Contents 
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 How the Franks Came 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 The Normans Besiege Paris Last of the Carolingians The Year One Thousand Robert's Two Wives The 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 UX Effect of the Crusades The Battle of the Spurs End of the 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 Captivity and 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 I.'s Reign The 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 The Battle of Courtras 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




The Rule of Favorites

During the seven years of the king's minority, the Concinis gradually became so arrogant that none of the other nobles could endure them. In 1617, therefore, a great conspiracy was formed; the nobles finally persuaded the king that his marshal was a traitor, so, by Louis XIII.'s order, Concini was murdered the very next time he entered the palace. As soon as he was dead, the conspirators rushed into the royal presence, crying triumphantly, "Sire, now you are indeed king, for the marshal is dead!" When the cold-blooded young monarch heard these welcome tidings, we are told he deliberately stepped up to the open window, and called out joyfully to the assassins, "Thank you, thank you, now I am king!"

Not content with ridding himself of Concini by a base murder, the king had the marshal's wife arrested, under pretext that she was practicing magic arts or witchcraft. During her trial, when asked to reveal what spells she had used to keep the queen mother so submissive to her will, Leonora truthfully declared, "Mine has been merely the mastery of a strong mind over a weak one." But the judges utterly refused to credit this simple explanation. They fully shared the popular belief that magic arts had been employed, and for that reason sentenced the poor woman to death as if she had been a common witch.

Not only did the nobles thus bring about the disgrace of both Concinis, but they also discredited the queen mother, who was shortly after banished to Blois. She withdrew thither, saying bitterly, "Poor me! I have reigned seven years, and now can expect nothing more than a crown in Heaven!"

The Thirty Years' War having broken out (1618) between the Catholics and the Protestants in Germany, there was danger that a similar struggle would be renewed in France. The Huguenots desired to make La Rochelle the center of a Protestant republic in France, which, of course, could not be allowed; and war resulted between the two parties.

Taking advantage of the disturbed state of affairs, the queen mother and her second son, Gaston of Orleans, began to plot against the king. Marie effected an escape from the castle of Blois through a window, joined a party of disaffected nobles, and fought one battle. But her quarrel with her eldest son soon ended; a reconciliation took place, and mother and son again appeared in public on apparently friendly terms.

Meantime, Louis XIII. was almost entirely under the influence of another favorite (De Luynes), the man who trained his best hunting hawks, and who had been most instrumental in rousing his suspicions against the Concinis. But although this man was so ambitious as to aspire to the first place at court, he was not capable of governing well, and was soon obliged to yield to Richelieu, who from 1624 to 1642 was the real and very able ruler of France.

Marie de' Medici

MARIE DE' MEDICI.


Richelieu was a remarkably clever man. One of his contemporaries said of him, "God seems to have set no bounds to his intellect." Besides that, he was patriotic and ambitious, his plan being to subdue the Protestants and prevent their setting up a separate state in France; to diminish the power of the nobles; and to weaken the influence of Austria in Europe.

In order to bring these three desirable things to pass, Richelieu set to work with great skill. The year after he became prime minister he negotiated a marriage between the king's sister Henrietta and Charles I., thereby securing the alliance of England. Next, he induced Louis XIII. to enact severe laws against dueling, which had become so frequent by this time that challenges were exchanged on the slightest pretext. The penalty for the infringement of this law was henceforth rigidly enforced, and some of the greatest nobles of the realm died on the scaffold.

To suppress the Protestants, Richelieu next called forth all the military and naval power of the realm, and set off in person to superintend the siege of La Rochelle, the Huguenot stronghold. He surrounded it by troops on the land side, and tried to blockade it by the fleet on the water side; but he soon discovered that it would be impossible to hinder the Germans and English from smuggling in supplies, and he knew that as long as ships could enter the port the people of La Rochelle would be able to defy the king's authority. Richelieu therefore planned and built a tremendous mole, or dike, across the entrance to the port to prevent supplies from reaching the rebels.

The prime minister had proclaimed on starting out for the siege of La Rochelle, "I will employ all the authority the king will give me to ruin the Huguenot party!"—and, as you see, he certainly made the best use of his power for that purpose. Still, the Huguenots were quite as determined not to yield, and the mayor of La Rochelle assumed office only on condition that he should be empowered to stab the first man who mentioned the word surrender! We are told that the dagger with which to commit this deed always lay on the council table, and that once, when some one ruefully remarked that soon no one would be left to defend the city, this mayor sternly exclaimed, "Even if only one man remains, that man must  keep the gate shut!"

Richelieu

RICHELIEU ON THE DIKE AT LA ROCHELLE.


As long as provisions from abroad could reach La Rochelle, the siege proved endurable; but after Richelieu's mole was complete, and no more supplies could enter, dire famine set in. The inhabitants were therefore forced to surrender at the end of fifteen months, having suffered unheard-of hardships before finally giving in.

Although conquered, the Huguenots were granted civil equality, and liberty to practice their religion, by a new peace (Alais, 1629); but they now ceased to form a separate armed political party in France. They were, besides, strictly forbidden to emigrate to Canada, lest their influence there should become too strong in time, and they should form a state in the New World, hostile to the kingdom of France.