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

End of Louis XIII's Reign

One great difficulty during most of this reign was that the king had no sons, and that his brother Gaston of Orleans, assuming that he and his children would someday occupy the throne, was inclined to presume upon these expectations. For many years after the king was married, he and his wife, Anne of Austria, were never on really good terms, and generally lived apart,—a state of affairs tending, of course, to foster Gaston's hopes of succession.

But during a severe illness, Louis XIII experienced a sudden change of heart, and was reconciled to his wife. Twenty-three years after their marriage, she gave him the son destined to be famous as Louis XIV. The birth of this child—such a bitter disappointment to Gaston of Orleans—was a source of intense satisfaction to Richelieu, who had never liked Gaston, and was most anxious that the crown should never fall into his hands.

During Richelieu's sway many great reforms were effected in the army and navy in France. Besides, Richelieu succeeded not only in extending the frontiers in the north, but also in conquering Roussillon in the south from the Spanish (1642). While he was at the front in this campaign, another conspiracy was hatched against him, headed by young noblemen (Cinq Mars and De Thou), who were executed in spite of their youth and high position.

Now, the great cardinal had never been strong, and all through this last campaign had suffered greatly. By the time it was over, he was so weak that he could only travel in a litter. This was shaped like a small bedroom, with space beside the couch for a table and chair, so that a secretary could sit beside him even while traveling, and write down the letters and orders he incessantly dictated.

Perceiving that his end was near at hand. Cardinal Richelieu calmly made all his preparations for death, and when the last sacrament was brought into his chamber, solemnly cried: "Here is my judge, who will soon pronounce my sentence. I heartily pray that I may be condemned if I have ever had other intentions than the welfare of the religion and of the state."

When asked whether he forgave his enemies, Richelieu haughtily answered, "I have no enemies, save those who are enemies of France!" We are also told that in his last interview with his master, Richelieu said: "Sire, I now bid you a final farewell in this world. In taking leave of your Majesty, I behold your kingdom more powerful than ever, and your enemies vanquished."

It was then, too, that he designated Mazarin—one of his helpers—as the most capable man to continue the work which he had carried on so ably during the past eighteen years. In his will, Richelieu left his palace, afterwards famous as the Palais Royal, to his master. He also bequeathed an extensive library to the city of Paris, and has the honor of being the founder of the famous French Academy, of establishing the Botanical Garden (Jardin des Plantes), and of rebuilding the Sorbonne, where his beautiful tomb can still be seen.

Tomb of Richelieu


Although Louis XIII upheld Richelieu loyally against the manifold cabals of the nobles, he received the news of his minister's death very coldly, merely remarking, "A great politician is gone." Even on the day of the funeral, seeing that the weather was very stormy, he only said, "The cardinal has bad weather for his last journey!" These unfeeling comments upon the death of a man who had given eighteen years to his service and to that of his country show how very unsympathetic this king could be.

Louis XIII did not long survive the death of the prime minister who had made his reign so famous. When about to pass away, in his turn, he made arrangements that his wife, Anne of Austria, should rule in the name of his four-year-old son. The latter, having been privately baptized, was now officially christened, and was then taken to his dying father, who inquired gently, "What is your name, my child?"

The small boy—who had evidently heard some court gossip—promptly replied, "My name is Louis XIV."

"No, no, my son, not yet," answered the dying father; "but pray God that it may soon be so."

Shortly after, when the king had fallen asleep, a servant bade this little prince gaze again at his father, saying, "My lord, look at the king asleep, so that you may remember him when you are older."

Louis XIII left life without regret, for one of his last remarks was: "God be praised! I believe that it is now time to take leave of all I love."

His one pleasure having been the chase, he had built an extensive hunting lodge on the site of the present palace of Versailles, where the woods were well stocked with game.

During Louis XIII's reign, St. Vincent de Paul—who is known as the "Steward of Providence" and the "Apostle of Charity"—started the first foundling asylum in Paris, founded the well-known community of the Sisters of Charity, and organized many other charitable works for which he is well known.

Great men of letters were particularly favored during this reign by Richelieu. He delighted in reading the productions of Corneille and Descartes, who, together with many others, were just beginning to make a name for themselves, and thanks to whom the reign of Louis XIV was to prove one of the most brilliant epochs which France had yet seen.