times, (1616-1621), holding his post as Marie’s adviser without offending the King and ruining his prospects. His quick thinking while gathering troops for the Queen did indeed raise him in her esteem and she pushed for his rise to Cardinal. Louis on the other hand was still suspect of Richelieu and in fact sent a missive to the Pope asking for an adjournment to the promotion. Not to be daunted, Richelieu took this disappointment and endeavored to help Marie regain the rights she had as the King’s mother. Soon the opportunity that war provides would be upon them and bring the cloak of scarlet with it.





A Flash of Scarlett Part IV

While Richelieu toiled away in the country, Henry IV, the first Bourbon king, continued his life of warring, over-indulging and taking mistresses until “the madman Reveillac” caught up with him as he was riding through Paris in a coach. Henry, who had become somewhat paranoiac, was in a deep depression at the time, even sensing his impending death. As the coach rolled along Ravaillac a deranged religious fanatic, jumped onto the coach, reached inside and stabbed him twice. All France mourned “le Vert Galant”,  the king who walked among his people. The year was 1610.

This left Louis (XIII), though not his father’s favorite, next in the line for the throne. Since he was only 8 years old at the time, his mother, the infamous Marie de Medici became regent. As with most royal marriages of the time, it was one of expediency and not love. Henry was known to have had 60 mistresses, many of whom’s children were raised as one at St. Germaine en Laye.  Marie was daughter of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco de Medici and Joanna,  Archduchess of Austria. This made Marie part Hapsburg. The Hapsburg empire was an ever-encroaching threat on France’s borders and was home to many Protestant nobles. Couple this with her personality, which was said to be over-bearing and unintelligent and she became very suspect to the people.

Henri iv and Marie de Medici marriage

Henri IV and Marie de Medici Wedding 1600

Eventually, Marie made one mistake too many when she decided Louis would marry Anne of Austria and her daughter, Elisabeth would marry Phillip IV of Spain, both countries a threat to France. After leading a rebellion of nobles against her, the ultra-Catholic, Prince de Conde, forced a treaty with her which included a meeting of the Estates General, an assembly of the 3 levels of French society, the clergy, the nobility and the commoners or  Third Estate.  The Estates General (États-Généraux) started as an advisory counsel to the King as far back as the 13th century but never became an actual institution. At this meeting,  Conde would purportedly be fighting to free Louis from bad counsel which included Marie’s favorites,  Concino Concini and his wife, Leonora Galigaii.  That being said,  it was also an opportunity to bully her into rescinding the reduction of the noble’s stipends.

While the noble’s returned to their province’s to arm themselves, officials began looking for people to represent their section of the estates. Like today, the common people were represented by privileged civil servants such as lawyers, except in this case, their positions could be purchased. Naturally, Conde opposed this along with the clergy. The Third Estate, complained about their eternal lot of over-burdening tax and the noble’s pension and yet, they believed that royal sovereignty should be upheld.

Within the clergy,  elections were held in which Richelieu remained moderate and with the backing of his supporter, the Bishop of Poitiers,  was chosen to give the closing speech for the clergy at the Estate. He had previously written a letter to Concini declaring his loyalty to the crown . After his speech which included a statement speaking to the toleration of the Protestants as being harmful to the God that had given the King his power, the Queen regent decided to promote him. She was going ahead with the Spanish marriages of her children.

Richelieu was visiting the court when Elisabeth became ill with smallpox. Richelieu was asked to stay behind with her as the wedding party traveled to Bordeaux.  When the two finally caught up with the wedding party, the Queen was impressed enough to reward Richelieu with the position of chaplain to Anne of Austria, Louis’ new wife. In 1616, he sided with the Concini’s that Marie  should not re-appoint her old ministers and was granted the position of Counseillor d’Etat or adviser to the Crown. The dreamed of pied- a -terre suddenly became a reality as Richelieu rose in favor with the royal court and the clergy.

Conde refused to return to court even after the treaty so the Queen sent Richelieu to speak with him.  This brought Conde back but it wasn’t long until he started to cause trouble. He, being second in line to the throne, had a vested interest in stirring up public opinion. After spreading sedition against Concini, he was lured to the court,  arrested and thrown into  the Bastille. The public started to riot at this breach of protocol and sacked Concini’s house. Richelieu was sent to quiet the Duc de Nevers who took up for Conde but with little success. Shortly after, Marie looking for new support, made him secretary of state and then of the military. We now start to see some of Richelieu’s determination and character not to say the least of his energy.

Missives began to fly to all corners of France and Europe committing to a neutral stance on religious politics, commencing his life-long attempts to unite the country. Soon though, things began to get out of control with another military uprising in the northeast. The complaints from nobility remained the same, the Italians at court, lack of funds to the nobility, no response to the issues raised at the Estates General.  This time though, Marie was not to be bought off. She offered her withdrawal from affairs of state but refused Richelieu’s offer. Here too, we see the other side of Richelieu’s character, that chameleon shade as he agrees to keep Louis informed of court activities.

Louis, now almost of age had formed a huge resentment to the treatment of his mother and her favorites. He began secret meetings to discuss the future of Concini and the effect he had on court. He was an insolent, braggart who generally ignored the King. On April 24, 1617 the matter was solved when Concini was mysteriously shot in the courtyard of the Louvre.


Louis XIII 1620

What happened next was too extreme to be believed, unless you know of the French standards of the day. Concini was quickly buried  only to be dug up by a mob and his body dragged through the streets to the Pont Neuf,  the new bridge so recently built by the late king. There,  after being hung by the feet he was brutally dismembered (genitals cut off among other things), then dragged through the streets and burned. His bones and ashes then thrown into the river.

The Assasination of Contini

The Assassination of Contini  1617

It happens that Richelieu was crossing the bridge that day.  By some miracle he was able to cross after shouting his allegiance to the king. There is no need to wonder what could have happened if they had known he had been in  consort with the dead man.

Main sources:  Emnence: Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of France, Jean Vincent Blanchard,  The Bourbon Kings, Desmond Seward