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 Minority of Louis XIII

Henry IV had detected in his young son and heir many signs of intense selfishness, which made him once remark to his wife: "Madam, pray God that I may live, for, believe me, that naughty boy there will ill-treat you sorely when I shall no longer be here."

No sooner had the tidings of the king's murder reached the palace than a great sound of lamentation arose. One of the councilors rushed wildly into the queen's apartment, with such a countenance of woe that Marie de' Medici, springing up from her seat, exclaimed: "Sir! the king! this tumult! Is the king dead?" Whereupon the councilor replied: "Madam, be calm, I entreat you. Pardon me, the king never dies in France. Behold the king!" pointing to the nine-year-old Louis XIII., who was henceforth to be ruler of the country. We are told that it is this episode that gave rise to the saying, "The King of France never dies."

The queen immediately seized the reins of government, Even before the news of the king's assassination had spread throughout the capital, all necessary measures had been taken to secure her authority, and orders issued for the Parliament of Paris to assemble on the morrow. There, in a solemn session,—known as a "bed of justice," because the dais of the throne resembled that of a four-poster,—the little king publicly appeared, to signify to the assembled councilors that it was his express wish that they should hereafter all obey his mother, the regent.

One of the first acts of the new government was the trial and condemnation of Henry's base murderer, who had been seized immediately after his crime, and subjected to cruel torture to force him to reveal the names of his accomplices, should he have any. But in spite of all the horrors he had to undergo, the criminal betrayed no one. He was then put to death by fearful tortures, and his body was literally torn to pieces.

Although Henry's policy had been to lessen the power of the House of Austria, he had no sooner passed away than his queen began to court its alliance, thus entirely foiling her husband's designs. Then, too, being of a very weak nature, Marie de' Medici proved the easy victim of any favorite who happened to catch her ear.

The nobles who crowded around the queen flattered her until she allowed them such extensive privileges that they became nearly independent. They declared, "Kings have had their turn, now we shall have ours!" In their greed for honors and power they not only tried to monopolize the fair regent's attention, but also strove to wring from her the funds which Henry had saved for his coming wars.

The only person at court who refused to bow down before the vain regent was Sully, Henry's counselor, who not only retained his old-fashioned mode of dress, but obstinately refused to adopt the servile manner of the other courtiers. For that reason, instead of being treated with the respect which the undeniable services he had rendered his country had earned for him, Sully was mocked by the dandified courtiers, who did not hesitate to make fun of him, even in the presence of the young king and of the queen mother.

On one occasion, when thus turned into ridicule, Sully boldly addressed his young master, saying: "Sire, I am too old to change my habits. When the late king—your father of glorious memory—did me the honor to summon me to an audience on affairs of state, he was in the habit first of dismissing the buffoons and mountebanks!" But, in spite of this sharp protest, buffoons and mountebanks were to have their day, so Sully retired from court, foreseeing that his wise measures would soon be overthrown.

Soon after Sully withdrew, it became evident that the real rulers of the country were the foster-sister of the queen, Leonora, and her husband, Concini. The latter, although he had never been a soldier, managed to obtain from the queen the position of marshal, which entitled him to command the military forces in France.

As the queen, like most small-minded persons, gave undue importance to form and ceremony, she surrounded her young son with much pomp; yet, like most weak mothers, she proved either very indulgent or extremely severe. It is said that the little king once cried: "Oh, Madam, pray make me fewer curtsies, but have me whipped less severely!" Whenever such a punishment had to be inflicted, the queen—realizing her son's resentful disposition—always ordered that the whipping should be done by a servant closely masked, so that the king should not be able to recognize him and wreak vengeance upon him later on.

As you can readily imagine, it did not take Queen Marie long to distribute to the rapacious nobles all the money which her husband had collected for the proposed campaign against Austria. As long as the money lasted, the courtiers proved most obsequious, but when her treasury was empty, and there was nothing left to give them, they became angry and revolted.

There was, besides, at that time, such dissatisfaction in the realm, that the queen called a meeting of the States-General (1614) in hopes that they would be able to put the affairs of state in good order once more. On this occasion the fifteenth and last time the States-General met until 1789 Richelieu was one of the spokesmen, and made such an eloquent address that even then people began to perceive that he was a man of unusual ability. The States-General deliberated a great deal, but accomplished very little, which may be one reason why kings did not prove anxious to convoke them again for the next century and a half.

It was in the same year that the king, although only thirteen, was pronounced of age; but at a "bed of justice" he turned to his mother, begging her to continue ruling in his name, and adding, "I wish and intend that you be obeyed in all things and everywhere, and that, next to me, you should be head of my council."

It was because Marie so favored the House of Austria that negotiations were begun to arrange a marriage between Louis XIII. and Anne of Austria, the eldest daughter of the King of Spain. After some difficulties, the wedding took place. Although the bridegroom was at that time only fourteen and the bride eleven, and both were expected to remain in the schoolroom a year or two longer, they were nevertheless henceforth husband and wife, as well as king and queen of a great realm. For some mysterious reason, however, Louis XIII. was never on a very friendly footing with his beautiful young wife.