Front Matter France Long Ago The Gauls In France The Priests of the Gauls Sailor Stories Conquests of the Gauls Two Great Battles Caesar in Gaul Gaul under the Romans First Christian Martyrs Patron Saint of France Franks Come to Gaul The First Kings Conquests of Clovis Clotaire and His Relatives Two Rival Queens Good King Dagobert The Saracens Checked End of the Merovingians Charlemagne's Wars Charlemagne's Manners Charlemagne, Emperor Feudalism Troublesome Sons The Strassburg Oath Normans Besiege Paris Last of the Carolingians The Year One Thousand Robert's Two Wives Wealth of the Clergy The First Crusade A Love Story The Second Crusade More Crusades The Battle of Bouvines Blanche of Castile The Sixth Crusade The Reign of Louis IX Effect of the Crusades The Battle of the Spurs End of Knights Templar The Hundred Years' War The Siege of Calais The Battle of Poitiers Seven Years of Misery The Brave du Guesclin Achievements of Charles V Charles VI Misrule in France The Disgraceful Treaty Joan to the Rescue Orleans and Rheims Joan's Martyrdom Charles's Successes The Crafty King Louis XI Louis XI's Reign Achievements of Louis XI Charles VIII The Second Italian War Death of Louis XII Francis I Rivalry of Kings Achievements of Francis I End of Francis's Reign Reign of Henry II A Young King and Queen Catherine's Regency The Forced Wedding Massacre of the Huguenots Death of Charles IX An Effeminate King he Battle of Coutras The Murder of the Guises Winning a Crown Conversion of Henry IV Henry IV's Second Marriage Death of Henry IV The Minority of Louis XIII Rule of the Favorites Richelieu and Louis XIII End of Louis XIII's Reign Beginning of a Great Reign Wars of the Fronde Death of Mazarin Versailles The Iron Mask Louis XIV's Campaigns Madame de Maintenon Later Wars of Louis XIV The Spanish Succession The Age of Louis XIV

Story of Old France - Helene Guerber

Richelieu and Louis XIII.

Although Louis XIII was of a very cold nature, and seemed as a rule satisfied to let Richelieu manage just as he pleased, the king occasionally showed signs of being jealous of his prime minister, and of wishing to retain the power in his own hands. On one occasion, for instance, when a question of precedence arose, the king bitterly remarked to Richelieu, "Pass on, pass on, for you are the first here!" Whereupon Richelieu, with quick tact, rejoined, "Yes, Sire, but it is only in order to show the way to your Majesty," taking up a candlestick at the same time and preceding the king as if he had been nothing more than his master's lackey. It was thus that Richelieu, the proudest of men, knew how to humble himself to reach his ends, for he had a very strong will, and described himself accurately when he once said, "I undertake nothing without mature consideration, but when I have made up my mind, I mow down everything that stands in my way, and then cover it all up with my red robe."

In speaking of his red robe, Richelieu referred to his position as a cardinal in the Church; for cardinals wore red robes in public. It was because he was a cardinal, and as such was addressed as "Your Eminence," that he was known at court as "His Red Eminence." On the other hand, his stern confessor, Brother Joseph—who knew all his secrets, and to whom delicate missions were often entrusted—wore the gray Capuchin garb, and was known as "His Gray Eminence "; for the courtiers, feeling that he influenced in many ways the master they hated, feared and disliked him equally.

Shortly after the Huguenots had been finally subdued, Louis XIII and Richelieu set out to make war against Savoy, an ally of Austria and Spain, with which France was no longer on friendly terms. The young king distinguished himself greatly in an engagement in the Alps, and the war was ended by a treaty giving France the right of free passage over the mountains.

His Gray Eminence


After thus reaping laurels in war, Richelieu and the king quietly went on carrying out the great minister's various schemes to humble the nobles, by greatly diminishing the number of feudal fortresses, and compelling the aristocracy to respect and obey all the laws of the country. Even the decree against dueling was severely enforced in all cases; hence it was natural that the nobility, in general, should dislike the prime minister; but he invariably triumphed over their repeated attempts to oust him from power.

On one occasion, taking advantage of the king's brief illness, the queen mother, the queen, and the nobles, all eagerly plotted to banish the detested Richelieu. They obtained the king's reluctant consent to send him away, and openly rejoiced when Richelieu packed up his belongings and prepared to leave; but then the minister decided that it might be wise to have a parting interview with his royal master.

No one knows exactly what took place at this meeting, but when it was over, Richelieu was fully reinstated in power, the king saying with more warmth than was usual with him, "Continue to serve me as you have done hitherto, and I will defend you against those who have sworn your ruin." The day on which the hopes of both queens and courtiers were so badly frustrated is therefore known in history as the "Day of Dupes" (1630).



The next plot resulted in a second banishment of the queen mother, Marie de' Medici, who died at Cologne eleven years later, in exile and poverty, in the very house once occupied by the painter, Rubens, whom she had employed to decorate her palace of the Luxembourg.

This sumptuous edifice had been begun shortly after her husband's death, for she intended to retire to it when her term of regency was over. Her elaborate bedroom can still be seen there, but the pictures which Rubens painted of the various striking events in her life are now in the Louvre, where they give a good idea not only of this great painter's style, but also of this queen's extreme vanity.

Louis XIII showed great wisdom when he decided to retain the services of Richelieu, for it was mostly owing to this minister's genius that France soon became so prosperous and powerful. Many other rulers fully realized that the progress of France was mainly due to the cardinal. A century later, Peter the Great of Russia once exclaimed, "I would give half my dominions for a Richelieu to teach me how to govern the other half!"

Meantime, the Thirty Years' War in Germany had been dragging wearily on. First one country and then another helped the German Protestants in their struggle against the Emperor and his Catholic allies; but for a long time Richelieu took no part in the contest, except to send funds secretly when necessary. In the final period of the war, however, lasting from 1635 to 1648, France entered openly into the conflict, Richelieu's aim being to secure what he called "the natural frontiers of France"; for he had fully decided that, "Just as far as Gaul reached, so far shall France extend!"

In order to obtain these so-called "natural frontiers," Richelieu wished to extend the French king's territory to the very banks of the Rhine, and during the war in which he now zealously engaged, he helped to do so by securing possession of Alsace (1639) and of Artois (1640). Richelieu could do more than one thing at a time. It was in 1637, the very midst of the last period of the Thirty Years' War, that he struck another blow in his efforts to diminish the power of nobles. This he did by instituting the office of "Intendants," officers whose duty it was to watch over the government of the different provinces, so as to see that everything was done according to the laws of the country and the wishes of the king.