Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Life & Times of Anne of Austria, Queen of France - part I

The Infanta Anna Maria was born on 22nd September 1601, the eldest child of Philip III, king of Spain. Brought up at the Alcazar Palace, in a strongly religious but close family, Anna Maria lost her mother at the age of eleven, becoming a surrogate mother to her siblings. In the same year Anna Maria was engaged to marry Louis XIII of France. Her dowry of 100,000 crowns & expensive jewellery was to be returned to Spain with her in the event of Louis’ death. At the same time Louis’ sister Elisabeth was pledged to Anna Maria’s brother the Infante Don Phillipe.

Queen of France

The wedding, part of the Queen Mother Marie de Medici’s policy of appeasement towards Spain, did not take place until November 1615. The couple were married by proxy in Burgos & the exchange of brides took place on the isle of Pheasants between Hendaye & Fuenterrabia. The Bishop of Luçon, Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu, was appointed the new queen’s Almoner. The new bride was ignored by her husband and France’s new queen Anne d’Autriche (as she was known to her husband’s subjects) remained fiercely loyal to country of birth. The homesick queen kept portraits of her Spanish family in her bathing chamber.

Coronation of Marie di Medici
All power remained in the hands of the Queen Mother & her Italian favourite Concino Concini – husband of her maid. Marie was able to control her unhappy, sulky son by the force of her personality. It was not until 1617 that Louis, with the assistance of his favourite, the Duke de Luynes (Louis was believed to be homosexual in leaning if not in fact), took control of his kingdom, after the assassination of Concini on 24th April 1617 (his wife was later beheaded for witchcraft). The Queen Mother was exiled to Blois.

Louis overturned the pro-Spanish policies of his mother, but the well-meaning de Luynes was not a capable politician. However he did try to thaw the relations between Anne & her husband. Anne’s ladies in waiting were returned home to Spain & French ladies took their place, including the Duchess de Luynes, who was to become Anne’s greatest friend & supporter. Anne began to dress in French fashion. She became pregnant giving birth to a child who only lived a short period in December 1619

The Queen Mother’s Rebellion

Louis XIII
Marie de Medici escaped from Blois, in 1619. By the following year she was the figurehead of a rebellion by the nobility angered by de Luynes incapacity as a politician. In August 1621 Louis had become reconciled with his mother after her Spanish funded rebels were seen off by Louis’ troops. The Treaty of Angers that followed amnestied Marie & her followers. The negotiations were conducted for the Queen Mother by the Bishop of Luçon.

The royal army marched for Montauban held by the Huguenots; they had joined Marie’s uprising, but now continued their own rebellion. In December de Luynes, who had been made Constable of France, despite having no military experience, died during the siege of Montauban. Large numbers of the royal troops also died from swamp fever contracted in the marshes surrounding the city. After three months the siege was abandoned. But the fight between the crown & the French Huguenots rumbled on.

Within three months of her husband’s death Marie de Luynes was married to her lover, the Duc de Chevreuse. In May 1622 a miscarriage caused the rift between Anne & Louis to widen, as she had been playing with her ladies immediately before the sad event & Louis blamed the miscarriage on this. Anne’s friend, the Duchess de Chevreuse, was banished from court for a period as a result.  

In April Marie de Medici’s chief counsellor, Richelieu, was made a cardinal. The Queen Mother was a member of the king’s council along with the Chancellor – de Brûlart & his son the Foreign Secretary. The Brûlarts, father & son, managed royal policy making. However they were up against an opponent of extraordinary political acumen. Even so it took Cardinal Richelieu another two years before Louis named him his foreign minister on 29th April 1624, the post for which he had been angling for so long.


Richelieu and His Age – His Rise to Power – Carl J Burckhardt, 1967 George Allen & Unwin

Cardinal Richelieu and the Making of France – Anthony Levi, 2000 Constable

France in the Age of Louis XIII & Richelieu – Victor L Tapié, 1988 Cambridge University Press

Richelieu and the French Monarchy – CV Wedgewood, 1949 Hodder & Stoughton

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