Richelieu grasped the rebellion at once. He seized Condé and shut him up in the Bastille, other noble leaders he declared guilty of treason
Continuing Cardinal Richelieu’s Administration,
our selection 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. The selection is presented in nine easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Cardinal Richelieu’s Administration
He spoke well. His thoughts were clear, his words well pointed, his bearing firm. He had been bred a soldier, and so had strengthened his will; afterward he had been made a scholar and so had strengthened his mind. He grappled with the problems given him in that stormy assembly with such force that he seemed about to do something; but just then came that day of the court ball, and Richelieu turned away like the rest.
But men had seen him and heard him. Forget him they could not. From that tremendous farce, then, France had gained directly one thing at least, and that was a sight of Richelieu.
The year, after the States-General, wore away in the old vile fashion. Condé revolted again, and this time he managed to scare the Protestants into revolt with him. The daring of the nobles was greater than ever. They even attacked the young King’s train as he journeyed to Bordeaux, and another compromise had to be wearily built in the Treaty of Loudun. By this Condé was again bought off — but this time only by a bribe of a million and a half of livres. The other nobles were also paid enormously, and on making a reckoning it was found that this compromise had cost the King four millions and the country twenty millions. The nation had also to give into the hands of the nobles some of its richest cities and strongest fortresses.
Immediately after this compromise Condé returned to Paris, loud, strong, jubilant, defiant, bearing himself like a king. Soon he and his revolted again; but just at that moment Concini happened to remember Richelieu. The young bishop was called and set at work.
Richelieu grasped the rebellion at once. In broad daylight he seized Condé and shut him up in the Bastille; other noble leaders he declared guilty of treason and degraded them; he set forth the crimes and follies of the nobles in a manifesto which stung their cause to death in a moment; he published his policy in a proclamation which ran through France like fire, warming all hearts of patriots, withering all hearts of rebels; he sent out three great armies: one northward to grasp Picardy, one eastward to grasp Champagne, one southward to grasp Berri. There is a man who can do something! The nobles yield in a moment; they must yield.
But just at this moment, when a better day seemed to dawn, came an event which threw France back into anarchy and Richelieu into the world again.
The young King, Louis XIII, was now sixteen years old. His mother the Regent and her favorite Concini had carefully kept him down. Under their treatment he had grown morose and seemingly stupid; but he had wit enough to understand the policy of his mother and Concini, and strength enough to hate them for it.
The only human being to whom Louis showed any love was a young falconer, Albert de Luynes, and with De Luynes he conspired against his mother’s power and her favorite’s life. On an April morning, 1617, the King and De Luynes sent a party of chosen men to seize Concini. They met him at the gate of the Louvre. As usual he is bird-like in his utterance, snake-like in his bearing. They order him to surrender; he chirps forth his surprise, and they blow out his brains. Louis, understanding the noise, puts on his sword, appears on the balcony of the palace, is saluted with hurrahs, and becomes master of his kingdom.
Straightway measures are taken against all supposed to be attached to the regency. Concini’s wife, the favorite Leonora, is burned as a witch; Regent Mary is sent to Blois, and Richelieu is banished to his bishopric.
And now matters went from bad to worse. King Louis was no stronger than Regent Mary had been; King’s favorite, De Luynes, was no better than Regent’s favorite, Concini, had been. The nobles rebelled against the new rule as they had rebelled against the old. The King went through the same old extortions and humiliations.
Then came also to full development yet another vast evil. As far back as the year after Henry’s assassination, the Protestants, in terror of their enemies, now that Henry was gone and the Spaniards seemed to grow in favor, formed themselves into a great republican league — a state within the state — regularly organized; in peace, for political effort, and in war, for military effort, with a Protestant clerical caste which ruled always with pride, and often with menace.
Against such a theocratic republic war must come sooner or later, and in 1617 the struggle began. Army was pitted against army; Protestant Duke of Rohan against Catholic Duke of Luynes. Meanwhile Austria and the foreign enemies of France, Condé and the domestic enemies of France fished in the troubled waters, and made rich gains every day. So France plunged into sorrows ever deeper and blacker. But in 1624 Marie de’ Medici, having been reconciled to her son, urged him to recall Richelieu.
The dislike which Louis bore Richelieu was strong, but the dislike he bore toward compromises had become stronger. Into his poor brain at last began to gleam the truth that a serf-mastering caste, after a compromise, only whines more steadily and snarls more loudly; that at last, compromising becomes worse than fighting, Richelieu was called and set at work.
Fortunately for our studies of the great statesman’s policy, he left at his death a Political Testament, which floods with light his steadiest aims and boldest acts. In that Testament he wrote this message:
“When your majesty resolved to give me entrance into your councils and a great share of your confidence, I can declare with truth that the Huguenots divided the authority with your majesty, that the great nobles acted not at all as subjects, that the governors of the provinces took on themselves the airs of sovereigns, and that the foreign alliances of France were despised. I promised your majesty to use all my industry, all the authority you gave me, to ruin the Huguenot party, to abase the pride of the high nobles, and to raise your name among foreign nations to the place where it ought to be.”
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