Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas. — Joseph Stalin

Louis XIV - John S. C. Abbott




The Boy-King


1650-1653


The reconciliation between the court and the Fronde was very superficial. The old antagonism soon reappeared, and daily grew more rancorous. To add to the embarrassment of the court, Monsieur, the duke of Orleans, became alienated from Mazarin, and seemed inclined to join the Fronde. The most formidable antagonist of the cardinal in the Parliament was M. de Retz. He was coadjutor of the Archbishop of Paris, a man of consummate address and great powers of eloquence.

The struggle between De Retz and Mazarin soon became one of life and death. The coadjutor was at length imboldened to offer a decree in Parliament urging the king to banish from his presence and his councils Cardinal Mazarin. This measure threw the court into consternation. The cardinal was apprehensive of arrest. Some of his friends urged him to retire immediately to a fortress. Others proposed to garrison the Palais Royal and its neighborhood with an efficient guard.

From the saloons of the palace the shouts were heard of the excited populace swarming through the streets. No one could tell to what extremes of violence they might proceed. Warned by these hostile demonstrations, the cardinal decided to escape from Paris. At ten o'clock at night he took leave of the queen regent, hastened to his apartments, exchanged his ecclesiastical costume for a dress in which he was entirely disguised, and on foot threaded the dark streets to escape from the city. Two of his friends accompanied him. At the Richelieu Gate they took horses, which were awaiting them there, and in two hours alighted at the palace of St. Germain.

M. de Retz, through his spies, was immediately informed of the flight of the cardinal. He at once hastened to communicate the intelligence to Monsieur. The duke at first could not credit the statement, as he felt assured that Mazarin would not have left without taking the young king with him. Should the cardinal, in his retreat, gain possession of the king, in whose name he would issue all his orders, it would be hardly possible to avoid the horrors of a desolating civil war. All minds in Paris, from the highest to the lowest, were thrown into a state of the most intense excitement.

On the night of the second day after the cardinal's flight, M. de Retz was awakened by a messenger, who informed him that the Duke of Orleans was anxious to see him immediately at the palace of the Luxembourg. The coadjutor rose, hastily dressed, and in great anxiety repaired to the palace. The duke, though lieutenant general of the kingdom, was a very timid man, and exceedingly inefficient in action. As they entered the chamber of the duke, he listlessly said to M. de Retz,

"It is just as you said. The king is about to leave Paris; what shall we do? I do not see what can be done to prevent it."

The resolute coadjutor replied, "We must immediately take possession of the city gates."

But the inert and weak duke brought forward sundry silly excuses. He had not sufficient force of character or moral courage to commit himself to any decisive course of action. The only measure he could be induced to adopt was to send a message to the queen regent, imploring her to reflect upon the consequences which would inevitably result from the removal of the king from Paris. In the mean time, the resolute and fearless coadjutor sent his emissaries in all directions. The populace were aroused with the cry that Mazarin was about to carry off the king. The gates of the city were seized. Mounted patrols traversed the streets urging the citizens to arms. An enormous crowd of excited men and women rushed toward the Palais Royal.

[Illustration] from Louis XIV by John S. C. Abbott
PALACE OF LUXEMBOURG.


The carriages were, in fact, at that hour, at the appointed rendezvous for the midnight flight of the king and his attendants. The young monarch was already in his traveling dress, just about to descend the stairs of the palace, when the queen was apprised, by the tumult in the streets, that the design was discovered, and that consequently its execution was impracticable.

With the utmost precipitancy, the traveling dress of the king was removed, and he was robed in his night garments, replaced in bed, and urged to feign that he was asleep. Scarcely was this accomplished ere one of the officers of the household entered and announced to the queen that the exasperated mob was threatening the palace, insisting upon seeing the king, that they might satisfy themselves that he had not been carried away. While he was speaking, another messenger entered with the announcement that the mob had already proceeded to violence, and were tearing down the palisades of the palace. While he was yet speaking, a messenger from the Duke of Orleans arrived, imploring the queen regent not to attempt the removal of the king, and assuring her that it was impossible to do so, since the citizens were resolved to prevent it.

The queen, with dignity, listened to all. To the messenger of the Duke of Orleans she haughtily replied,

"Say to the duke that he, instigated by the coadjutor, has caused this tumult, and that he has power to allay it. That nothing can be more unfounded than the idea that there has been any design to remove the king. That both his majesty and his brother, the Duke of Anjou, are asleep in their beds, as I myself had been until the uproar in the streets had caused me to rise." To satisfy the messenger, M. de Souches, she led him into the chamber of the king, and showed him his majesty apparently soundly asleep.

As they were softly retiring from the room, the outcry of the populace filling the court-yard was heard shouting "The king! the king! we must see the king." The queen regent hesitated for a moment, and then, with wonderful presence of mind, and with moral and physical courage rarely equaled, turning to the envoy of Monsieur, said,

"Say to the people that the doors of the palace shall be immediately thrown open, and that every one who wishes may enter the chamber of the king. But inform them that his majesty is asleep, and request them to be as quiet as is possible."

M. Souches obeyed. The doors were opened. The mob rushed in. Nevertheless, contrary to all expectation, they had no sooner reached the royal apartment than their leaders, remembering that their king was sleeping, desired the untimely visitors to proceed in perfect quiet. As the human tide moved onward, their very breathing was suppressed. They trod the floor with softest footsteps. The same tumultuous multitude that had howled, and yelled, and threatened outside the gates, now, in the chamber of the sovereign, became calm, respectful, and silent. They approached the royal bed with a feeling of affectionate deference, which restrained every intruder from drawing back the curtains.

The queen herself performed this office. She stood at the pillow of her son, beautiful in features, of queenly grace in form and stature. Pale, calm, and dignified as though she were performing some ordinary court ceremonial, she gathered back the folds of the velvet drapery, and revealed to the gaze of the people their young sovereign in all the beauty of youth, and apparently in profound slumber.

This living stream of men and women from the streets of Paris continued to flow through the chamber until three o'clock in the morning, entering at one door and passing out at its opposite. Through this trying scene the queen never faltered.

"Like a marble statue," writes Miss Pardoe, "she retained her position, firm and motionless, her majestic figure drawn haughtily to its full height, and her magnificent arm resting in broad relief upon the crimson draperies. And still the boy-king, emulating the example of his royal parent, remained immobile, with closed eyes and steady breathing, as though his rest had remained unbroken by the incursion of his rebellious subjects. It was a singular and marked passage in the life of both mother and son."

In those days and at that court falsehood was deemed an indispensable part of diplomacy. In the afternoon of the same day in which the scene we have described occurred, the queen assembled in her saloon in the palace the prominent magistrates of the city. With firm voice and undaunted eye, she assured them that she had never entertained the slightest idea of removing his majesty from the city. She enjoined it upon them vigilantly to continue to guard the gates, that the populace might be convinced that no design of escape was cherished. Her words were not believed; her directions were obeyed. The gates were rigidly closed. Thus the king was a prisoner.

The apprehensions of the Fronde, that by some stratagem the king might be removed, were so great that Monsieur  dispatched a gentleman of his household every night to ascertain if the king were quietly in his bed. The messenger, M. Desbuches, carried a nightly greeting to the queen, with orders not to leave the Palais Royal without seeing the young sovereign. The excuse for this intrusion was, that Monsieur could not, without this evidence, satisfy the excited citizens that the king was safe. This was a terrible humiliation to the queen regent.

Cardinal Mazarin, having passed the night at St. Germain, commenced traveling by slow stages toward Havre. He was expecting every hour to be joined by the queen regent and other members of the royal household. He was, however, overtaken by a courier, who announced to him what had transpired in Paris, and that the escape of the royal family was impossible. The cardinal thus found himself really in exile, and earnest endeavors were made by the Fronde to induce the queen regent to secure a cardinal's hat for M. de Retz, and make him her prime minister. The last act of the queen regent was the issuing of a decree that Mazarin was banished forever from the kingdom.

Such was the posture of affairs when, on the 5th of September, 1651, the minority of the dauphin ceased. He now entered upon his fourteenth year, and, immature boy as he was, was declared to be the absolute monarch of France.

It was immediately announced to the Parliament by the grand master of ceremonies that on the seventh day of the month the king would hold his bed of justice. This name was given to the throne which the king took at extraordinary meetings of Parliament. The bed, or couch, was furnished with five cushions, and stood under a gorgeous canopy. Upon this couch the king extended himself, leaning upon the cushions.

The ceremony was attended with all the pomp which the wealth and taste of the empire could create. As, in the morning, the court left the Palais Royal, a band of trumpeters led the van, causing the air to resound with their bugle peals. These were followed by a troop of light-horse, succeeded by two hundred of the highest nobility of France, splendidly mounted and in dazzling array. But it is vain to attempt to describe the gorgeous procession of dignitaries, mounted on tall war-horses, caparisoned with housings embroidered with silver and gold, and accompanied by numerous retainers. The attire of these attendants, from the most haughty man of arms to the humblest page, was as varied, picturesque, and glittering as human ingenuity could devise.

The young king himself rode upon a magnificent cream-colored charger. He was a beautiful boy, well formed and tall for his age. Apparently deeply impressed with the grandeur of the occasion, he appeared calm and dignified to a degree which attracted the admiration of every beholder. As he sat gracefully upon his horse, he appeared almost like a golden statue, for his dress was so elaborately embroidered with gold that neither its material or its color could be distinguished. His high-mettled charger became frightened by the shouts of "Long live the king" which burst so enthusiastically from the lips of the crowd. But Louis managed the animal with so much skill and self-possession as to increase the admiration with which all seemed to regard him. After attending mass, the young monarch took his seat in the Parliament. Here the boy of thirteen, covering his head, while all the notabilities of France stood before him with heads uncovered, repeated the following words:

"GENTLEMEN,—I have attended my Parliament in order to inform you that, according to the law of my kingdom, I shall myself assume its government. I trust that, by the goodness of God, it will be with piety and justice. My chancellor will inform you more particularly of my intentions."

The chancellor then made a long address. At its conclusion the queen mother rose and said to her son:

"SIRE,—This is the ninth year in which, by the last will of the deceased king, my much honored lord, I have been intrusted with the care of your education and the government of the state. God having by his will blessed my endeavors, and preserved your person, which is so precious to your subjects, now that the law of the kingdom calls you to the rule of this monarchy, I transfer to you, with great satisfaction, the power which had been granted me to govern. I trust that God will aid you with his strength and wisdom, that your reign may be prosperous."

To this the king replied, "I thank you, madame, for the care which it has pleased you to take of my education and the administration of my kingdom. I pray you to continue to me your good advice, and desire that, after myself, you should be the head of my council."

The mother and the son embraced each other, and then resumed their conspicuous seats on the platform. The king's brother, Philip, duke of Anjou, next rose, and, sinking upon his knee, took the oath of allegiance to his royal brother. He was followed in this act by all the civil and ecclesiastical notabilities. The royal procession returned to the gates of the Palais Royal, greeted apparently by the unanimous acclamations of the people.

Thus a stripling, who had just completed his thirteenth year, was accepted by the nobles and by the populace as the absolute and untrammeled sovereign of France. He held in his hands, virtually unrestrained by constitution or court, their liberties, their fortunes, and their lives. It is often said that every nation has as good a government as it deserves. In republican America, it seems incredible that a nation of twenty millions of people could have been guilty of the folly of surrendering themselves to the sway of a pert, weak, immature boy of thirteen years.

The young king, in those early years, was celebrated for his gallantry. A bevy of young beauties, from the most illustrious families in the realm, crowded his court. The matter of the marriage of the king was deemed of very great moment. According to the etiquette of the times, it was thought necessary that he should marry a lady of royal blood. It would have been esteemed a degradation for him to select the daughter of the highest noble, unless that noble were of the royal family. But these pretty girls were not unconscious of the power of their charms. The haughty Anne of Austria was constantly harassed by the flirtations in which the young king was continually engaging with these lovely maidens of the court.

Louis by nature, and still more by education, was egotistical, haughty, and overbearing. His brother Philip, on the contrary, was gentle, retiring, and effeminate. The young king wished to be the handsomest man of his court, the most brilliant in wit, and the most fascinating in the graces of social life. He was very jealous of any one of his companions who might be regarded as his rival in personal beauty, or in any intellectual or courtly accomplishment. His mother encouraged this feeling. She desired that her son should stand in his court without a peer.

Still Anne of Austria, in conjunction with Cardinal Mazarin, had done what she could to check the intellectual growth of her son. Wishing to retain power as long as possible, they had manifested no disposition to withdraw young Louis from the frivolities of childhood. His education had been grossly neglected. Though entirely familiar with the routine of his devotional exercises, and all the punctilios of court etiquette, he was in mental culture and general intelligence far below ordinary school-boys of his age.

Though the king was nominally the absolute ruler of France, still there were outside influences which exerted over him a great control. There is no such thing as independent power. All are creatures of circumstances. There were two antagonistic forces brought to bear upon the young king. Anne of Austria for nine years had been regent. With the aid of her prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, she had governed the realm. This power could not at once and entirely pass from their hands to the ignorant boy who was dallying with the little beauties in the saloons of the Palais Royal. Though Mazarin was in exile—an exile to which the queen regent had been compelled to assent—still he retained her confidence, and an influence over her mind.

On the other hand, there was the Parliament, composed mainly of proud, haughty, powerful nobles, the highest dignitaries of Church and State. This body was under the leadership of the coadjutor, M. de Retz. The antagonism between the Parliament and the court was by no means appeased. The great conflict now rose, which continued through months and years, between them, as to which should obtain the control of the king. Impelled by the action of the Parliament, the king had applied to the pope for a cardinal's hat to be conferred upon M. de Retz. This dignity attained would immeasurably increase the power of the coadjutor.

In the mean time, Cardinal Mazarin, who had fled to Spain, had re-entered France with an army of six thousand men. Paris was thrown into a state of great agitation. Parliament was immediately assembled. The king sent them a message requesting the Parliament not to regard the movements of the cardinal with any anxiety, "since the intentions of his eminence were well known by the court." This, of course, increased rather than diminished the fears of the nobles. Notwithstanding the message of the king, a decree was immediately passed declaring the cardinal and his adherents disturbers of the public peace. The cardinal was outlawed. A sum equal to thirty thousand dollars, the proceeds of the sale of some property of the cardinal, was offered to any one who should deliver him either dead or alive. Unintimidated, Mazarin continued his march toward Paris, arriving at Poictiers at the end of January, one month after having re-entered France. The king, the queen regent, and the whole court advanced there to meet him. They received him with the greatest demonstrations of joy.

When the news reached the capital that Mazarin had thus triumphantly returned, Parliament and the populace were thrown into a state of great excitement. The Duke of Orleans was roused as never before. The hostile demonstrations in Paris became so alarming, that the royal family adopted the bold resolve to return immediately to the capital. The king commenced his march at the head of the troops of the cardinal. When he reached Blois, he tarried there for a couple of days to concentrate his forces. Civil war was now inaugurated, though on rather a petty scale, between the hostile forces in various parts of the kingdom. The Prince of Condé was the prominent leader of the Parliamentary troops.

The city of Blois is situated on the right bank of the River Loire, about forty-five miles below the city of Orleans, which is also on the northern side of the same stream. At Blois, the court learned to its consternation that the Mazarin army had been attacked at Orleans by the Prince de Condé and utterly routed, with the loss of many prisoners, nearly three thousand horses, and a large part of its ordnance stores. The royal party, which was at this time in a state of great destitution, was quite overwhelmed by the disaster. The queen ordered all the equipages and baggage to be transported to the south side of the Loire, and the bridge to be broken down. At midnight, in the midst of a scene of great terror and confusion, this movement was accomplished. As the morning dawned, the carriages, crowded with the ladies of the court, were seen on the left bank of the stream, ready for flight. The queen was, for the only time in her life, so dejected as to seem utterly in despair. She feared that the triumph of the Fronde at Orleans would induce every city in the kingdom to close its gates against the court.

The royal fugitives retreated to Montereau. In the disorder of the flight they were exposed to great privation. Even the young king lost several of his best horses. Thence they proceeded to Corbeil, on the right bank of the Seine, about twelve leagues from Versailles. Here a scene occurred which is graphically described by M. Laporte, an eye-witness, who was a prominent attendant of his majesty.

"The king," writes Laporte, "insisted that Monsieur  [ Philip, brother of Louis XIV.] should sleep in his room, which was so small that but one person could pass at a time. In the morning, as they lay awake, the king inadvertently spat upon the bed of Monsieur, who immediately spat upon the king's bed in return. Thereupon Louis, getting angry, spat in his brother's face. When they could spit no longer, they proceeded to drag each other's sheets upon the floor, after which they prepared to fight. During this quarrel I did what I could to restrain the king. As I could not succeed, I sent for M. de Villeroi, who re-established peace. Monsieur  lost his temper sooner than the king, but the king was much more difficult to appease."

It is very evident that aristocratic titles, and all the formalities of court etiquette, do not change the nature of boyhood. Though one of these little belligerents bore the title of Louis XIV., king of France, and the other was called Monsieur, the duke of Anjou, they were in character like all other ungoverned and ungovernable boys.

The court, not venturing to enter Paris, pursued its way by a circuitous route to St. Germain, leaving the city on the left. Here an additional gloom was cast over their spirits by the intelligence of very decided acts of hostility manifested against them by the inhabitants of the metropolis. The court was in a state of great embarrassment, without any money, and without possibility of obtaining stores from the capital. It was supposed that Cardinal Mazarin, noted for his selfishness, had taken good care of himself. But he declared that he was as poor as the meanest soldier in the ranks.

While at St. Germain, there was another petty conflict between the Parliamentary forces and those of the court in the vicinity of Etampes, about forty miles from Versailles. The Fronde was routed with loss. The glad tidings was brought by a courier at night to St. Germain. The news was too good to be kept till morning. M. Villeroi, to whom it was at first communicated, hastened to the chamber of the king and the Duke of Anjou, to awake them from sleep and inform them of the victory. They both, Laporte informs us, sprang from their beds, and rushed, in their slippers, night caps, and dressing-gowns, to the chamber of the cardinal, whom they awakened with the joyful tidings. He hurried in his turn with them, and in the same unsophisticated costume, to the chamber of the queen, to announce the intelligence to her.

The destitution of Louis XIV. while at St. Germain was such that he borrowed one hundred and ten francs from Moreau, one of his valets, for some replenishment of his wardrobe. Subsequently the valet, learning that the king had obtained possession of one hundred louis d'or, applied for payment of the debt; but the king had already expended the coin.

The routed troops of Condé took refuge within the walls of Etampes. The court, in its elation, immediately proceeded from St. Germain to the scene of conflict, to take part in the siege. This was the first serious campaign of the young king. As, attended by his suite, he examined the works, he was at one time under fire, and several bullets passed near him. Still young as he was, he had sufficient regard for his reputation and control over himself not to manifest the slightest fear.

The scenes of war which here presented themselves to the young monarch were painful in the extreme. He was every where surrounded by sick and dying soldiers. But he had no money with which to relieve their misery, and when finally the city of Etampes was taken, the spectacle of starvation, woe, and death was more awful than words can express.

As the king was entering the city, he passed a group lying upon the ground, consisting or a mother and three children, huddled closely together. The mother had died of starvation. Two of the skeleton children were also dead by her side, and the third, a babe, was straining at the exhausted breast, which could no longer afford it any nourishment.

The Prince de Condé retreated to Paris with about three thousand men. The royal troops, eight thousand in number, pursued. Each party gathered re-enforcements, so that the Prince de Condé, with about five thousand men, held at bay the royal troops, then numbering about ten thousand. The citizens, as we have mentioned, were in sympathy with the Parliament. They hated Cardinal Mazarin, and with good reason regarded the king as a prisoner in his hands. The king also detested Mazarin personally, while the force of circumstances compelled him to regard the cardinal as the advocate of the royal cause.

A very severe battle was fought between the two parties in the Faubourg St. Antoine. The ranks of the Fronde, shattered by overpowering numbers, were, in a disordered retreat, hotly pursued by their foes under Marshal Turenne. The carnage was dreadful. Suddenly the cannon of the Bastile flamed out in rapid succession, hurling their deadly shot through the compact masses of the Royalists. They recoiled and fled in confusion. Paris was in the hands of the Fronde. The populace surged through the streets, shouting "Long live the king! Death to Mazarin!"

The cardinal, taking the king with him, retired to St. Denis. Turenne re-collected his scattered forces at Pontoise, about twenty miles north from Versailles. The cardinal, with the king, took refuge at that place in the centre of Turenne's army. Here the king issued an ordinance, transferring the Parliament from Paris to Pontoise; but the Parliament replied "that they could not obey the royal command so long as Cardinal Mazarin, whom they had outlawed, remained in France." They also issued an ordinance of their own, forbidding any member of the Parliament to leave Paris. The king, we know not under what influences, acquiesced in both of these decrees. This led the cardinal immediately to tender his resignation and retire. This important step changed the whole aspect of affairs. After the removal of the cardinal, all opposition to the court became rebellion against the king, to whom the Fronde professed entire allegiance.

[Illustration] from Louis XIV by John S. C. Abbott
THE TUILERIES.


Parliament immediately issued a decree, thanking the king for banishing the cardinal, and imploring him to return to his good city of Paris. After some negotiation the king acceded to their wishes, and on the 17th of October arrived at St. Germain. Here a numerous civic guard and deputation hastened to greet him, and to conduct him to the metropolis. On the 20th he proceeded to Ruel, where he passed the night.

The king decided to enter the city at the head of his army. In order to render the scene more imposing, it was to take place at night, by the light of thousands of torches. The spectacle was such as Paris had rarely witnessed. The fickle people, ever ready to vibrate between the cry of hosanna and crucify, pealed forth their most enthusiastic rejoicings. The triumphant boy-king took possession of the Tuileries. Cardinal de Retz, who had now gained his long-coveted ecclesiastical distinction, hastened to congratulate the king and his mother upon their return to the city, from which they had so long been banished. The Duke of Orleans, chagrined and humiliated, retired to Blois.

The king soon held what was called a bed of justice, in which, instead of granting a general amnesty, he denounced the princes Condé and Conti, and other of the prominent leaders of the Fronde, as traitors to their king, to be punished by death. These doomed ones were nobles of high rank, vast wealth, with thousands of retainers. Many throughout the kingdom were in sympathy with them. They would not die without a struggle. Hence the war, which had hitherto raged between Mazarin and the Fronde, was renewed between the king and the Fronde. All over the provinces the hostile forces were rallying themselves for the conflict.

It was necessary that the Parliament should register this decree of the king. It did so, but Cardinal de Retz refused to give his vote. He very respectfully declared to the king that he, having been on friendly terms and in co-operation with the Prince de Condé, it would be neither courteous nor just for him to vote his condemnation.

This enraged both the king and his mother. They said it proved that he was in sympathy with their enemies. The court did not venture at once to strike down one so formidable. A mission was assigned the cardinal at Rome, to remove him from the country. He refused to accept it. The boy-king was growing reckless, passionate, self-willed. He began to feel the power that was in his hand. The cardinal was warned of his danger. He smiled, and said "that, sustained by his ecclesiastical rank, he had nothing to fear."

The court issued an order for the arrest of the cardinal. It was placed in the hands of Pradelle for execution. But the king was told that the cardinal would never suffer himself to be arrested without resistance; that, to secure his seizure, it might be necessary to take his life. The king seized a pen and wrote at the bottom of the order,

"I have commanded Pradelle to execute the present order on the person of De Retz, and even to arrest him, dead or alive, in the event of resistance on his part.

"LOUIS."

It was deemed very important to arrest the cardinal, if possible, without exciting a popular tumult. The palace of the cardinal was well guarded. He never went out without a numerous retinue. Should the populace of Paris see him endangered, they would spring to his rescue.

At length De Retz was earnestly invited to visit the queen at the Louvre, in token that he was not hostile to the court. It was one of the most dishonorable of stratagems. The cardinal was caught in the trap. As he was entering the antechamber of the queen upon this visit of friendship, all unsuspicious of treachery, the captain of the guard, who had been stationed there for the purpose with several gendarmes, seized him, hurried him through the great gallery of the Louvre, and down the stairs to the door. Here a royal carriage was awaiting him. He was thrust into the carriage, and five or six officers took seats by his side. To guard against any possibility of rescue, a numerous military escort was at hand. The horses were driven rapidly through the streets, and out through the Porte St. Antoine.

At nine o'clock the cardinal found himself a prisoner at the castle of Vincennes. The apartment assigned him was cold and dreary, without furniture and without a bed. Here the prisoner remained a fortnight, in the middle of December, with no fire.

The arrest of the cardinal created a great sensation throughout Paris. But the chateau was too strong, and too vigilantly guarded by the royal troops, to encourage any attempt at a rescue.

[Illustration] from Louis XIV by John S. C. Abbott
THE CASTLE OF VINCENNES


In the mean time, Mazarin had placed himself at the head of the royal troops in one of the provinces, where he gained several unimportant victories over the bands of the Fronde. These successes were trumpeted abroad as great achievements, so as to invest the cardinal with the renown of a great conqueror. Mazarin was well aware of the influence of military glory upon the populace in Paris. The king also began to feel the need of his dominant mind. He was invited to return to Paris. Louis himself rode out six miles beyond the walls to receive him. The cardinal entered the city in triumph, in the same carriage with his sovereign, and seated by his side. All the old idols were forgotten, and the once detested Mazarin was received as though he were an angel from heaven. Bonfires and illuminations blazed through the streets; the whole city resounded with demonstrations of rejoicing. Thus terminated the year 1652.

The first care of Cardinal Mazarin, after his return to Paris, was to restore the finances, which were in a deplorable condition. Louis was fond of pleasure. It was one great object of the cardinal to gratify him in this respect, in every possible way. Notwithstanding the penury of the court, the cardinal contrived to supply the king with money. Thus, during the winter, the royal palaces resounded with festivity and dissipation. The young king became very fond of private theatricals, in which he, his brother Philip, and the young ladies of the court took prominent parts. Louis often appeared upon the stage in the character of a ballet-dancer. He was proud of the grace with which he could perform the most difficult pirouettes. He had plays written, with parts expressly composed for his aristocratic troop.

The scene of these masqueradings was the theatre of the Hotel du Petit Bourbon, which was contiguous to the Louvre. When royalty plays and courtiers fill pit and gallery, applause is without stint. The boy-king was much elated with his theatric triumphs. The queen and Cardinal Mazarin were well pleased to see the king expending his energies in that direction.

These entertainments cost money, which Mazarin was greatly embarrassed in obtaining. The hour was approaching for the coronation of Louis. The pageant would require large sums of money to invest the occasion with the desirable splendor. But gold was not all that was wanted. Rank, brilliance, beauty were requisite suitably to impress the masses of the people. But the civil war had robbed the court of many of its most attractive ornaments.

Monsieur, the duke of Orleans, was sullenly residing at Blois. Here he held a somewhat rival court to the king. He refused to attend the coronation unless certain concessions were granted, to which Mazarin could not give his consent. Mademoiselle, the duchess of Montpensier, daughter of Monsieur by his first wife, a young lady of wonderful heroism and attractions, who possessed an enormous property in her own right, and who was surrounded by a brilliant court of her own, could not consistently share in festivities at which her father refused to appear.

The Prince of Condé, one of the highest nobles of the realm, and who had many adherents of the most illustrious rank, was in arms against his king at the head of the Spanish forces, and sentence of death had been pronounced upon him.

Cardinal de Retz was a prisoner at Vincennes. His numerous followers in Church and State refused to sanction by their presence any movements of a court thus persecuting their beloved cardinal.

It was thus impossible to invest the coronation with the splendor which the occasion seemed to demand.

The coronation took place, however, at Rheims. Cardinal Mazarin exerted all his ingenuity to render the pageant imposing; but the absence of so many of the most illustrious of the realm cast an atmosphere of gloom around the ceremonies.

France was at the time at war with Spain. The Fronde co-operated with the Spanish troops in the civil war. Immediately after the coronation, the king, then sixteen years of age, left Rheims to place himself at the head of the army. He repaired to Stenay, on the Meuse, in the extreme northeastern frontier of France. This ancient city, protected by strong fortifications, was held by Condé. The royal troops were besieging it. The poverty of the treasury was such that Mazarin could not furnish Louis even with the luxury of a carriage. He traveled on horseback. He had no table of his own, but shared in that of the Marquis de Fabert, the general in command.

It seems difficult to account for the fact that the young king was permitted to enter the trenches, and to engage in skirmishes, where he was so exposed to the fire of the enemy that the wounded and the dead were continually falling around him. He displayed much courage on these occasions.

The Prince of Condé left a garrison in one of the strong fortresses, and marched with the main body of his troops to Arras. The movements of the two petty armies, their skirmishes and battles, are no longer of any interest. The battles were fought and the victories gained by the direction of the generals Turenne and Fabert. Though the boy-king displayed intrepidity which secured for him the respect of the soldiers, he could exert but little influence either in council or on the field. Both Stenay and Arras were soon taken. The army of the Prince of Condé was driven from all its positions.

The king returned to Paris to enjoy the gratulation of the populace, and to offer public thanksgiving in the cathedral of Notre Dame.