Friday, 23 March 2012

The Life & Times of Anne of Austria, Queen of France Part 3

Children at Last

It was not until September 1638 that Anne finally gave birth to a Dauphin. Louis, later to be the fourteenth king of France of that name, was born on 5th September 1638. Anne & her husband had not had marital relations since her miscarriage in 1630, but allegedly due to inclement weather in December 1637 the king found himself at the Louvre, where only the Queen’s apartments were ready for habitation. Louis had planned to spend the night at St Maur, eight miles away, where his bed & furnishings awaited him. Louis was persuaded to spend the night with Anne & nine months later the longed-for heir was born.

Anne was passionately devoted to Louis Dieudonné (as he was Christened), she would play with him, wheel him in his carriage and spent most of her time with him. And at the age of 39 Anne was finally free of the fear of being returned to Spain for failing to provide an heir to the throne. Gaston d’Orleans, on the other hand, was stunned to realise that his position as heir to the throne had been taken by another.

Anne poured all her pent-up love into her first-born. Philippe, born on the 21st September 1640, always took second place in her heart. She often dressed Philippe as a girl, attempting to subvert the potential threat to Louis’ position, as Gaston had threatened his fathers. Even when Philippe was sick Anne failed to visit him.  

The Cinq-Mars Conspiracy

By summer 1639 Louis had a new favourite, introduced into his entourage by Cardinal Richelieu. The Marquis de Cinq-Mars was a beautiful young man, who quickly learnt that easiest way to get what he wanted was to deny the king his companionship. Louis made him Grand Ecuyer de France, paying off the current holder of this grand position at court. Eventually Cinq-Mars became so puffed up in his own conceit that he became embroiled in plots against Richelieu. To the king’s dismay he also had a mistress, Marion de Lorme.

In June 1640 France attacked Arras in the Spanish Netherlands & a siege of the town commenced. In turn the besiegers were surrounded by a Spanish army. Cinq Mars persuaded Louis to allow him to lead a contingent of 1200 nobly born soldiers to the relief of the besieged French army. The relieving force arrived in the middle of a battle, which the French won. Arras surrendered to the French on 9th August.

While the celebrations over the fall of Arras were in full force, Louis visited his son & wife at the palace at St Germain en Laye, in the company of Cinq-Mars. The Dauphin screamed at the sight of his father. Angered Louis wrote to Richelieu suggesting that the child be removed from his mother. However a few days later the king’s wrath was assuaged by the sight of his heir kneeling before him & begging forgiveness.

Cinq-Mars was by now working towards the downfall of Richelieu, his first patron. He joined the revolt of the Comte de Soissons in 1641, but was forgiven by Louis. Cinq-Mars began voicing the often heard view that Richelieu was keeping France involved in what became known as the Thirty Years War solely to retain power. He suggested to Louis that he should seek terms with the Spanish, through one of Cinq-Mars friends & may even have proposed Richelieu’s assassination.

By 1642 Cinq-Mars was again involved in a rebellion, even making an agreement with the king of Spain & Gaston, who was back at his old tricks. Anne apparently was shown the agreement. The agreement was signed by Philip IV on 13th March, as Louis decided to join his army besieging Perpignan, near the French-Spanish border. Cinq-Mars intended to kill Richelieu, as he travelled in the king’s wake, at Lyons. He failed to do so as his co-conspirator  Bouillon the Duke of Sedan, was not there, as he was in charge of the French army in Italy. Richelieu received a copy of the agreement, between Gaston & Philip IV, in mid-June. He may have been sent a copy by Anne, who was again being threatened with the loss of her children. She had been desperately bombarding Richelieu with letters on the subject since April.

On receipt of the agreement Louis immediately ordered Bouillon’s arrest & later in the day that of Cinq-Mars. As ever Gaston sold out his co-conspirators, informing his brother of all he knew of the plot. Gaston was pardoned but condemned to live as a private citizen, while Cinq-Mars & de Thou (another member of the conspiracy) were tried in September. Both were executed. Bouillon was freed in return for the cession of Sedan to France.

The Regency

Richelieu died on the 4th December 1642 & his royal master lived a bare six months longer, dying on 14th May 1643, thirty years to the day after his ascension to the throne. The last years of both men had been plagued with illness. Louis was only 42 when he died; worn out by the travails of his reign & the numerous illnesses he had suffered.

Louis had arranged for Anne to be regent in name only. But with the help of Cardinal Mazarin, formerly in the Papal service & latterly working for France under Richelieu, the king’s will was overturned. Anne now ruled, with the support & advice of Mazarin, in the name of her son Louis XIV.

The Fronde

Cardinal Mazarin

Like Richelieu, Mazarin was not liked by the French. The continual need to raise money, to pay for the war against the Hapsburg encirclement of France, raised grievances to dangerous levels. In1648 the discontent in Paris erupted into open violence. The magistrates were affronted when Mazarin levied a tax against them in May 1648; while Parlement was outraged by Mazarin’s attempts to undermine its authority. In August Mazarin, strengthened by French victories abroad, had the leaders of the Paris Parlement arrested. Parisians barricaded the streets, while the nobles called for a meeting of the États Generals. With no troops to put down the insurrection Mazarin, Anne & the court left Paris.

On 24th October 1648 the Treaty of Westphalia was signed, ending the Thirty Years War. The return of the French armies, from their victories abroad, meant that Mazarin was able to have Paris besieged. The peace of Rueil was signed in March 1649, the Parisians having refused to ask for aid from Spain, as suggested by disaffected members of the nobility.

Since the Peace of Rueil the troublemakers of the previous reign - Prince de Condé, Gaston d’Orleans, the Duke de Bouillon & Madame de Chevreuse amongst others - had been intriguing against Mazarin, now Anne’s closest adviser. The second stage of the Fronde erupted in January 1650 when Mazarin, having come to terms with several of the plotters including Madame de Chevreuse, had Condé & two other leaders of the opposition arrested. The leader of the Fronde of the Nobles was led by the great French commander Turenne.

Turenne planned to rescue Condé using a Spanish army, but the countryside rose up against the invaders & there were sufficient other capable generals in the Royal forces to see off the attack. The Spanish then withdrew & Turenne was left with a motley crew. There were minor clashes throughout 1650 & 1651, until in December Turenne knelt before the king and was pardoned.

Mazarin had retired into exile in April 1651 but returned to France in December 1651 at the head of an army. The Fronde nobles again called on the might of Spain and now Turenne & Condé were pitted against each other. After various minor engagements throughout the first half of 1652 a battle was engaged outside the gates of Paris in July. The royal forces were winning the battle but Gaston’s daughter persuaded the guards to open the gates of the city and the Fronde army took control of the city, proclaiming Gaston Lieutenant General of France. Once again Mazarin went into exile.

The Parisians allowed Louis XIV to return to his capital on 21st October 1652. Mazarin returned from exile without opposition in 1653. However Condé was now fighting for the Spanish and it took until 6th November 1659 before peace was finally signed between the two countries. Mazarin’s death in March 1661 meant that Louis was finally able to govern France himself. His experiences as a child convinced him of the need for power to be held only by the king - himself.

Louis & Anne had always been close & Louis would visit his mother at least once a day or write to her if he were on campaign. During the Regency Anne had relied heavily on Mazarin’s advice & there were rumours that the pair were lovers. Indeed Anne’s daughter-in-law Elizabeth-Charlotte, Philippe’s second wife, claimed that Anne had secretly married Mazarin. Anne died in retirement on 20th January 1666, after a two year battle with breast cancer, at the convent of Val de Grâce.


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

Louis XIV – Vincent Cronin, 1965 The Reprint Society Ltd

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

Louis XIV – John B Wolf, 1970 Panther

1 comment:

  1. I learn such a lot from this blog, thank you