This series has nine easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Royal Murder’s Aftermath.
Cardinal Richelieu served as the King of France’s First Minister from 1624 to 1642. During this time he defeated the Protestants and stabilized France.
This selection is from Special Article to Great Events by Famous Historians, Volume XI. by Andrew D. White published in 1905. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Andrew D. White (1832-1918) was President of Cornell University and US. Ambassador to Germany and Russia.
Thus far the struggles of the world have developed its statesmanship after three leading types.
First of these is that based on faith in some great militant principle. Strong among statesmen of this type, in this time, stand Cavour, with his faith in constitutional liberty; Cobden, with his faith in freedom of trade; the third Napoleon, with his faith that the world moves, and that a successful policy must keep the world’s pace.
The second style of statesmanship is seen in the reorganization of old states to fit new times. In this the chiefs are such men as Cranmer and Turgot.
But there is a third class of statesmen sometimes doing more brilliant work than either of the others. These are they who serve a state in times of chaos — in times when a nation is by no means ripe for revolution, but only stung by desperate revolt. These are they who are quick enough and firm enough to bind all the good forces of the state into one cosmic force, therewith to compress or crush all chaotic forces; these are they who throttle treason and stab rebellion; who fear not, when defeat must send down misery through ages, to insure victory by using weapons of the hottest and sharpest. Theirs, then, is a statesmanship which it may be well for the leading men of this land and time to be looking at and thinking of, and its representative man shall be Richelieu.
Never perhaps did a nation plunge more suddenly from the height of prosperity into the depth of misery than did France on May 14, 1610, when Henry IV fell dead by the dagger of Ravaillac. All earnest men, in a moment, saw the abyss yawning — felt the state sinking — felt themselves sinking with it. And they did what in such a time men always do: first all shrieked, then every man clutched at the means of safety nearest him. Sully, Henry’s great minister, rode through the streets of Paris with big tears streaming down his face; strong men whose hearts had been toughened and crusted in the dreadful religious wars sobbed like children; all the populace swarmed abroad bewildered — many swooned — some went mad. This was the first phase of feeling.
Then came a second phase yet more terrible. For now burst forth that old whirlwind of anarchy and bigotry and selfishness and terror which Henry had curbed during twenty years. All earnest men felt bound to protect themselves, and seized the nearest means of defense. Sully shut himself up in the Bastille, and sent orders to his son-in-law, the Duke of Rohan, to bring in six thousand soldiers to protect the Protestants. All unearnest men, especially the great nobles, rushed to the court, determined now, that the only guardians of the state were a weak-minded woman and a weak-bodied child, to dip deep into the treasury which Henry had filled to develop the nation, and to wrench away the power which he had built to guard the nation.
In order to make ready for this grasp at the state treasure and power by the nobles, the Duke of Épernon — from the corpse of the King by whose side he was sitting when Ravaillac struck him — strides into the Parliament of Paris and orders it to declare the late Queen, Marie de’ Medici, regent; and when this Parisian court, knowing full well that it had no right to confer the regency, hesitated, he laid his hand on his sword, and declared that, unless they did his bidding at once, his sword should be drawn from its scabbard. This threat did its work. Within three hours after the King’s death the Paris Parliament, which had no right to give it, bestowed the regency on a woman who had no capacity to take it.
At first things seemed to brighten a little. The Queen Regent sent such urgent messages to Sully that he left his stronghold of the Bastille and went to the palace. She declared to him before the assembled court that he must govern France still. With tears she gave the young King into his arms, telling Louis that Sully was his father’s best friend, and bidding him pray the old statesman to serve the state yet longer.
But soon this good scene changed. Mary had a foster-sister, Leonora Galligai, and Leonora was married to an Italian adventurer, Concini. These seemed a poor couple, worthless and shiftless, their only stock in trade Leonora’s Italian cunning; but this stock soon came to be of vast account, for thereby she soon managed to bind and rule the Queen Regent — managed to drive Sully into retirement in less than a year — managed to make herself and her husband the great dispensers at court of place and pelf. Penniless though Concini had been, he was in a few months able to buy the Marquisate of Ancre, which cost him nearly a half a million livres; and, soon after, the post of first gentleman of the bedchamber, and that cost him nearly a quarter of a million; and, soon after that, a multitude of broad estates and high offices at immense prices. Leonora also was not idle; among her many gains was the bribe of three hundred thousand livres to screen certain financiers under trial for fraud.
Next came the turn of the great nobles. For ages the nobility of France had been the worst among her many afflictions. From age to age attempts had been made to curb them. In the fifteenth century Charles VII had done much to undermine their power, and Louis XI had done much to crush it. But strong as was the policy of Charles, and cunning as was the policy of Louis, they had made one omission, and that omission left France, though advanced, miserable. For these monarchs had not cut the root of the evil. The French nobility continued practically a serf-holding nobility.
We want to take this site to the next level but we need money to do that. Please contribute directly by signing up at https://www.patreon.com/history