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?

 

 

A Flash of Scarlet Part XI

Ironically, just days after the capitulation of La Rochelle, a great storm broke out which destroyed the moles or earthen works Richelieu had built to prevent the British from gaining access to the city.  Crossing the river Loire on his way back to Paris, the Cardinal nearly drowned along with his Chancellor. At the same time, the Duc de Nevers, Charles de Gonzague, was blockaded in at the fortress of Casale in Northern Italy by Spain and Savoy. With the siege over, France would finally be free to come to his aid.

Cardinal Richelieu at the Seige of La Rochelle- Henri Motte

De Gonzague was one of the great nobles of France and would have been heir to the throne of Constantinople. He had been on Crusade with Pere Joseph and was distrusted by the Queen Mother who voiced her displeasure at the thought of the King marching to his aid. This was not to mention the fact that Alphonse, Richelieu’s brother had been made a Cardinal in celebration of the victory against the Huguenots. The rule was that two brothers could not be cardinalized. Then France marched off to war against two Catholic countries, Spain and Austria. The Cardinal maintained his stance that the honour of France was at stake if they did not back the Duc’s right as hereditary ruler of Mantua.  He promised the King that the war in Mantua would be resolved by May so the issue of Rohan and the hold-out Huguenots in Languedoc could be dealt with. Again, Richelieu drew the withdrawal card and once again, Louis promised to support him in his cause. Marie was enraged.

Charles Gonzague-Duc de Nevers-Mantua

In January, 1629, Louis marched south to join the troops that had only a short rest after La Rochelle. The Cardinal met with Conde to discuss how they would strike a final blow to the Huguenots in Languedoc. Louis decided to continue into Savoyard territory in spite of the wintry weather to capture Susa. It took one month to get to the foot of the Alps and another to scale them. Susa was at the top of a fortified gorge and though others balked at the idea of climbing to the fortress, Louis showing himself as the bold soldier he was climbed through the snow. While he was finding a way up and behind the enemy barricades, the main body of the army drove straight at the enemy. The royal musketeers scaled the walls and drove them back down and towards Susa. After that,  with his usual energy and speed, Richelieu relieved Casale. Below, what Louis XIII may have been looking at as he approached the Alps.

Sestriere

Mount Genevre, French Alps

It did not take long to take Languedoc, though Rohan had made an agreement with Spain to keep up the rebellion. The Huguenots did not have a regular army.  The royal army over ran the area, destroying crops and driving the people into the mountains. The small stronghold of Privas  insisted that their commander St. André de Montbrun should make terms with the King but Louis emphatically refused. The surrender must be unconditional. The troops entered and sacked the town during which time a terrible fire broke out.

Louis’ character required him to hang the commander but his hand was stayed by Richlieu. He could be surprisingly humane once he had achieved his goals. Though he was ill at the time, the Cardinal rode to meet the inhabitants and placed twelve young girls in the care of the Dame de Chateau d’Autremont. He was presented with an infant who was found in his dead mother’s arms whom he found a nurse for. He ordered the child be called “Fortunat Privas”. Compared to the other atrocities in Germany through the Thirty Years war, this was quite exceptional.

mantua

Areas Involved in the Mantuan War

The King’s army continued to sweep south capturing all the small towns until they came into Nimes where a final victory in the Huguenot war was realized. Richelieu had achieved the first great end of his policy, to subdue internal rebellion and unite France. Once conquered, he offered a general amnesty. The Duc de Rohan retired to Venice as a free man.  Liberty of Conscience as laid out in the Edict of Nantes was reaffirmed but all  Huguenot fortifications had to be razed. All the Protestant towns submitted except for stubborn and determined Montauban. Richelieu was left to deal with this on his own as the King left for Paris. Though ill with fever, he spent weeks arguing with the town deputies until finally they submitted. He entered the town in the middle of August, harangued by the Protestant ministers and stayed long enough to see that the ramparts were being destroyed. He then returned to Paris to face his other enemies, the Queen mother, Marie de Medici and her court,  a court ablaze with resentment and jealousy.

 

 

 

 

A Glimpse of the Real Past

As you know I am an avid history reader and have just finished Cardinal de Richelieu by Eleanor C. Price. At the same time I have been following the new series “Musketeers”. Of course, everyone knows that the series is a rather creative look at the lives of the Musketeers, Louis XIII and of course Richelieu, played brilliantly by Peter Capaldi.  It is swashbuckling fun. By coincidence, I hit a small section at the end of the book where Ms. Price talks about Richelieu on his death bed.

” Louis XIII, himself too ill and depressed to enjoy his hunting as usual, was pestered by Chavigny and de Noyers with messages from the Eminentissime, insisting on the disgrace of four of his best-liked officers- among whom was M. de Troisville, or Treville, the famous captain of musketeers-whose only crime was that they had formerly been friends of Cinq-Mars, and that Richelieu feared their hatred and their influence. The King resisted long, but at last, by sheer angry obstinacy, the Cardinal gained his point, and the four gentlemen were dismissed from the Court, though not from the army; the King showing “great displeasure, even to shedding of tears”.

Richelieu was anxious to finish off what ever business he had before his death and was at this point demented with pain. Louis himself was ill. At one point, Louis was brought in his bed to Richelieu to discuss the Spanish treaty and the fate of Cinq Mars, a former favorite of the King turned traitor.

A “mousquetaire” of course, was a soldier armed with a musket, in this case, part of the king’s body guards.  I am sure there are much better references for the life of a musketeer and their relationship with the King than Dumas’s novel. It is rather sad to think that all the next generation may know is what they see on TV. My take? Truth is more often stranger than fiction ( and a lot more exciting)!