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

The Wars of the Fronde

Meantime, great changes had been taking place in France, where the aristocracy now was everything, and where the lower classes not only had no influence, but were said "not even to possess their own souls." The long war had proved so expensive that taxes had greatly increased, and loans could now be obtained only by paying exorbitant interest, a state of affairs which, by adding to the nation's already heavy burdens, fostered much discontent.

In 1648, therefore, the very year that the treaty of Westphalia was signed, civil war broke out in France: the people and the Parliament of Paris began vehemently to oppose the court. This conflict is known as the Fronde because the rebels acted like the Paris ragamuffins, who, armed with slings (frondes), pelted passers-by in the suburbs with stones, but scattered and fled whenever the guard turned out to call them to account for such misbehavior.

The first war of the Fronde broke out immediately after an attempt on the queen's part to awe the Parliament by arresting Broussel, a member who strongly advocated more liberty for the people than the court approved. But the Parisians, on learning of his arrest, threw up barricades in the streets and angrily demanded Broussel's release. Their spokesman having failed to secure it the first time he went to the palace, the angry mob would have torn him to pieces, had he not coolly reminded them that they would gain nothing by it. On returning to the Tuileries again, this clever man obtained what he wished from the queen regent, by pointing to the little king —then playing in the yard—and warning her gravely, "Madame, that child is losing his crown!"

Still, the trouble did not end with Broussel's release, for several of the discontented nobles gladly seized this opportunity to rebel, and helped the people and Parliament. They were joined by the Duke of Beaufort, and the disturbance became so alarming that the court soon fled from Paris, taking refuge at St. Germain, where nothing had been prepared for its coming. It was customary in those days to travel with bed, bedding, kitchen utensils, etc, and as in the hurry of departure nothing of the sort had been provided, the royal party had to suffer all manner of hardships. The king, in particular, felt these privations so keenly that he took a strong dislike to St. Germain.

Having escaped in safety from the capital, the queen took prompt measures to suppress the Fronde and ordered Conde to blockade Paris. Several skirmishes occurred between the royal troops and the rebels before an agreement was reached which put an end to what is known as the Parliamentary or Old Fronde (1649).

Although checked for the present, civil war was not at an end. Next year broke out what is known as the Fronde of the Princes, or Young Fronde, in which the principal nobles took part. Conde himself headed the faction, through jealousy of Mazarin, but was promptly arrested, and during his captivity in Vincennes beguiled long hours by cultivating carnations, of which he was very proud. His friends, however, raised so large an army against Mazarin that the unpopular minister was obliged to flee from Paris.

In the midst of the excitement a rumor spread that the court also had again secretly left the city, carrying off the little king. At this report the people became frantic, and crowded around the palace, clamoring for a sight of their sovereign, to make sure he was still in their midst. The queen tried to pacify the mob, but perceiving that her efforts were vain, she persuaded the little king—who was already in bed—to feign sleep, and then admitted a certain number of the rioters, bidding them file noiselessly through the royal bedchamber and satisfy themselves that, as they had been assured, Louis was there, wrapped in slumber.

The king, then twelve years old, pretended sleep while these Parisians gazed their fill upon him. But the vivid impression left by the clamors of the mob, and this night invasion of the palace, were never effaced from his mind, and helped to determine him, when older, to take up his abode outside of the tumultuous capital.

Released from prison, Conde now sought more and more power, but finding, to his disgust, that Mazarin's influence still prevailed at court, he resumed his plots with other nobles, and began open rebellion against the royal party. The king and his mother left Paris, and presently summoned Mazarin to their assistance. Returning toward the capital, the youthful king was taken by Mazarin to witness the one great battle of the Young Fronde. This encounter took place just outside one of the gates of Paris (in the Faubourg St. Antoine), where Turenne, at the head of the royal troops, encountered Conde, leading the rebels. Such was the activity which Conde displayed on this memorable occasion that Turenne admiringly exclaimed, "I have not seen one Conde to-day; I have seen more than twelve of them!"

In spite of all this energy, Conde would have been sorely worsted in this battle had not the daughter of Gaston (Mile, de Montpensier) mounted to the top of the Bastille, and thence boldly directed the king's cannon upon the royal troops, thus checking their advance. This lady, although several years older than Louis XIV, and his cousin besides, had been most anxious to become Queen of France, as Mazarin well knew. By siding thus openly with the royal foes on this occasion, however, she forfeited her last chance of winning a crown; as Mazarin put it, "By that cannon-shot she killed her husband!"

Mlle de Montpensier


Now Mazarin knew that the nobles were united only by their dislike of him, and that the Spaniards had been invited to take part in the war under pretext of ousting him from office. He therefore advised the queen to banish him from court a second time, and patiently waited for the princes to quarrel among themselves. No sooner had this come to pass than he returned in triumph. The Parliament of Paris soon submitted; the nobles returned to their allegiance; and the court came back to Paris, where the king was warmly welcomed, but where Mazarin continued to be greatly disliked. Instead of making open war, however, his foes now vented their spite by writing and publishing lampoons against him, which were known as "Mazarinades," a name now generally applied to political satires.

Conde, the only nobleman who refused to submit, went off to join the forces of Spain in Flanders, where Turenne faced him in several small encounters, and finally defeated him in the great battle of the Downs (Dunes), near Dunkirk. Knowing the obstinacy and incapacity of his Spanish troops, Conde felt sure beforehand that there was no hope of winning a victory on this occasion; so he remarked to a bystander, "Were you ever in a battle, my lord."

"No," was the answer.

"Well, then, in the course of the next half hour, you will see us lose one!"

Shortly after this battle, the treaty of the Pyrenees (1659) ended the war between France and Spain. It left France in possession of her conquests, but provided that the great Conde should be pardoned and restored to his offices. It also settled the king's marriage, as we shall see later on.