Friday, 16 March 2012

The Life & Times of Anne of Austria, Queen of France Part 2

Anne & the Duke of Buckingham

In June 1625 the wedding of Louis’ sister Henrietta Maria to Charles I of England was celebrated. The English party, collecting the princess, was headed by the vainglorious Duke of Buckingham, a man addicted to conspicuous consumption. His gala wardrobe of 27 suits stunned the parsimonious Parisians. The pièce de resistance was a cloak with diamonds (at the time said to be worth £80,000, now worth £12.3 million[i]). Unfortunately the Duke decided that relations between the two countries would be assisted by his ‘falling in love’ with the French Queen. Buckingham spent a lot of time conversing with the lonely queen, much to her husband’s discontent.

On the ceremonial journey escorting Henrietta Maria to the coast the party stopped at Amiens. Buckingham took the opportunity to take a nocturnal, unescorted walk with Queen Anne in the garden of the palace where she was staying. The concerned courtiers were drawn to the scene by a cry for help. Buckingham disappeared in the resulting mayhem. Buckingham abandoned his new queen at Boulogne; returning to Amiens with a letter for the Queen Mother, from Charles I. After meeting with Marie; Buckingham then had a further meeting with Anne in her bedroom, informing her of his desperate love for her, before returning to Boulogne. Louis was kept up to date on this brief romantic entanglement by Richelieu. The result was the estrangement of the royal couple.

The Chalais Conspiracy

Gaston d'Orleans
In August 1626, encouraged as ever by the Duchess de Chevreuse, the Queen foolishly became involved in the Chalais conspiracy to unseat Richelieu & place Gaston, Louis’ brother, on the throne of France. Gaston had always been spoilt as he was the Queen Mother’s favourite child. The Comte de Soissons and Louis’ half brothers were also involved in the plot.

Anne asked Madame de Chevreuse to ensure that Gaston’s governor persuaded Gaston to refuse marriage with a rich heiress. Louis was concerned at Gaston’s refusal as he believed his brother wanted not only his throne but his wife as well; a concern that was increased by his brother’s demand to be given charge of the army. Louis had his brother’s governor Ornano arrested and his papers scrutinised.

Chalais, one of Marie de Chevreuse’s lovers, informed his uncle of the plot against Richelieu, who was to be murdered, and the king. The uncle reported the plot to Richelieu, confirming the plans discovered in Ornano’s papers. Louis had his half-brothers arrested & imprisoned, while Gaston got away with marrying his heiress. The unlucky Chalais was executed; as Richelieu believed that Gaston might be sufficiently shocked seeing a friend punished for his own conspiracy, to stop his further involvement in conspiring against the crown. Unfortunately Gaston was too much of an egotist & too firmly convinced that he, not his brother, should be ruling the country, to be affected by the death of a friend. The Duchess de Chevreuse was exiled to her estates.

The Day of Dupes

Cardinal Richelieu
By 1630 Marie de Medici had fallen out with her erstwhile adviser. Richelieu had the temerity to transfer his loyalty to the king. A new conspiracy was in the offing. Marie de Medici & her supporters had suborned the loyalty of Marillac, the Keeper of the Seals, who was jealous of Richelieu’s closeness to the king. Richelieu & Louis’ policy of making the security of France paramount, even when that was in opposition to the desires of the Catholic church, was unpopular among the Catholic nobility. The fall of la Rochelle in 1629 had brought the end of the Huguenot uprising. To ensure the loyalty of his Protestant subjects, Louis had been persuaded not to take severe reprisals against them.
In November 1630, Louis & the court returned to Paris at the end of a campaign in Savoy. Louis & Richelieu had both been ill & the king was slowly recovering from an abdominal abscess. His mother caused a set-back in Louis’ health by demanding that he dismiss Richelieu. In Paris a scene between the three protagonists ended without a decision by the king, despite an offer from Richelieu to resign. Marie de Medici believed she had won and so informed her supporters.

Louis XIII
The next day the Cardinal’s antechambers, usually full of supplicants, were empty as the credulous flocked to visit the Queen Mother at the Luxembourg Palace. The following day Louis summoned Richelieu to a meeting. He confirmed Richelieu in his position as the king’s chief adviser. Louis believed that his mother had been led astray by the cabal supporting her. In any event Richelieu’s support & advice was more essential for good governance of the country, than his mother’s. Marillac was removed as Keeper of the Seals & the post given to a Richelieu supporter, Chateuneuf; who was later suborned by the woman who became his mistress - Madame de Chevreuse.

In early 1631, having failed to receive the rich rewards he felt due to him as heir to the throne, Gaston left France for Spanish ruled Besançon. Louis decided to make his mother governor of Moulins. She prevaricated, and finally made a dash for the Spanish Netherlands. She never returned to France, from whence Louis cut off her allowances. From Brussels Marie accused Richelieu of subverting the king’s power. Louis had to attend court in August to deny his mother’s accusations.

Gaston meanwhile was fortifying Orleans, against which Louis marched. Gaston fled to Lorraine and Louis had both Marie’s & Gaston’s supporters found guilty of lèse-majesté. Peace between Lorraine & France was signed in January 1632. Gaston had already joined his mother in Brussels, where they were plotting to lead an army provided by the Spanish and the Duke of Lorraine. Montmorency, one of the Marshall’s of France and governor of Languedoc, was persuaded to join the rebellion, the failure of which cost him his head. Anne was one of those who pleaded with Louis for Montmorency’s life.

By January 1633, following the campaigns of the previous year, Richelieu was seriously ill and many believed he was on his death bed. Chateauneuf was corresponding with the Duchess de Chevreuse and anticipating taking over from Richelieu in the king’s council. Louis had Chateauneuf arrested and his correspondence with his mistress was seized, while Madame de Chevreuse was again exiled.

Letters to Spain

Duchess de Chevreuse
In 1637 Anne was discovered to be in secret correspondence with the former Spanish ambassador in Paris, Mirabel. Anne was a deeply religious woman, influenced by her parents. So there was little surprise at her frequent visits to the convent at Val de Grâce, where the abbess was a Spaniard. The convent served as a clearing house for Spanish news and was kept under surveillance. Following the discovery of a letter from Anne to Mirabel, one of Anne’s servants, de la Porte, was arrested. The abbey was searched & the abbess removed from her post by the Archbishop of Paris.

Confronted by Richelieu, Anne confessed to corresponding with the Spanish authorities in an attempt to prevent a Franco-British alliance, which would have been detrimental to Spain. Anne had been advised throughout by her evil genius Madame de Chevreuse, who now took the opportunity to escape to England, with the aid of the Spanish. Very few restrictions were placed on the queen, whose confession was made on 17th August, beyond having members of her household approved by the king & cessation of any correspondence with the Duchess de Chevreuse.


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

Richelieu and His Age – The Assertion of Power and the Cold War - Carl J Burckhardt, 1970 George Allen & Unwin

Richelieu and His Age – Power Politics and the Cardinal’s Death – Carl J Burckhardt, 1971 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

[i] Using RPI - Information from

1 comment:

  1. Gaston, as well as being an idiot and an egotist, apparently had no dress sense... mind you, all of the clothes of the period were singularly ugly.
    Richlieu stands out as a statesman and pragmatist against the vanities and petty politicking of everyone else around him. Herein however the first seeds of what was to lead to the French Revolution...