|June 15, 2011
| Armand-Jean du Plessis,
Duke de Richelieu Cardinal
French statesman, b. in Paris, 5 September, 1585;
d. Paris 4 December 1642.
By Dennis L. Pearson
Copyright (c) 2009 by Dennis L. Pearson
All Rights Reserved --- No part of this work may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying and recording or by any information storage
or retrieval system, without permission from the author.
If you give me six lines written
by the most honest man, I will find
something in them to hang him.
A bright child, Armand-Jean du Plessis studied theology as a teen
and at the young age of 21 was appointed Bishop of Lucon. In 1622
he was made a cardinal by Pope Gregory and from there rose to
become head of the Royal Council and prime minister of France.
King Louis XIII was a weak ruler and Richelieu filled the void, more
or less running the empire via his advice to the king. A clever
politician and strategist, Richelieu expanded royal power, punished
dissent harshly, and built France into a great European power. At the
same time he supported the arts and learning and founded the
famous French Academy. Novelist Alexandre Dumas made
Richelieu a crafty villain in his 1844 book The Three Musketeers, and
Richelieu's name has since become synonymous with political
intrigue and ambitious power "behind the Throne.
Throughout history, nations and kingdoms have pursued their policy
based on the concept of national interest. National interest, of
course, can be perceived negatively when the interests one of one
nation are placed above super-national interests in order, morality
and justice. To Henry Kissinger, the moment of responsibility was
profoundly sobering, especially for one trained as an academic in his
case, and in the case of this study -- Richelieu who was trained as a
cleric. Suddenly one is forced to make the transitions from reflection
to decision, knowing the difference between a conclusion and a
policy. No longer would it be enough to be plausible in argument ,
but one had to be convincing in action. After all, what pitfalls or
problems that exists that hindered the successful advance of
national interest by any nation was no longer theoretical .And
importantly, the interlocutors as Kissinger termed it were not
debaters, but sovereign nations, some which had the physical power
or were pursuing that power to make their views prevail.
To put it another way, nations who determine what policy should be
pursued to best realize their national interest goals must not forget
that this policy must be run against or within the international power
structure that prevailed during that period of time. If it is their goal or
policy to prevent other states from acquiring such power that would
threaten their national interest if such power increase was left
unchecked, then they must act to protect their own national interest.
Therefore, it is a given that all states will normally try to achieve an
equilibrium of power to in a sense create a balance of power by
weakening the power and influence of its opponent.
As Kissinger put it; " If history teaches anything, it is that there can
be no peace without equilibrium and no justice without restraint."
And Kissinger equally believes: " ...no nation could face or even
define its choices without a moral compass that set a course through
the ambiguities of reality and this male sacrifices meaningful ... The
willingness to walk this line marks the difference between the
academic's --- or any outsider's --- perception of morality and that of
According to Kissinger," the outsider thinks in terms of absolutes;
for him right and wrong are defined in their conception. But
Kissinger through his foreign affairs experience has realized that the
politician does not have that luxury. States Kissinger: "He rarely can
reach his goal except in stages and any partial step is inherently
morally imperfect and yet morality cannot be approximated without
In the case of Richelieu, our subject for this study, it was his
determination that the Habsburg Kings of Spain and the Holy Roman
Empire threatened by their actions to overturn the Balance of Power
that had existed in his era; thus, they worked against the national
interests of France whose main desire was to become one of if not
the leading power in Europe. Therefore, Richelieu worked to restore
the old equilibrium that existed in Europe before this attempted
power surge of his neighbors. But as it often happens, one cannot
bring back to its virgin state what has been corrupted.
Consequently, a new European order emerged from Richelieu's
attempt to bring back or preserve the old order.
With this said, it would be best to set the stage for a look at France
in the Seventeenth Century ... Chris Trueman who has taught History
and Politics at a major secondary school in England for at least 26 if
not more years has made every effort to be as unbiased and
objective as possible in presenting the facts and interpreting events
in France as they occurred in the Seventeenth Century Chris
graduated with a BA (Honors) in History from Aberystwyth
University, Wales in 1979 and has since studied at Loughborough
University and gained a MA in management from Brighton University
France in the Seventeenth Century was dominated by its kings;
Henry IV, Louis XIII and Louis XIV. Each weakened the power of the
magnates and expanded royal absolutism at the expense of the
nobility. By the end of the century, France was arguably the major
power of Europe and Louis XIV referred to himself as the Sun King –
such was his prestige.
The creation of an absolutist monarchy in France was dependent on
the personality of the king and the ministers appointed by him to
support him in the work that he did. Sixteenth Century France
witnessed extremes – powerful monarchs such as Francis I and
Henry II who controlled the nobles and weak and ineffectual kings
whose weakness was exploited during the French Wars of Religion.
The Seventeenth Century started with France stable under Henry IV.
His victory in the French Wars of Religion gave him an authority that
had eluded the likes of Charles IX and Henry III. Louis XIII was to
build on this after 1617 as was his son Louis XIV.
Louis XIII inherited a very complex government system. His
predecessors when they wanted to weaken or bypass an institution’
s power, simply created another to duplicate its functions. A forceful
monarch could assert his authority over them all. However, a king
who was a minor could not and the government institutions that had
been controlled by Henry IV suddenly found that after his
assassination, they had the space to assert themselves again. At
nine years of age, Louis was in no position to assert any authority.
At the top of the government was the Royal Council – also known as
the Privy Council or the Council of State. This institution claimed that
it expressed royal will. Only the king could appoint people to it and
normally only princes of the blood (the most senior nobles), senior
prelates and magnates were allowed to join. This institution was too
large and unwieldy to formulate policy. This was done by six men
who were in the Counseil des Affaires.
The Sixteenth Century had seen a decline in the power of the
conciliar committees that had originated to execute royal policy.
This was now done by departments, such as the department of
justice, finance etc. The Chancellor’s Department dealt with the
judiciary and it was also the custodian of the Great Seal to
authenticate government decrees.
The Surintendant dealt with royal finance. The Secretaries of State
led the departments of the navy, army foreign affairs etc.
The so-called Sovereign Courts had an important role in
government. The most important sovereign courts were the
parléments and the most important of these was the Parlément de
Paris. This parlément had the great advantage of having to register
royal edicts to make them valid in areas where they had jurisdiction.
The Parlément de Paris had the added power of the "right of
remonstrance" – this allowed them to remonstrate (complain) over
new laws without fear of punishment from the king. It was this right
that gave the Parlément of Paris its claim to be a political and legal
The Parlement de Paris had a long history and claimed to be the
oldest formal expression of royal will. It recognized the king and
chancellor as being superior – but nobody else. It was always at
odds with the Royal Council. A strong monarch could control the
Parlement de Paris but a minor supported by a regent rarely could. It
was the Parlement de Paris that got the nine year old Louis XIII to
appoint his mother, Marie de Medici, to be regent in 1610. In 1643,
the Parlement de Paris set aside the will of Louis XIII and confirmed
his wife, Anne of Austria, as sole regent – the new king Louis XIV
was only 4.
Could the Parlement de Paris reject a royal edict? The answer is not
really ... It could temporarily delay action on the edict but could not
block it indefinitely. In the process, we note, the potential of the king
in holding a lit-de-justice. This was a public event where the king
ordered the Parlement de Paris to register a decree. Only a strong
king could do this and in the Seventeenth Century, France had three
In 1632, Louis ordered the Royal Council to annul orders of the
Parlement de Paris while he was away campaigning as he believed
that these orders by the Parlement de Paris encroached on his
In 1641, such was the power and status of Louis XIII, that he forced
the Parlement de Paris to register an act that severely curtailed its
right to concern itself with administration, finance and the general
government of France.
In the Twenty-First Century we look at a political map of Europe and
see Nation-States such as Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium,
Luxembourg, Germany Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, Slovakia,
Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Ireland,
Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Spain
and France which are well defined geographically .... Now this
political map at the conclusion of the Hundred Years War in Europe
was vastly different then it is now ... Germany as we know it, was
not then a well-defined nation-state ... Germany was more a
linguistic unit rather than a united political unit . The same can be
said of Italy ... And many of the modern nation-states mentioned
were linked to Monarchial political units which have either
diminished in size or disappeared such is the case of the Holy
In the case of France, at the conclusion of the Hundred Years War
she was more than a geographic expression. She was a political unit
comprising practically all the European territory comprising modern
day France. However, because of religious and longstanding feudal-
like practices, France at the end of the Sixteenth Century and the
beginning of the Seventeenth Century did not have a great voice or
bargaining chip in the European Community of that era. Blocking
France from achieving her rightful place or grandeur was the power
and influence exerted by the Holy Roman Empire and Spain which
formed a vise around France presenting a threat to her fringe border
Of course, when there are no political agreements between nation-
states or any political entity where their frontier border regions end,
conflict will arise. And as we have seen, what border troubles France
had before and after the Hundred Years War had their root cause
from the break-up of the Old Charlemagne Empire into three political
units. And the story line of significance to the point in history that
we are studying has been the failure of one of these units to take
root and prosper. Consequently, the remaining two units positioned
themselves to absorb the territory of the failed political unit creating
new border disputes where their frontiers met.
As we said, in the last part of the sixteenth century and the first part
of the seventeenth century, what France needed and wanted was a
voice in world affairs. And France had a King in Henry IV who
wanted to do just that by working or endeavoring to bring to France
glory and grandeur. Henry IV had hoped to accomplish this by
pursuing an anti-Hapsburg policy. But as it happened, before this
policy could bring substantial success, the King was assassinated.
Thus the government fell into the hands of a nine year old boy Louis
XII; and the regency that was established until the boy King came of
age created a period in France of uncertainty and instability.
The fact was, the French nobility proved resistant to Louis XIII's
Regent, Marie de Medici, his mother and the favorites she
entertained at Court . A key point of contention was the Regent's
reversal of Henry IV's anti-Habsburg policy which threatened a
return to the chaos of the wars of religion which preceded Henry IV.
We must now ask the question: What stand or role did Armand-Jean
du Plessis, Duke de Richelieu play in this period of uncertainly or
instability in France?
As it occurred, Richelieu this early in his career identified himself
with the Pro-Spanish faction and ordered the armies under his
control dispatched against rebellious supporters of the traditional
policy. However, in defense of Richelieu, he also during his first
brief tenure in Office as Secretary for the government had
dispatched a private army led by Henry IV's Protestant commander,
Lesdiguieres, to aid Savoy against Spain.
Richelieu fell from power when the boy King Louis XIII sanctioned
the murder of Marie de Medici's favorite Concini; This, decision,
consequently, allowed Louis's Head of State Charles D’Albert, Duke
de Luynes to purge the Council of State of all supporters of Marie de
Medici. Armand-Jean du Plessis, Duke de Richelieu, of course, being
one such supporter was fortunate to escape with his life.
Louis XIII of France was born in 1601 and died in 1643. Louis was the
son of Henry IV and Marie de Medici. He was king from 1610 on, the
year of his father’s assassination. His monarchy was dominated by
the careers of the Duke de Luynes and Cardinal Richelieu. His
monarchy saw an expansion of absolute monarchical power started
by Louis XI and advanced by the likes of Francis I and Henry II. The
power of the monarchy was weakened during the French Wars of
Religion and Louis wanted to build on the increase in monarchical
power that his father, Henry, had introduced once the war had ended.
Louis became king at the age of nine. Therefore, as a minor, France
was governed by a Regent – in this case, his mother Marie de
Medici. She allowed her favorites, Galigai and Concini, to do as they
wished, thereby discrediting the monarchy after the exalted heights
Henry IV had taken it to.
From 1614 on, Louis became more and more influenced by Charles
D’Albert , Duke de Luynes, who favored an extension of royal
absolutism. Both Luynes and Louis were implicated in the murder of
Concini and the concocted trial that found Galigai guilty of being a
witch, a decision that lead to her execution. Once both former
favorites were out of his way, Luynes used his position to expand
his power, but also the power of Louis.
From 1617 on, France witnessed an expansion of monarchical power
at the expense of the power of the magnates. Marie de Medici was
exiled to a chateau at Blois and kept out of the royal court.
Louis had married at the age of 14. His wife was Anne of Austria, the
Spanish Infanta. It was an arranged marriage (it had been settled as
early as 1611 in the Treaty of Fontainbleau) and it was not a happy
marriage. Louis and Anne spent years living apart, and the birth of
their son, the future Louis XIV, surprised many but was the result of
a rare night spent together. "It was probably out of a sense of duty to
his kingdom." EN Williams
Louis was a mass of contradictions. He came across as modest and
reserved but he could be very cruel and ruthless – as the murder of
Concini indicated. He was a very religious man who sanctioned
murder. He was also a hypochondriac who always believed that he
was ill yet he enjoyed leading his soldiers into battle.
Louis knew that he did not possess the ability to grasp the detail
needed to run his kingdom well – hence his reliance on Luynes and
Richelieu. However, both men were in favor of absolute monarchy
and they formed a formidable team between 1617 and 1643; Luynes
until his death in 1621 and Richelieu until the death of the king in
1643. The final decision on policy always rested with Louis.
While Armand-Jean du Plessis, Duke de Richelieu was in exile as a
servant of Marie de Medici, Charles D’Albert, Duke de Luynes was
the first Minister in a government headed by Louis XIII. Although
Richelieu thought of Luynes as a mediocre and timid character too
weak to withstand the pressure of state, the Cardinal was very
careful to generate a friendship with him shortly before the downfall
of Concini. And perhaps, because of this friendship, when the
Regency was overthrown, Richelieu was allowed to go into exile
instead of being incarcerated. During his stay in exile, Richelieu took
the time to keep in touch with the French government by informing
the King of the Queen-Mother's movements. If Richelieu had
expected to win renewed favor with the King, this did not happen. In
fact, Richelieu's reputation as a clever and ambitious man did not
win or merit him many supporters in the new government.
Therefore, he retired to his Bishopric duties at Lucon, when it
appeared that the door to high position in Paris was closed. Yet
Luynes still had latent suspicions in regard to Richelieu's intentions,
so at a later date, Richelieu was forced to spend months in exile at
Avignon. And as it happened, even at Avignon, Richelieu's spirit and
ambitions were not eradicated, for he still had hope of further
governmental service for France .
Marie de Medici was born in 1573 and died in 1642. Mary was married
to Henry IV and was the mother of Louis XIII. It was during Marie’s
regency, that the magnates and the Huguenots attempted to
reassert themselves after having their power cut by Henry IV.
Once Louis got his majority and came under the influence of
Luynes, Marie’s power had to decrease. The murder of her favorite,
Concini, and the execution of Galigai, Concini’s wife, showed very
clearly the direction Louis and Luynes were taking. Louis exiled his
mother from court which effectively took her out of the politics.
The one chance she had of regaining her power was when Luynes
died in 1621. Louis was left without a chief minister. Still only 20, he
might have panicked over the loss of such an outstanding minister.
However, Luynes was replaced with an even more formidable
opponent – Richelieu – who was as equally supportive of
monarchical absolutism as Luynes had been.
Richelieu wanted Marie back in court and arranged for this to occur
in 1622. Why did he do this? Richelieu believed that if Marie was at
Blois it would be difficult to keep ‘an eye’ on her and she could
create more problems by associating herself with disillusioned
nobles. If she was in the Royal Court she would be easier to control
and less able to associate with angered noblemen as such men
would not be at court.
In return for ending her exile, Marie persuaded Louis to appoint
Richelieu Chief Minister of France, which he did in 1624.
Richelieu and Marie, however, were to clash. She was pro-Spanish
(Marie had been the principal mover behind the arranged marriage
between Louis and Anne of Austria) while Richelieu was the
opposite. Also Richelieu allowed the Huguenots the right of worship
in Languedoc despite defeating them militarily. Marie was a dévot –
an ardent Catholic who believed that the Huguenots deserved no
tolerance whatsoever. Why did Richelieu, a cardinal, show such
tolerance? He wanted France free of internal strife as he believed
that at some time France would have to involve herself in the Thirty
Years War. Any internal problems would distract from this
involvement and possibly undermine it.
Angered by Richelieu’s apparent tolerance of the Huguenots, Marie
plotted against him. She allied herself with Marillac, the Keeper of
the Seals, in an attempt to overthrow Richelieu. The so-called Day of
Dupes (November 10th, 1630) failed and Marie’s involvement
condemned her. Marie was arrested and, in July 1631, exiled to
Compiegne. From here, Marie escaped to the Spanish Netherlands
where she stayed until her death in 1641. The last years of her life
were spent plotting the overthrow of Richelieu – something she
abjectly failed in.
During his time in exile, Richelieu developed many of his great
political concepts. He saw Europe in a different way then it existed
before. He saw a new order wherein the world consisted of a
number of national autonomous states rather than a world of feudal
dynasties. He came to the conclusion that it was necessary to
subordinate a Catholic policy to one which would finally break the
ascendency of Spain in Europe if France was ever going to obtain
international prestige. This idea would perpetually haunt him and
guide his convictions thereafter. As a young man, he was able to
over-ride and subordinate his inner beliefs to the benefit of the idea
of serving the interests of the Catholic Church ; but now that his love
for France had been severely wounded, he associated his
predicament to the diplomacy of Spain. This belief for Richelieu
would solidify, become more entrenched and become unshakeable
the older he got. Consequently, for Richelieu, the best game plan for
France to achieve its national interest would be to break the
Habsburg Ring around France which threatened to thwart and
strangle French power forever. But in exile, Richelieu could do little
to convert his political theories into government policy.
But as it happened, Richelieu would not remain in exile as he was
recalled to the services of the Queen-Mother; and, this service
allowed the Bishop the opportunity to engage and dabble in state
business. For example, in 1619, he achieved the reconciliation of
Marie de Medici and the monarch with the Settlement of Angoulême;
and in 1620, The Peace of Anger was signed after the unsuccessful
expedition of Luynes against Huguenot forces at Porte de Cé. For
his handling of these important agreements in the service of Louis
XIII , Richelieu was elevated to the rank of a Cardinal in the Catholic
Church by Pope Gregory in 1622 upon the recommendation of Louis
Clearly the career of Richelieu was once again on the ascendency
with the career of Charles D’Albert, Duke de Luynes going the
opposite direction. With his defeat at Porte de Cé, Luynes' ministry
soon collapsed as opposition to it became as fierce as it was during
the last days of the regency. But Richelieu would have to await
another day before Louis XIII would give Richelieu Luynes' former
position. As it happened, Richelieu became a member of the French
Council of State in April 1624. But France had to endure the inept
rule of another Ministry and the collapse of its Spanish policy before
the reigns of governance was given to Richelieu.
Charles, Duke de Luynes, was born in March 1578 and died in
December 1621. The Duke de Luynes was the chief minister for the
young Louis XIII and played a key role in early Seventeenth Century
France until his death. Cardinal Richelieu, who has tended to
overshadow the part Luynes played in French history, replaced him
but not immediately.
Luynes was born into a minor aristocratic family – the D’Albert
family. He was educated at the Royal Court where he went into the
service of Louis XIII. Louis was to develop a strong attachment to
the man who was to take on the French magnates who had
threatened Louis during his minority. These magnates wanted to re-
claim old powers that had been successively stripped away by
Francis I and Henry IV and which had been resurrected on occasions
during the French Wars of Religion when the magnates exploited the
In May 1610, Henry IV was assassinated and Louis became king of
France. However, he was just 9 years of age and during his minority,
his mother, Marie de Medici, governed as Regent. During this
regency, Marie struggled to maintain the power of the monarchy
against the Princes of the Blood lead by Henry, Prince de Condé.
During this time, the Huguenots also tried to expand their power in
their "state within a state" in the south and south-west of France.
Both these groups assumed that a regency run by a female would
give them ample opportunity to regain power taken from them by
past kings who were strong enough to curb the power of the
magnates and the Huguenots in the south.
The young Louis was angered at the little attention shown to him by
his mother. Louis was also angered by the fact that his mother had
allowed a lady called Leonora Galigai – Marie’s favorite at court – to
monopolize power within the Royal Court. Galigai’s husband,
Concino Concini, was equally as influential as his wife.
In April 1617, Concini was assassinated. Luynes organized the
murder with the full support of Louis. Marie de Medici, royal mother
or not, was exiled to a chateau at Blois while Galigai was burned as a
witch in July 1617. This event tied Luynes to Louis and vice versa as
both were equally as guilty. After July 1617, Luynes was head of the
government in France and served as a loyal servant to Louis.
Luynes became Governor of Picardy in 1619, Constable of France in
1621 and Keeper of the Seals, also in 1621. Such positions made him
the most powerful civilian in France. They also gave him the
opportunity to make money and when he died aged 43 in 1621, he
had amassed a fortune.
In terms of foreign policy, Luynes could do little as he was to be fully
engaged with internal issues in France itself. However, he did what
he could diplomatically to hinder the Habsburg cause in the very
early years of the Thirty Years War.
In the four years that Luynes had real power in France (1617 to 1621)
he targeted the nobles and the Huguenots. The treatment of Galigai
and Concini had been an obvious statement of intent should any of
the magnates wished to have challenged Luynes. If this is what
happens to the Queen Mother’s favorites
In 1617, the First Estate was invited to an Assembly of Notables at
Rouen. Here, Luynes persuaded the First Estate that they should
make a greater contribution to the nation’s exchequer. Luynes was
well aware that yet more taxation of the poor could provoke
problems. In 1618, Luynes reduced noble pensions and this
provoked a rebellion between 1619 and 1620.
The nobles, lead by the Duke d’Epernon rescued Marie de Medici
from Blois. Why would they do this? The nation needed a figurehead
and Marie fitted this role. But the magnates also believed that if she
regained her old power, she would be easy to manipulate and that
she could be persuaded to restore the magnates’ old privileges. The
Huguenots supported the nobles by rebelling in the south.
The nobles were defeated at the Battle of Ponts-de-Cé in August
1620. Louis then turned on the Huguenots. Luynes had reversed the
quasi-independence the Huguenots had gained under Henry IV in
1617 when he declared that Bearn and Navarre were to be fully
incorporated into the France. Now, with the nobility defeated,
Luynes marched south with the French Army.
In October 1620, the Huguenots were forced to agree to the 1617
decision at a ceremony held in Pau, their capital. After this,
Protestants were treated harshly in what had been a ‘state-within-a-
state’. The Huguenots, under the Duke of Rohan, went onto a war
footing but in June 1621, Louis took the fortress at St Jean-d’Angély
which overlooked the major Huguenot stronghold of La Rochelle.
Luynes attacked the equally important Huguenot base at Mountaban,
Languedoc, in August 1621 but here he caught a fever and died In
December 1621. It was to be Richelieu who was to finish off what
Luynes had started.
Even while still in exile, Richelieu was not without support.
Foremost among the advocates for the return of the future Cardinal
was Father Joseph, the unkempt red-haired Capuchin whose piety
and learning and status as spokesman of his order commanded
general respect in the Court,
Father Joseph (François Leclerc du Tremblay), 1577-1638, French
Capuchin monk, became a confidant and agent of Cardinal Richelieu,
generally known as the Éminence Grise [gray eminence]. Combining
the elements of a mystic and of a Machiavellian politician, he
devoted his life with equal energy to missionary work and to the
shady and delicate diplomatic negotiations with which Richelieu
entrusted him. He dreamed of a crusade against the Turks and of the
restoration of Roman Catholicism throughout Europe, yet he lent his
services to a policy that strengthened Protestantism and the
Ottoman Empire at the expense of the Catholic house of Hapsburg.
Rumors ascribed to him an evil influence over the cardinal. It is
more likely, however, that Father Joseph was a pliable instrument in
the cardinal's hands and that his influence on the events that led to
the entry of France into the Thirty Years War may have been vastly
exaggerated but then, maybe not. Unlike his master, Father Joseph
sought no material rewards
Concerning Father Joseph, it is perhaps correct to say that a purely
religious reason also made him Richelieu's ally against the
Habsburgs. As we stated above , he had a dream of arousing Europe
to another crusade against the Turks, and believed that the house of
Austria was the obstacle to that universal European peace which
would make this possible. Our research supports the case that
Father Joseph had become disillusioned by the collapse or lack of
support for his proposed Holy Crusade against the Turks of which
the Duke of Nevers was to be its leader. The Father, created a new
order called the Christian Militia to serve as soldiers in this new
Crusade to win back the Holy Land. Unfortunately, finding support
for this expedition proved difficult. The fact is, he had approached
the Pope, the Duke of Tuscany, and a number of German princes for
men and supplies. However, in 1618 when the Father was in Spain
on a similar recruiting mission, his plans were suddenly destroyed
by the refusal of Phillip III to allow the recruiting of men on Spanish
soil. Phillip's decision was based on the fact that he had more
interest in the Palatinate then a Holy Crusade against the infidel.
This, of course, is a reversal of phraseology as infidel is normally a
term that adherents of Islam would ascribe to nonbelievers of their
faith. And as it went down, Phillip was unwilling to sacrifice the
national or dynastic interests of the Spanish House of Habsburg for
the super-national or globalist interests of a Holy Crusade. Leaving
Spain empty-handed, the Monk had no choice but cancel plans for
his expedition on the grounds that without Spain, the crusade would
be impractical. What the Father was seeking in launching another
Crusade was a united Christian front and such a front did not exist.
If Father Joseph believed that Spain was a leading nation of Europe
before his visit there, after his visit there he had a change of
viewpoint. Thereafter, the embittered Father turned all his fanatical
powers to the reduction of the Habsburgs. Consequently, he
devoted all of his energies in order to advance the power of France
and raise the stature of Richelieu.
The Father saw dangers in the French alliance with the Habsburg
rulers of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire which resulted in the
marriage of Anne of Austria with Louis XIII. And , the Emperor's
victories in Bohemia and the Palatinate in the first period of the
Thirty Years War as well as Spanish interest in the conquest of the
Dutch, upon the expiration in 1609 of a twelve year neutrality truce
did not allay Father Joseph's fear of enhanced Habsburg hegemony
Upon assuming control of government, Richelieu with the backing of
Father Joseph turned to what he considered to be his most pressing
task. Obsessed by the decline in French International prestige and
grandeur, he gave great attention to war and diplomacy. Through
Father Joseph, Richelieu was acutely aware of the political
significance of the Counter-Reformation ideas combined with the
Spanish schemes in the Netherlands and the Empire. But the other
side of equation also had to be considered by Richelieu. What over-
bearing problems would basing French foreign policy on national
interest create on the home front? A good question considering the
numerous Pro-Spanish Catholics that lived in the Kingdom. And the
answer suggests that basing French foreign policy on national
interest was extremely dangerous for internal conditions were too
unsettled to allow for foreign adventures without provoking a Civil
War by rebellious subjects.
Richelieu noted this internal weakness in a communiqué to the King
which follows: "Physicians hold it for an aphorism than an internal
weakness, however small in itself is more to be feared than an
external injury be it never so large and painful. From this we learn
that we must abandon what is done abroad until we have done what
must be done at home."
Therefore, at this time Richelieu could do little but offer material aid
to the enemies of the Habsburg. The Cardinal only resorted to
military force when the actions of the Habsburg's in Italy threatened
to destroy French national interest beyond repair.
Meanwhile, Father Joseph, As Richelieu's agent, whom can be
likened to as a modern Peter the Hermit maneuvered at the diet of
Regensburg (1630) to thwart the aggression of the emperor, and
then advised the intervention of Gustavus Adolphus, reconciling
himself to the use of Protestant armies by the theory that one poison
would counteract another. Thus the monk became a war minister,
and, though maintaining a personal austerity of life, gave himself up
to diplomacy and politics. He died in 1638, just as the cardinalate
was to be conferred upon him. The story that Richelieu visited him
when on his deathbed and roused the dying man by the words,
"Courage, Father Joseph, we have won Breisach", is apocryphal.
Louis XIII inherited a difficult situation with regards to religion. His
mother, Marie de Medici, was a dévot, an ardent Roman Catholic,
and she must have shaped his beliefs in his formative years. His
father, Henry IV, had been a Huguenot who had converted to the
Roman Catholic Church to bring religious stability to France.
Henry's conversion seemed to have been genuine because as king,
he was very harsh on the Huguenots. They were forbidden from
rebuilding or repairing strongholds damaged in war and he did what
he could to stop Huguenots achieving government positions. Henry
also encouraged Roman Catholic missionaries to go into Huguenot
From 1550 to 1600, the Huguenots had made great gains in France.
The dislocation caused by the French Wars of Religion had given
them an opportunity to make gains. This peaked when Henry IV
became the legitimate king of France. He had been a Huguenot, but
Henry had converted to Roman Catholicism to satisfy 90% of the
Louis attempted to stem the flow of Huguenot expansion. The
Counter-Reformation had made an impact in France and in the early
days of the reign of Louis, the Huguenots developed a defensive
mentality. This was probably because the regency was dominated
by the dévot Marie de Medici. It is also possible that they were very
wary about Galigai and Concini who dominated the royal court – both
were Roman Catholic.
The early Seventeenth Century France also witnessed a better
quality of Roman Catholic clergy. They were now better educated
and the abuses in the Roman Catholic Church that had sparked off
the revolt by Martin Luther were less obvious now.
In 1611, the Oratory had been established by Pierre Berulle. This
order put itself at the disposal of bishops who were in charge of the
education that the clergy received in their see. The laity responded
to the improvement in the Roman Catholic Church clergy and the
number of French people who converted to the Huguenots probably
never exceeded 10% of the population.
The Jesuits also made an impact on the quality of spiritual
leadership given to the laity. Francis I had seen the Jesuits as a
threat to his power in France but under the Regency of Marie and
from 1617 on when Louis XIII had power, the Jesuits made their
mark in France.
In 1604, the Ursulines opened their first convent in France that was
dedicated to educating women.
By the time Louis assumed full power in France, the Roman Catholic
Church was in a much better shape – but that still left the Huguenots.
In 1598, the Edict of Nantes had guaranteed the legal status of the
Huguenots in France and their political rights had been guaranteed
in later acts. Though he helped to formulate Nantes, Henry IV tried
not to keep to its terms.
The Huguenots and the magnates had allied in the early 1600’s. The
magnates saw the move as an opportunity to re-assert themselves
while the Huguenots wanted to re-claim their religious rights. They
formed "circles" in the south and the west of France and each circle
had its own army and military leader. They acted like independent
states and they were a clear threat to Louis XIII and his rule in
Louis had inherited this problem from Henry IV. Henry had promised
Rome, after his conversion to the Roman Catholic faith, that Navarre
and Bearn, the Huguenot strongholds, would return to the Roman
Catholic Church confiscated Catholic property. As the Huguenot
Henry of Navarre, all of this confiscated property belonged to Henry.
After he succeeded as king of France, this property remained with
the crown. Louis XIII inherited them in 1610.
Henry had not carried out his promise to Rome probably because
Navarre and Bearn were too far away to really trouble him. However,
Louis decided that the promise must be kept. In June 1617, a royal
council ordered the restoration of Roman Catholic property in
Navarre and Bearn. Those owners who were affected were to
receive generous financial compensation. However, they refused to
co-operate and Louis XIII decided that he had to enforce his authority
in the two regions.
Why did he decide on this course of action when his father had
appeared less than concerned about the two regions? First, Louis
always felt that he had to prove himself. Possibly because he was ill
so often (at least, so he thought he was), Louis felt that he had to be
as dynamic as his father had been. Second, the number of dévots at
court was growing and he had to satisfy them as well. Third, it is
known that Louis enjoyed leading his army so he may have done it
simply because it gave him the opportunity to be with his army.
By the end of 1619, both Navarre and Bearn had been brought to
heel. But as soon as Louis returned to Paris, trouble started again.
This time Louis showed little mercy. He occupied both areas with a
royal army. Huguenots leaders were forced to leave. Former Roman
Catholic property was handed back to the Catholic Church and
Huguenot cemeteries were vandalized.
These acts horrified the Huguenot community. Those that could met
at an assembly in La Rochelle in November 1620. They were lead by
the Duke of Rohan who planned on a defensive campaign of
survival. The Huguenots owned 100 fortified places and many of the
remaining Huguenot congregations lived near the coast and
Louis took the advice of Luynes who believed that internal security
and stability was needed if France was to embark on a successful
foreign policy. In the spring of 1621, Louis lead a campaign against
Rohan. He was adamant that he did not want a long campaign as he
had ideas for a grand foreign policy to secure for France status she
had not enjoyed for many years.
The campaign was not a success in that the two main towns of the
Huguenots did not surrender. Louis, therefore, agreed to the Peace
of Montpellier in October 1622 which upheld the Treaty of Nantes
(1598). Rohan was pardoned and the Huguenots were allowed to
keep their forts.
The Montpellier agreement was not what Louis wanted. He appeared
weak in that he had not achieved what he had intended to do.
However, far worse for Louis was the death of Luynes who
accompanied the king during the campaign. The Peace of
Montpellier solved nothing and it only delayed another campaign
organized by the formidable Richelieu. This time the days of
Huguenot resistance were numbered.
Cardinal Richelieu was born in 1585 and died in 1642. Richelieu
dominated the history of France from 1624 to his death as Louis XIII’
s chief minister, succeeding Luynes who died in 1621. Richelieu is
considered to be one of the greatest politicians in French history.
Richelieu was the third son of the Lord of Richelieu. He was
educated in Paris at the Collège de Navarre. From here he went to a
military school and then on to the Collège de Calvi where he studied
theology. The plan was for Richelieu to take over the family
bishopric at Luçon in Poitou. In April 1607, after receiving a papal
dispensation as he was only 21, he was ordained as a priest and
How did a man born into a minor noble family and who administered
a small and poor diocese, come to dominate France from 1624 to
Richelieu had huge ambitions to achieve far reaching power. By
1614 had achieved a reputation as a fine administrator in his diocese
and he was considered a very good speaker at the meetings of the
Estates-General. He became known as a dévot (a very strong
supporter of Roman Catholicism) who then held pro-Spanish views.
These were made known to the regent, Marie de Medici, who
rewarded Richelieu by bringing him to the Royal Court in November
1515 where he was appointed Chaplain to the new queen, Anne of
Austria. The royal favorite, Concini, also believed that Richelieu was
talented and had him appointed Secretary of State for War and
When Concini was murdered in 1517, it appeared as if the political
career of Richelieu was over. Marie de Medici was exiled to a
chateau at Blois and Richelieu went with her.
Between 1617 and 1622, Richelieu faded into relative obscurity. The
one avenue he had to the king was, ironically, via Marie's association
with rebellion. Richelieu acted as a go-between when mother and
son fell out over her associations with those who were deemed less
than trustworthy in the royal court.
In 1622, Marie was successfully re-instated at court as a result of
Richelieu's skilled negotiations with Louis XIII. Marie persuaded her
son that Richelieu was a highly skilled politician. None of the
politicians who had replaced Luynes on his death in 1621, proved to
be successful and with France becoming more and more involved at
a non-military level in the Thirty Years War, Louis knew that a long
term replacement for Luynes was needed and in April 1624,
Richelieu was given a seat on the Royal Council and in August 1624,
was made Chief Minister.
Richelieu's time as chief minister is notable for many reasons.
He attacked the Huguenots; reformed the navy and army; crushed
any rebellions and advanced royal absolutism; he raised money by
any methods required and he supervised a foreign policy that was
designed to make France the greatest power in Europe. It was said
that you either liked Richelieu or hated him - there was no half-way.
In November 1642, Richelieu fell ill. He died on the 4th December
1642. His time as Chief Minister had brought untold suffering to the
general population of France but he had pushed the nation on to the
path of glory. Just days before he died, Richelieu wrote to Louis XIII:
"I have the consolation of leaving your kingdom in the highest
degree of glory and of reputation."
Louis XIII died shortly after in May 1643. His son Louis was only 4 so
a regency was formed headed by Anne of Austria, the Queen
Mother, and the Duke of Orleans, the former noble rebel. In Louis’
will, Anne was ordered to work with the ministers appointed by
Richelieu to succeed him so that Richelieu’s policies would
continue. Anne succeeded in forcing the Parlement de Paris to free
her from the restraints of the will and allowed her to rule as she
wished on behalf of her son.
More on Richelieu --- A bright child, Armand-Jean du Plessis studied
theology as a teen and at the young age of 21 was appointed Bishop
of Lucon as stated above. In 1622 he was made a cardinal by Pope
Gregory and from there rose to become head of the Royal Council
and prime minister of France. King Louis XIII was a weak ruler and
Richelieu filled the void, more or less running the empire via his
advice to the king. A clever politician and strategist, Richelieu
expanded royal power, punished dissent harshly, and built France
into a great European power. At the same time he supported the arts
and learning and founded the famous French Academy. Novelist
Alexandre Dumas made Richelieu a crafty villain in his 1844 book
The Three Musketeers, and Richelieu's name has since become
synonymous with political intrigue and ambitious power "behind the
Even before becoming Prime Minister, Richelieu's political views
were well-defined. He had a clear idea of how society should
function. Everyone played a specific role in the system , making
their unique contributions: the clergy through prayer; the nobility
with arms under the control of the king, and the common people
through obedience. Richelieu believed in the divine right of the king,
whose role it was to promote peace and order in society.
Richelieu adhered to the maxim that "the ends justify the means."
Although he devoutly believed in the mission of the Roman Church,
he sought to assign the church a more practical role. Richelieu
argued that the state is above everything, and that religion is a mere
instrument to promote the policies of the state.
When Richelieu rose to power France's King Louis XIII had not
solidified his authority in France. A combination of political
corruption, an independent nobility, and the power of a Protestant
group called the Huguenots, threatened the monarchy's rule. In 1627
Richelieu set out to secure the authority of the crown through force
and political repression. By 1631 he had crushed Huguenot
resistance, severely punished nobles who plotted against the king,
and replaced his enemies in the government. In addition, he
expanded the king's authority in the provinces through the use of
royal agents called intendants.
Richelieu insisted that the king apply the law with severity,
otherwise the state could not survive. He emphasized that rigorous
punishment of even small crimes would forestall greater ones.
Through this reasoning, Richelieu provided his sovereign a rationale
for the harsh rule he knew to be requisite with strengthening and
maintaining the authority of the French State.
Cardinal Richelieu has been admired by many historians for his
intelligence and energy. During his service as prime minister he
helped France become the leading power in Europe. He supported
the French navy and the establishment of French colonies in Africa
and the Caribbean. Richelieu was also a great patron of the arts. He
rebuilt the Sorbonne in Paris, supported promising writers and
founded the French Academy. Many French historians consider
Richelieu as the founder of French unity, as well as the person who
released France from its medieval nature.
Richelieu’s time in office is dominated by his campaign against the
Huguenots, the modernization of the military in France, especially
the navy, and involvement in the Thirty Years Wars.
As an ardent Roman Catholic, Richelieu detested the Huguenots.
However, in his grand scheme to elevate the international status or
France, he was willing to tolerate them as long as they were loyal to
France. Richelieu, in this sense was willing to turn a blind eye to the
Huguenots freedom to worship.
However, the Huguenots did not show loyalty. They were frequently
associated with rebellion and disloyalty and this Richelieu could not
By 1624, when Richelieu was appointed Chief Minister, the
Huguenots had 8 "circles" in the south of France and a commander-
in-chief with an army. They had created provincial assemblies and a
general assembly – they were essentially a republic within a
monarchy! To Richelieu this was a "political monstrosity" which
could not be tolerated. His views were shared by the dévots who
were becoming more and more influential at court. The Huguenots
viewed Richelieu appointment with great concern.
Richelieu worked on the logic that France needed international
respect in Europe. He wanted France to be respected abroad and an
attractive ally which could bring in much needed funds via military
alliances. Any French involvement in European affairs might have
given the Huguenots the freedom to expand in southern France. For
Richelieu wishes to succeed, France needed internal stability and
security. The Huguenots threatened this – hence the need to attack
In 1624, the French became involved with the Spanish in the Thirty
Years War over the Valtelline affair. With the central government so
occupied, the Huguenots took the opportunity to expand their power
base. In 1625, the Huguenots seized the strategically important
islands of Ré and Oléron. Both of these defended the sea entrance
of La Rochelle and thus aided what was considered to be the
Huguenots capital. Such actions, seen as base treachery by
Richelieu could not be tolerated.
Richelieu sent a royal army to tame the Huguenots but in February
1626 he signed the Treaty of La Rochelle. This was a truce inspired
by the English. However, Richelieu viewed the involvement of the
English with concern as this was a Protestant nation seemingly
supporting the Huguenots rebels, as Richelieu would have viewed
The truce only gave the Huguenots more time to build up their
strength. By 1627, they were in open revolt yet again – this time
aided by England. The English sent troops to help the Huguenots.
They had this flexibility as England was not physically involved in
the Thirty Years War. There was public support in England for this as
the French were still seen as England’s traditional enemy
Such actions by the English made firm action by Richelieu
imperative. In 1627, he directed a campaign against the Huguenots
himself. The English, lead by the Duke of Buckingham, were driven
off and out of the area. Richelieu decided to cut off La Rochelle and
starve out the people.
He ordered that a huge mole be built across the harbour at La
Rochelle which made any Huguenot attempt to land supplies
impossible. Royal troops surrounded La Rochelle inland. All
Richelieu had to do was wait. The Huguenots were starved out.
Richelieu then showed his political acumen by letting Louis XIII
enter La Rochelle at the head of his army on November 1st 1628.
Richelieu knew that this would appeal to the king who loved to ‘lead’
his troops. It certainly appealed to his vanity.
Richelieu's tactic had a devastating impact on the Huguenots in La
Rochelle. Before the blockade, the city's population stood at 25,000.
After it was lifted, only 5000 remained alive and many of these
people were in a very weak state. Richelieu insisted on
unconditional surrender but was generous in victory.
In June 1629, the Grace of Alais was signed. This reaffirmed the
Edict of Nantes but ordered that the Huguenot military organization
should be broken up, Huguenot fortresses should be destroyed and
Roman Catholicism should be restored to areas where it had
formally existed between the Edict of Nantes and Alais. The political
rights of the Huguenots were removed and the government no
longer made money available to educate and support Protestant
clergy. However, all the La Rochelle survivors could have been
accused of treason and executed – so the Grace of Alais was seen
To all intents, the state-within-a-state ended. The success against
the Huguenots did a great deal to establish Richelieu in the eyes of
all those involved in central government. Any other region in France
that might have dallied with seeking greater freedom from central
authority, now had an example of what could happen to you if you
dared to challenge Richelieu. It also showed to any magnate what
would happen to them if they dared to repeat their disloyalty to
Louis XIII as was seen in the early years of his reign.
Cardinal Richelieu was a strong believer in the power of the crown -
as had been his predecessor the Duke de Luynes. Richelieu served
his master - Louis XIII - well and did much to make Seventeenth
Century France a classic example of the expansion of royal
absolutism at the expense of noble power.
With the success against the Huguenots behind Richelieu, and the
increase in the status it gave him, Richelieu set about expanding
royal power. The equation was very simple. If the power of the
crown was expanded, the power of the magnates had to decrease.
Also, any successful dealings against the magnates, would increase
the power of Richelieu.
By 1630, Richelieu dominated the Royal Court though Louis XIII
always insisted on the final say with regards to final policy decisions
- as befitted their relationship. Those who ran the administration
were handpicked by Richelieu, and they were chosen for their ability
not their family background. As a result of this, the senior nobility
was excluded from these important positions. This created
resentment and the senior nobility gathered around the Duke of
Orleans, the king’s uncle, and the Queen Mother, Marie de Medici.
Both of these people wanted Richelieu removed from office.
Curiously, Anne of Austria, the wife of Louis, blamed Richelieu for
her unhappy marriage and also wanted him out (even though she
had married in 1615 when Richelieu had no political power!).
However, Richelieu had one huge advantage over all his enemies –
the support of Louis XIII. Orleans and Marie de Medici played a
dangerous game in which there was no alternative but to succeed as
Richelieu dealt with known opponents with extreme ruthlessness.
The first major conspiracy Richelieu had to deal with was in 1626 and
was known as the Chalais Conspiracy.
This involved the Princes of the Blood (the Vendômes, Louis XIII’s
two bastard half-brothers, his cousins Condé and Soissons, and his
wife, Anne of Austria) and court magnates (the widow of Luynes, the
Duchess of Chevreuse and her lover the Count of Chalais, who was
Master of the Wardrobe to the king). Their plan was to kill Richelieu,
depose Louis XIII and then share out power amongst themselves.
This plot failed to recognize one issue – Richelieu had built up a
superb spy system. The plot was quickly uncovered but it left
Richelieu with a problem. What was he going to do?
Such disloyalty had to be punished but how? Some of those
involved were very senior nobles and there could be repercussions.
Richelieu decided to execute the minor nobles such as Chalais, put
in prison some of the important nobility and exile Chevreuse. What
of the most important nobleman, Orleans?
He was brought into the Royal Council by Richelieu when he could
have expected prison and property confiscation at the least.
However, Richelieu believed that it was better to bring him in to the
government rather than punish him and make him grateful to
Richelieu for sparing him from the executioner. Richelieu also used
his relationship with Louis to bring some form of reconciliation
between the king and Anne.
To show the nobility who was in charge, Richelieu also ordered the
beheading of the Count of Bouteville for dueling. This had been
banned by Richelieu and Bouteville had deliberately challenged
Richelieu decision. Bouteville was executed outside of Richelieu’s
window in 1627 having rejected all pleas for clemency.
A far greater challenge came with the so-called Day of Dupes (1630)
and the Montmorency Affair (1632).
When Richelieu became chief minister in 1624, he was very aware
that the navy of France was weak. This became even more apparent
during his campaign against the Huguenots when Louis XIII was not
able to put one warship into the English Channel or the Atlantic.
During Richelieu’s campaign against the Huguenots, France had to
borrow boats to transport their troops and supplies. With Europe
engulfed in the Thirty Years War, such weakness was unacceptable
Part of French history meant that France had two noblemen titled the
Admiral of the Channel and the Admiral of the Atlantic. But this was
not an indication of the naval power that France possessed – they
were merely inherited titles and more important for status rather
than anything else. Ironically, one of the holders of one of these
titles was Soubise who fought against Richelieu in La Rochelle and
was a rebel against the authority of Louis XIII!
Richelieu also worked off of the logic that a major European power
needed a navy to survive and to protect any expanding merchant
In 1626, Richelieu appointed himself as Grandmaster, Chief and
Superintendant General of Navigation and Commerce. In the
following year he abolished the office of admiral and in the
Ordonnance de la Marine, he put all coastal land under the direct
control of the central government.
In 1629, Richelieu decided that France needed a proper and modern
navy. An edict was issued to this effect and by 1636, France had a
navy of nearly 40 ships.
Richelieu had a dislike of the Spanish despite Spain being Roman
Catholic. In his early days at court he had found favor with Marie de
Medici as a pro-Spanish man but now he viewed the border with
Spain as a potential weak spot and he used the new navy of France
to attack Spanish shipping and to harass the Spanish colonies. In
1638, France defeated the Spanish at Fuentarrabia in what was their
first major sea battle.
The navy, as well as protecting France, was meant to encourage
overseas trade now that shipping could be sufficiently protected.
Overseas trade was making both England and the United Provinces
a great deal of money and Richelieu wanted a cut of this. In 1627,
Richelieu had decreed that all French trade had to be carried in a
French ship and that the use of foreign ships was to be kept to a
In 1629, nobles were encouraged to participate in foreign trade by a
guarantee by the king that they would lose any of their social status
if they did get involved. The government also protected domestic
industries so that those with spare capital would be willing to risk it
in overseas ventures.
To promote the establishment of overseas colonies, Richelieu
created the Company of New France in 1628 which encouraged
settlement in French Canada. The government gave its backing to
the French West India Company as well.
What did all this achieve?
In 1629, Richelieu concluded a treaty with Denmark, which allowed
French merchant ships to round the Sound at a lower toll than the
rest of Europe thus opening up the Hanseatic League for French
trade. BY 1631, 70 French ships were trading with the area; in 1628,
there had been none!
What happened to colonial enterprises?
They were too disorganized to be successful and Spain was a
constant problem to France in areas in or near the West Indies –
though the French settled Guadeloupe in 1635.
Developments in the navy may have been better if Richelieu had not
been too occupied with the Thirty Years War. This war tied down
both money and men, which could have been invested in an
expanding navy. With little investment in the navy, Richelieu also
failed to build on the colonies France acquired.
Richelieu and the French Army
Richelieu knew that France had a weak army and that power in
Europe was measured by your military capability and status.
Richelieu also knew that a powerful army greatly assisted his drive
for absolute rule for his master - Louis XIII. Richelieu also knew that
at some stage France would have to get involved with the Thirty
Richelieu used some of the money his financial policies had
collected to modernize the army of France. The task for doing this
was left to Fracois Sublet de Noyers, though he remained closely
supervised by Richelieu.
The ‘new’ army did participate in the Thirty Years War with mixed
results. However, both in navy and army, France was a lot stronger
in 1642, the year of Richelieu’s death.
Cardinal Richelieu had a simple philosophy with regards to money
and finance. If his master, Louis XIII, needed money, the people of
France had to pay for it. Richelieu also wanted to develop a more
robust foreign policy and he got France involved in the Thirty Years
War and this cost France a great deal. He, with the support of Louis
XIII, wanted to expand and modernize the French Navy. All this cost
Richelieu had a desire to see France as a major European power. A
power vacuum was developing with the Thirty Years War; the Holy
Roman Empire appeared to be imploding and Sweden under
Gustavus Adolphus appeared to be the rising European power. The
overseas power France had was minimal. She had no colonial power
to speak of, therefore all finance had to come from France internally.
In 1621, on the death of Luynes, Marillac was in charge of finance. He
had attacked the privileges the nobility had regarding finance.
Corruption was endemic at regional and local level.
Many regions in France had what was known as pays d’état status.
This meant that they themselves stated what their tax burden was
and paid accordingly. This was considered to be a huge privilege
and one which local nobles were very keen to keep as it allowed
them to control their own tax destiny.
The less attractive alternative to this status was pays d’élection
where Paris told a region/area how much they were going to pay and
they had to provide that sum and nothing less. This system took
financial freedom away from the regions and placed it directly in the
hands of those who controlled the Treasury in Paris.
Marillac wanted to make all areas pays d’élection. This would have
given Paris far greater control over the regions and would have been
a major extension of royal power. When Richelieu took over from
Marillac after he was removed from office after the Day of Dupes
affair, logic dictates that he would have supported and implemented
what Marillac wanted especially as he was a keen supporter of royal
In fact, Richelieu decided not to pursue the same line as Marillac and
he ended any plans to convert any area’s status. With his success
against the Huguenots and his treatment of La Rochelle, Richelieu
could have easily brought the regions to heel and put into place
Instead he continued with the same system allowing some regions
to effectively pay what they wanted to pay in tax. It is believed that
Richelieu’s plan was to use a ‘carrot and stick’ approach. Regions
could keep their status as long as they were loyal to the king, Louis
XIII. If they were not loyal, they would lose their pay d’état status.
Therefore, there was a great incentive for them not to be disloyal to
Louis. Therefore, it can be argued that Richelieu’s approach was an
extension of royal absolutism and it put the onus of loyal behavior
fully on the regions. Therefore, for good financial reasons, the
nobles needed to be loyal.
Richelieu relied for revenue on the Taille. He simply ordered that
any required finance should be met with an increase in this tax.
Between 1626 and 1636, the Taille was increased by nearly 100%. In
the same period of time, the Gazelle was doubled. This approach put
a huge burden on those who could least afford to pay it – the poor.
Despite all of this, and the continued sale of offices, the Treasury
never had enough money. In 1633 and 1639, Richelieu was warned
that he was pushing France towards civil war as the poor were being
pushed to the financial limit.
Richelieu’s response was to appoint more and more Intendants to
ensure that all taxes were collected and that corruption was kept to a
minimum. Richelieu himself took control over Brittany. The
Intendants found out that some local nobles were encouraging
peasants in their region not to pay tax as they feared a local
rebellion against any source of local authority; i.e. the local nobles.
These nobles could have been sent to prison without trial if the king
issued a lettres de cachet.
In 1629, Intendants were given the right to override local authorities
and communicate directly with the Royal Council. This was forced
through the parléments by a lit de justice whereby the king could
force through legislation he wanted. This development was a severe
blow to local autonomy. Richelieu also simply duplicated the offices
of those he believed did not fully support him. These were sold to
the highest bidder but only to people who were trusted by Richelieu.
In February 1641, a law was brought in which allowed the Parlement
de Paris two remonstrances before a new tax law was introduced.
This allowed the Parlement de Paris to voice its views twice, but
their stance could only delay a tax law not change it. The Parlement
de Paris was only allowed to discuss affairs of state with permission
which invariably had to come from Richelieu.
Richelieu attempted to win some form of public favor by producing a
newspaper called the "Gazette" which explained government
actions. However, those most affected by new taxes were also the
ones who were predominantly illiterate. The nouveau riche who
were literate were the ones with the greatest opportunities to avoid
Richelieu’s financial stance was symbolic of the centralized power
he had accrued. Soldiers were made available to assist the
Intendants if they needed them and local nobles were put under
intense pressure to assist them. While some local nobles may have
encouraged non-payment of tax, the majority preferred to side with
the government as they were more fearful of the masses than they
were of Richelieu. Because of this, the Intendants frequently found
that they received more help than obstacles from the lower nobles.
The increasing tax demands on the poor took their toll. In the spring
of 1636, a peasant rebellion took place in Angoulême. It spread to a
quarter of France before being put down by troops who should have
been involved in the Thirty Years War
In the summer of 1639 another revolt took place in Normandy. This
was called the Va-nu-pieds rebellion. Its immediate cause was the
introduction of a tax on salt. Salt was used for many purposes by the
poor and such a tax pushed their tolerance over the limit. The
peasants were lead by the local gentry who resented both the
government’s massive demands from the people of Normandy and
also the ever growing power that central government seemed to
have at the expense of their authority. 20,000 rebelled and rampaged
through Normandy. The city of Rouen was at the heart of the
A royal army lead by Seguier was sent to the region in January 1640
and was used to restore the peace. Unlike Richelieu’s treatment of
the Huguenots in the Grace of Alais, there was no mercy shown to
the Normandy rebels. Mass executions took place and martial law
was introduced. Normal provincial and local organs of government
were suspended and Normandy was treated like an occupied
Despite these clear warnings regarding the anger of the peasants,
Richelieu maintained his fiscal policy – if the king needed money, he
Whereas Part 1 developed Richelieu's rise to power and his political
thoughts, Part II will be a study of Armand-Jean du Plessis, Duke de
Richelieu attacks indirectly or directly on the Habsburg Dynasties of
both Span and the Holy Roman Empire during the Thirty Years War
The Thirty Years War was the product of religious and political
controversies which disturbed the German Speaking World for a
century. In 1618 a Civil War broke out in Bohemia. It began as a
religious and constitutional war between Catholics and Protestants
when, during the course of negotiations, Emperor Ferdinand II's
ambassadors to Bohemia were hurled out of a window in Prague.
They were not hurt that much, but their pride was hurt when a pile of
human and animal dung provided them with a fragrant and perhaps
messy soft landing ... A event known in history as the defenestration
of Prague.... And of course, things only got worse when the
Bohemians attempted to depose or fire the Catholic Ferdinand II as
King and replaced him with a Protestant, the Elector Frederick of the
Palatinate, who was a relative of James I of England. But unfortunate
for Frederick, he suffered a major military defeat at the Battle of
Weissenberg (White Mountain) in 1620.
The Thirty Years War raged for a number years with France playing
the role of a noncombatant, a bystander who refused to allow itself
to be drawn into the battle but was tempted to provide certain
combatants with arms and supplies to make life more difficult for
other combatants whose success could thwart the national interest
of the French nation. Richelieu , indeed had to be careful on this
manner as divisions at home would make it more difficult for him to
carry out a policy of drawing together the potential enemies of
Habsburg power. Obviously, Richelieu's motive was not to promote
Protestant victory, his objective was to create conditions that would
lead to Habsburg defeat.
James I of England had hoped to bring about an alliance with Spain
through the marriage of his son Charles, the Prince of Wales, and the
Spanish Infanta Mary Anne. However, when negotiation between the
nations were broken off because of the religious issue, Richelieu
was presented his first opportunity to throw a broadside at Spanish
Imperial power. In Richelieu's view, the marriage of Henry IV's
daughter Henrietta Maria with the Prince of Wales was an essential
ingredient to enhance the greatness of the French Crown and
France. With this in mind, he agreed to meet with James I's envoys
at Paris , the Earle of Carlisle and Lord Holland, with the same
proposition. Richelieu was wily enough not to make the same
mistakes as Spain had made. Richelieu, confided himself to
demanding in a general way that, in the matter of religion, the King
of England should grant all the concessions he would have given to
the King of Spain for the hand of Henrietta Maria. Did this approach
work? Indeed it did as James I's Private Secretary, James Howell
quipped: "In less than nine moons this great was proposed,
prosecuted and accomplished, whereas the sun might, for many
years, have run its course from one extremity of the zodiac to the
other before the court of Spain would have arrived at any resolution
and conclusion." And for Richelieu, the marriage between Henrietta
Maria and the future English King Charles I, which he negotiated and
concluded, was his open declaration of fact that a nation whether
Catholic or Protestant should never subordinate its national interests
to its faith.
Cardinal Richelieu had one simple foreign policy aim - to fight for
France's interests by whatever measures were needed. As a loyal
servant to Louis XIII, Richelieu wanted France to be the dominant
power in Europe and give Louis the status Richelieu felt he
deserved. When deciding foreign policy and what was best for
France, Richelieu took little notice of religious considerations. His
time in power saw him, a Cardinal, ally with Protestant Sweden in
the Thirty Years War and act as a bulwark against Catholic Spain. He
was against Habsburg encirclement, yet the Holy Roman Emperor
was still technically the temporal defender of the Catholic Church.
For him, politics were a separate entity from religion. What Richelieu
wanted for France, he got regardless of such issues as religion.
France and Northern Italy:
However, Richelieu's plans for European domination were
dependant on one thing - peace and stability at home. In 1624-25, he
sent French troops to support the Grisons in their fight against the
Austrians and to hinder the Spanish who were using the Valtelline to
move troops south to north across Europe. these Spanish troops
moved far too near to the French border for Richelieu's liking - so
any opportunity to harass them was taken. However, the Huguenot
revolt at La Rochelle in 1625, forced Richelieu to call back French
troops and this campaign came to an end due to internal problems.
This was a trend that was to tie the hands of Richelieu.
Once the Grace of Alais ended the Huguenot issue, Richelieu could
concentrate on northern Italy. In 1629, France had conquered Savoy
and one year later, France captured Pinerolo in Piedmont. In the
favorable Treaty of Cherasco of 1631, France kept the strategically
important Pinerolo. By keeping Pinerolo, Richelieu committed
France to a long term campaign as the Spanish would not tolerate a
French presence in northern Italy for long and the area had to be
patrolled by French soldiers. Richelieu wrote to Louis XIII:
(Give) up all thought of rest, or economizing, and of putting right the
internal affairs of the kingdom."
Richelieu's siding against the Spanish lead to his final clash with the
dévot Marie de Medici. However, any input into northern Italy by
France after 1631 was not successful. First the main and important
part of the war took place in Germany; by the mid-1630's, northern
Italy had ceased to be as important as it was. In 1635, the French
took control of the Valtelline but the Spanish regained it in 1637. In
September 1640, the French took Turin but by that date, it was a
However, the campaign in north Italy does show how Richelieu's
mind worked. The man who lead the French to victory in 1635 was
Rohan - the Huguenot leader who had lead the rebellion against the
government at La Rochelle!
France and Germany:
Richelieu's preoccupation with northern Italy meant that any French
involvement in Germany was kept to a diplomatic and financial level
up to 1635. Richelieu must have also known that most armies
fighting in central Europe were of a much higher quality than the
Spanish armies in northern Italy. Richelieu knew that the French
army was not yet ready for a campaign in central Europe. Most of the
armies fighting in the Thirty Years War had had a number of years
experience in modern fighting techniques. France did not.
Again, in his dealings in central Europe, Richelieu showed that
religion was not a barrier. In the war against Spain and Austria, he
allied Catholic France with Protestant Holland in 1624. Just one year
later the Huguenots in La Rochelle were to be in all out rebellion
against Richelieu's government but the alliance with Holland stood
France also played a central part in the formulation of a coalition that
included Denmark, Holland, England and Frederick of the Palatinate
who allied against the might of the Holy Roman Emperor. All were
However, Richelieu's most important contribution was to ally to a
state in which it was illegal to be a Catholic - Sweden. In the Treaty
of Altmark (1629), Richelieu negotiated the end of war between
Sweden and Poland. In 1631, Sweden and France signed the Treaty
of Bärwalde by which Sweden would keep an army in Germany that
would be financed by France. The decided amount was 400,000
thaler a year for five years. Sweden's military impact in Europe
during the Thirty Years War ensured Gustavus Adolphus a place in
As the war progressed, Richelieu built up a large network of allies
that was to include the Electors of Bavaria, Trier and Cologne, Murad
IV (Sultan of Turkey), and on occasions Pope Urban VIII. Though this
seems like an impressive list, it was extremely hard for Richelieu to
manage it. Simple distance and communication problems made his
task all but impossible and it also excluded disloyalty and those
prepared to offer their services elsewhere if they felt that the money
was better! Probably the most difficult ally Richelieu had was
Gustavus of Sweden. His sweep through to the south-west of
Germany (against the wishes of Richelieu) forced Maximillian of
Bavaria back to the side of the Emperor after Richelieu had spent
time cultivating his friendship. The death of Gustavus in 1632 ended
Oxenstierna formulated the League of Heilbronn after the death of
Gustavus. However, it was Richelieu who influenced it not
Oxenstierna and French subsidies were paid into the League's
coffers and not to Sweden. However, the defeat of Sweden at the
Battle of Nördlingen in 1634, gave Richelieu no alternative but to
militarily involve France as there was no other alternate 'power' who
could do the same. However, in 1635, France was not ready for war
so Richelieu tried to achieve success at a diplomatic level while his
military was being developed.
Richelieu renewed his alliance with Holland for a joint attack on the
Spanish Netherlands. The alliance with Sweden was renewed for
another three years. Richelieu rallied Savoy, Parma and Mantua into
an alliance to attack Milan in July 1635. He took under his wing
Bernard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, the successful military commander
of the Swedish army. But for all this activity, France was not safe.
In 1636, an Austrian army marched into Burgundy and Franche
Comté. A Spanish army based in the Spanish Netherlands invaded
France and got as far as Corbie near the cathedral city of Amiens.
The people of Paris panicked as they were only 50 miles away but
both Louis XIII and Richelieu held firm and maintained some form of
stability in the city. Probably military logic told them that the Spanish
army was hopelessly overstretched at Corbie and that it would have
to retreat. They were right.
By 1637, the small but modern French army was ready to take to the
field. Its two principal commanders were Turenne and d'Enghien.
The Dutch attacked the Spanish from the north in the Spanish
Netherlands, while the French attacked from the south. The region of
Artois had been captured by 1640. The Spanish army was severely
beaten by a French army at Rocroi in 1643 - just 5 months after the
death of Richelieu.
In 1638, Bernard of Saxe-Weimar took Breisach. This was an
important city to take as it was the gateway the French needed to
get into Germany. It also cut in half the Spanish Road so Spanish
troops in the Spanish Netherlands could not be supplied by land and
a sea supply route was fraught with danger. In 1639 Bernard died.
Ironically, this proved useful to Richelieu as Bernard had become
more and more difficult to control as he became more successful.
Richelieu bought Bernard's army and the land which it had occupied!
In 1638, Richelieu signed the Treaty of Hamburg with Sweden which
gave Sweden a subsidy of 1 million livres a year to help pay for a
campaign in Germany. With this in hand, the French and Swedes
made deep inroads into Germany.
The final years of the Thirty Years War were non-conclusive and for
good reasons the Peace of Westphalia was known as the 'Peace of
With Spain, Richelieu had to ward off a Spanish invasion via the
Pyrenees. Once this was done, France invaded Spain though with no
success. Just before Richelieu's death, the French captured
Roussillon, a Spanish province north of the Pyrenees but an attack
on Catalonia was unsuccessful.
By his death, Richelieu had all but removed the threat of the
Spanish; he had been responsible for creating a modernized army
and navy and France had captured strategic cities in western
Europe. Richelieu had done what he had intended to do - make
France a serious 'player' in European affairs, a nation to be reckoned
Please note --- the marriage alliance between England and France
did not prevent England from thwarting French interests for Charles I
fell captive to the daring caprices of his favorite Buckingham and the
religious or political emotions of the English people. Indeed from the
outset, Charles failed to live up to the provisions of the treaty by his
dismissal of Henrietta Maria's French servants. And in due course,
hostilities between the merchant marines of both nations laid the
ground work for open war... As it happened open war did break out
when Buckingham led a disastrous expedition against the French at
the Isle of Ré in defense of the Huguenots... Richelieu, of course,
became very upset at this English twin provocation of violating both
the marriage treaty and its meddlesome interference with France's
Huguenot internal problem. So when Charles found himself in
difficult straits with the English people, and needed the help of the
French, Richelieu elected to uphold the treaty by not interfering in
English internal affairs. What did Buddy Ryan, the former
Philadelphia Eagles Football Coach once say: " Revenge is sweet,
what comes around will come around again.
To put it distinctly , Armand-Jean du Plessis, Duke de Richelieu
was a Cardinal; French statesman, born in Paris, September 5, 585;
died . there December 4,1642. At first he intended to follow a military
career, but when, in 1605, his brother Alfred resigned the Bishopric
of Luçon and retired to the Grande Chartreuse, Richelieu obtained
the see from Henry IV and withdrew to the country to take up his
theological studies under the direction of Bishop Cospéan of Aire.
He was consecrated bishop on April 17, 1607; he was not yet twenty-
two years old, although the Brief of Paul V dated December 19,
1606, announcing his appointment contains the statement: "in
vigesimo tertio aetatis anno tantum constitutus". Mgr. Lacroix, the
historian of Richelieu's youth, believes that in a journey made to
Rome at the end of 1606, Richelieu deceived the pope as to his age,
but the incident is still obscure. In his diocese, Richelieu showed
great zeal for the conversion of Protestants and appointed the
Oratorians and the Capuchins to give missions in all the parishes.
Richelieu represented the clergy of Poitou in the States General of
1614, where his political career began. There he was the mouth-
piece of the Church, and in a celebrated discourse demanded that
bishops and prelates be summoned to the royal councils, that the
distribution of ecclesiastical benefices to the laity be forbidden, that
the Church be exempt from taxation, that Protestants who usurped
churches or had their coreligionists interred in them be punished,
and that the Decrees of the Council of Trent be promulgated
throughout France. He ended by assuring the young king Louis XIII
that the desire of the clergy was to have the royal power so assured
that it might be "comme un ferme rocher qui brise tout ce qui
gheurte" (as a firm rock which crushes all that opposes it).
Richelieu was named secretary of state on 30 November, 1616, but
after the assassination of Concini, favorite of Maria de' Medici, he
was forced to leave the ministry and follow the queen mother to
Blois. To escape the political intrigues which pursued him he retired
in June, 1617, to the priory of Coussay and, during this time of
leisure caused by his disgrace, published in October, 1617 (date
confirmed by Mgr. Lacroix), his "Les principaux points de la foi de
l'église catholique, défendus contre l'éecrit adressé au Roi par les
quartre ministres de Charenton"; it was upon reading this book half
a century later that Jacques de Coras, a Protestant pastor of
Tonneins, was converted to Catholicism. Richelieu continued to be
represented to the king as an enemy to his power; the Capuchin,
Leclerc du Tremblay, never succeeded in completely clearing him in
Louis XIII's opinion. To disarm suspicion Richelieu asked the king to
name a place of exile, and at his order went in 1618 to Avignon,
where he passed nearly a year and where he composed a catechism
which became famous under the name of "Instruction du chrétien".
This book, destined to be read in every parish each Sunday at the
sermon, was a real blessing at a time when ignorance of religion
was the principal evil. When Maria de' Medici escaped from Blois in
1619, Richelieu was chosen by the minister Luynes to negotiate for
peace between Louis XIII and his mother. By Brief of November 3,
1622, he was created cardinal by Gregory XV. On April 19, 1624, he
re-entered the Council of Ministers, and on August 12, 1624, was
made its president. Richelieu's policy can be reduced to two
principal ideas: the domestic unification of France and opposition to
the House of Austria. At home he had to contend with constant
conspiracies in which Maria de' Medici, Queen Anne of Austria,
Gaston d'Orléans (the king's brother), and the highest nobles of the
court were involved. The executions of Marillac (1632),
Montmorency (1632), Cinq-Mars and of de Thou (1642) intimidated
the enemies of the cardinal. He had also to contend with the
Protestants who were forming a state within the state . The
capitulation of La Rochelle and the peace of Alais (28 June, 1629)
annihilated Protestantism as a political party.
Richelieu in his attack against the Habsburg's offered subsidies to
the Dutch and to the King of Denmark to take up the Protestant
cause in Germany. The Dutch always were eager to take a swipe at
her natural enemies, but the lack of finance prevented her from
undertaking such action. Therefore, the Dutch readily accepted
Richelieu's offer of financial aid. On the question of Val Telline,
Richelieu preferred to use direct intervention.
Val Telline is a lovely and fertile valley which extends from the Lake
of Como to the Tyrol and due to its location serves as a natural
passage from Italy into Switzerland or vice v versa. Troubles in the
Val Telline had for many years produced friction between France
and Spain. The Griscons, a Swiss Protestant Confederation, captured
control of the Val Telline district wherein the population was
primarily Catholic. In relations with France, the Griscons granted the
French the right to transport their troops through the Val Telline
territory into Italy. In return, the French guaranteed to insure the
status quo and independence of the Grisons. Eventually, the Grisons
extended their pacts to include Venice and Spain. Spain naturally
was interested in the Val Telline passage for she wanted a passage
through the Alps to establish a logistics base where men an supplies
could be easily moved into Germany and the Low Countries. But as
it developed, the Grisons in their eagerness to extend to the Spanish
and the Venetians what privileges they extended to the French in an
earlier agreement actually embroiled Val Telline into conflict . A
conflict they did not want any part of, but their failure to realize that
the Catholic majority in the Val Telline with Spanish support actually
engaged in constant battle against the very same Protestants
supported by the Grisons in the hope that they could regain control
of the government.
The Protestants were able to sustain this initial Catholic offense; but
in July 1620, the Catholics aided by the Duke of Feria subdued the
Protestants. As would be expected, the Grisons came to the rescue
as well as Zurich but were also beaten by the Spanish who preceded
to occupy the territory.
Now in France, the Spanish occupation of the Val Telline did not sit
well and put the nation in a crisis mode as the before said action
would complete the encirclement of France by the Habsburgs/ It
would also enable the Spanish armies under Spinola to pass easily
Venice and the Grisons urged the King of France and his ministers
to intervene. However, at this time Luynes was not in the position to
aid the Griscons for he was engaged in combat against the
Huguenots. All he could hope to do was to lodge a protest against
Spanish aggression. By 1622 Spain achieved by treaty the guarantee
to send its troops freely through the Val Telline passage.
Richelieu upon coming to power in 1624 felt that the Val Telline was
indeed an important strategic site. Therefore, he was very much
displeased over Spanish troop movements there for he realized that
the pass not only could be used by Spain as a communication link
with Germany but it also was a pass through which the French could
launch attacks on Milan. Richelieu wrote in his Political Testament:
"Italy is considered as the heart of the world and, to tell the truth, it
is that which the Spanish put the most into their Empire. It is the
place in which they feared the most attack and trouble, and path that
is most easy to transport on them some notable advantage."
Because of the area's importance to France, Richelieu threatened to
intervene or interfere on the behalf of the Grisons. As strategy, to
counteract this threat, the Spanish placed the Val Telline and its forts
temporarily in the hands of the Pope. Urban VIII, quite certainly, was
aware of the danger that Spanish power in Italy presented, but in the
case of Val Telline, he formulated his political response on religious
principle. Since the majority of the people in Val Telline were
Catholics and as such devoted to him, the Vicar of Christ on Earth,
while the Grisons were Protestants , second class Christians who
were in rebellion against the Universal Catholic Church, it was a no-
brainer who the Pope would support. For Richelieu, however, it was
important to show in his nascent military action that even though he
was a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, a Prince of the Church
to say it in another way, he was also the Chief minister of the French
State and as such needed to be the Spokesman for the French State
not the Church. If the interests of the France and the Church were
not the same, Richelieu wouldn't establish policy reconciled with the
that of the Pope's just for religious reasons alone. As it occurred in
the latter part of 1624 French troops in unison with the Duke of
Savoy and the Republic of Venice attacked the weak garrison of the
Val Telline and in a few days were in complete control of the
In response to this outrage, the Pope sent his nephew, Cardinal
Barberini, to Paris to raise a diplomatic protest over French
aggression and to propose that the Val Telline be transferred from
Griscons to Spanish control. In response, Richelieu refused to grant
the papal legate satisfaction on the pretext: " The precedent and
consequences of it would be perilous for Kings in whose dominions
it had pleased God to permit diversity of religion."
The position of Richelieu appears not to be a lone voice in France, as
the Assembly of Notables met in 1625 and authorized Louis XIII and
the Cardinal to continue their undeclared war activities in Italy
against Spain. At the same time, the Duke of Savoy, France's ally in
this undeclared war, with a highly trained army overran the City-
State of Genoa the chief port and banking center used by Spain in
We said earlier in our study of Richelieu that France, at the
conclusion of the Hundred Years War was more than a geographic
expression. She was a political unit comprising practically all the
European territory comprising modern day France. That certainly
was not the case of Italy in the same time period we are studying.
Italy may have been a geographic expression that we are using, but
politically it was divided up into numerous Papal and City-States
each vying for control of the peninsula. And the same could be said
of Germany, it was a geographic expression with diverse political
units seeking their time in the sun.
Richelieu's foreign policy (for which see LECLERC DU TREMBLAY)
was characterized by his fearlessness in making alliances with the
foreign Protestants. At various times the Protestants of the Grisons,
Sweden, the Protestant Princes of Germany, and Bernard of Saxe-
Weimar were his allies. The favorable treaties signed by Mazarin
were the result of Richelieu's policy of Protestant alliances, a policy
which was severely censured by a number of Catholics. At the end
of 1625, when Richelieu was preparing to give back Valteline to the
Protestant Grisons, the partisans of Spain called him "Cardinal of the
Huguenots", and two pamphlets, attributed to the Jesuits Eudemon
Joannes and Jean Keller, appeared against him; these he had
burned. Hostilities, however, increased until finally the king's
confessor opposed the foreign policy of the cardinal. This was a
very important episode, and on it the recent researches of Father de
Rochemonteix in the archives of the Society of Jesus have cast new
light. Father Caussin, author of "La Cour Sainte", the Jesuit whom
Richelieu, on 25 March, 1636, had made the king's confessor, tried to
use against the cardinal the influence of Mlle. de La Fayette, a lady
for whom the king had entertained a certain regard and who had
become a nun. On 8 December, 1637, in a solemn interview Caussin
recalled to the king his duties towards his wife, Anne of Austria, to
whom he was too indifferent; asked him to allow his mother, Maria
de' Medici, to return to France; and pointed out the dangers to
Catholicism which might arise through Richelieu's alliance with the
Turks and the Protestant princes of Germany. After this interview
Caussin gave Communion to the king and addressed him a very
beautiful sermon, entreating him to obey his directions. Richelieu
was anxious that the king's confessor should occupy himself solely
with "giving absolutions", consequently, on 10 December, 1637,
Caussin was dismissed and exiled to Rennes, and his successor,
Father Jacques Sirmond, celebrated for his historical knowledge,
was forced to promise that, if he saw "anything censurable in the
conduct of the State", he would report it to the cardinal and not
attempt to influence the king's conscience. However, Father
Caussin's fears concerning Richelieu's foreign policy were not
shared by all of his confrères. Father Lallemand, for instance,
affirmed that it was rash to blame the king's political alliance with the
Protestant princes — an alliance which had been made only after an
unsuccessful attempt to form one with Bavaria and the Catholic
princes of Germany.
That Richelieu was possessed of religious sentiments cannot be
contested. It was he who in February, 1638, prompted the
declaration by which Louis XIII consecrated the Kingdom of France
to the Virgin Mary; in the ministry he surrounded himself with
priests and religious; as general he employed Cardinal de la Valette;
as admiral, Sourdis, Archbishop of Bordeaux; as diplomat, Bérulle;
as chief auxiliary he had Leclerc du Tremblay. He himself
designated Mazarin his successor. He had a high idea of the
sacerdotal dignity, was continually protesting against the
encroachments of the parlements on the jurisdiction of the Church,
and advised the king to choose as bishops only those who should
"have passed after their studies a considerable time in the
seminaries, the places established for the study of the ecclesiastical
functions". He wished to compel the bishops to reside in their
dioceses, to establish seminaries there, and to visit their parishes.
He aided the efforts of St. Vincent de Paul to induce the bishops to
institute the "exercises des ordinants", retreats, during which the
young clerics were to prepare themselves for the priesthood.
Richelieu foresaw the perils to which nascent Jansenism would
expose the Church. Saint-Cyran's doctrines on the constitution of
the Church, his views on the organization of the "great Christian
Republic", his liaison with Jansenius (who in 1635 had composed a
violent pamphlet against France under the names of Mars gallicus),
and the manner in which he opposed the annulment of the marriage
of Gaston d'Orléans, drew upon him the cardinal's suspicion. In
having him arrested 14 May, 1638, Richelieu declared that "had
Luther and Calvin been confined before they had begun to
dogmatize, the states would have been spared many troubles". Two
months later Richelieu forced the solitaries of Port Royal-des-
Champs to disperse; some were sent to Paris, others to Ferte-Milon.
Saint-Cyran remained in the dungeon of Vincennes until the
cardinal's death. With the co-operation of the Benedictine Gregoire
Tarisse, Richelieu devoted himself seriously to the reform of the
Benedictines. Named coadjutor to the Abbot of Cluny in 1627, and
Abbot of Cluny in 1629, he called to this monastery the Reformed
Benedictines of Saint-Vannes. He proposed forming the
congregations of Saint-Vannes and Saint-Maur into one body, of
which he was to have been superior. Only half of this project was
accomplished, however, when in 1636 he succeeded in uniting the
Order of Cluny with the Congregation of Saint-Maur. From 1622
Richelieu was proviseur of the Sorbonne, and was in virtue of this
office head of the Association of Doctors of the Sorbonne. He had
the Sorbonne entirely rebuilt between 1626 and 1629, and between
1635 and 1642 built the church of the Sorbonne, in which he is now
Upon assuming power, it appeared that Richelieu's policies were
working to perfection before the first internal weakness made itself
felt ... The incident that made Richelieu see the light was a big one
---- the Huguenots broke into revolt... And, he realized that it would
be better for him to concentrate on issues related to the home front
rather than be distracted by foreign adventures. Consequently,
Richelieu elected to withdraw his troops from the Val Telline to
restore peace at home. Of course, the negative impact of this
decision was with the withdrawal of French troops, the Spanish
could take advantage of the situation and once again use the passes
to supply their armies in the German and Holland war zones. A
situation in which Richelieu would normally not tolerate except that
in this case he could not do anything else as internal events had
reduced his options and made him militarily powerless to act again
his enemy Spain.
But what he could do was to seek a negotiated solution ... Therefore,
he opened negotiations simultaneously with the Spaniards about
the Val Telline and with the Huguenots to lay down their arms. There
was a bit of mind work in this strategy ... gamesmanship to term it
properly. By devising this scheme, Richelieu made his enemies
believe that whichever side came to terms first would aid France to
put the second party down by force. Did this scheme work? Indeed it
did ...In the end, Richelieu was able to conclude the treaties of La
Rochelle and Monzon --- by the former, the Huguenots agreed to lay
down their arms; and by the latter, the Spaniards agreed to demolish
their forts in the region and to recognize the sovereignty of the
Grisons over it.
Soon thereafter in France, the Huguenots prompted by British Naval
assistance broke out in open rebellion again against Richelieu's
government at La Rochelle. Meanwhile in Italy the death of Vicenzio
II, the Duke of Mantua, created another serious crisis in Europe over
the control of the Dukedom of Mantua and Montferrat, The Italian
House of Gonzaga, rulers of Mantua, had in France a line which by
marriage acquired the Dukedom of Nevers. Upon the death of
Vicenzio II, Mantua and Montferrat, which were Imperial fiefs, fell into
the hands of a member of the French branch of the family, Charles di
Gonzaga, the Duc de Nevers. The new Duke of Mantua upon his
arrival at his inheritance found opposition to the legality of his
sovereignty for many rival claimants came forth --- among them the
Duke of Guastalla; the Dowager, Dutchess of Lorraine; also a
Gonzaga; and lastly the Duke of Savoy, Charles Emmanuel. Talk
about probate problems --- In our age the claimants would be tied up
many years in Court ... But in that age, claims usually were settled
on the battlefield if the issue evolved around who governs...
Now it is clear, the Duke of Savoy had no desire to see French
influence on his northern and southern borders. Neither did the
Spanish desire to see French influence in Italy. Therefore, Charles
Emmanuel with the support of Spain claimed the Montferrat for his
niece Margaret who was the daughter of Vicenzio's elder brother. as
it happened, the Duke and the Governor of Milan entered the lands
of the new embattled Duke of Mantua to accomplish their intent and
their intrigue. Charles Emmanuel occupied the territory between
Stura and the left bank of the Po while the Governor of Milan,
Gonzalio de Cordova, besieged Casal. Richelieu at this time was still
preoccupied with rebellion at La Rochelle. As a consequence,
despite the plea of the Duke of Mantua, he could do little but he
recognized that his failure to act might possibly undo the diplomatic
gains he achieved at Val Telline. But in the nick of time, the
Huguenot fortress of La Rochelle fell --- Good news for Richelieu ...
But in the way of bad news, by the time Richelieu would be able to
come to the aid of Charles di Gonzaga with an army of 36,00 men,
the Duke of Savoy was already in control of Montferrat although the
town of Casal was still holding out.
On the question of the relations between the temporal and the
spiritual powers, Richelieu really professed the doctrine called
Duvalism after the theologian Duval, who admitted at the same time
the supreme power of the pope and the supreme power of the king
and the divine right of both. In the dissensions between Rome and
the Gallicans he most frequently acted as mediator. When in 1626 a
book by the Jesuit Sanctarel appeared in Paris, affirming the right of
the popes to depose kings for wrong-doing, heresy, or incapacity, it
was burned in the Place de Greve; Father Coton and the three
superiors of the Jesuits houses summoned before the Parlement
were forced to repudiate the work. The enemies of the Jesuits
wished immediately to create a new disturbance on the occasion of
the publication of the "Somme theologique des vérités apostoliques
capitales de la religion chrétienne", by Father Garasse, but Richelieu
opposed the continued agitation. It was, however, renewed at the
end of 1626, owing to a thesis of the Dominican Têtefort, which
maintained that the Decretals formed part of the Scripture. Richelieu
again strove to allay feeling, and in a discourse (while still affirming
that the king held his kingdom from God alone) declared that "the
king cannot make an article of faith unless this article has been so
declared by the Church in her ecumenical councils".
Subsequently, Richelieu gave satisfaction to the pope when on 7
December,1 629, he obtained a retraction from the Gallican Edmond
Richer, syndic of the theological faculty, who submitted his book "La
puissance ecclesiastique et politique" to the judgment of the pope.
Nine years later, however, Richelieu's struggles against the
resistance offered by the French clergy to taxes led him to assume
an attitude more deliberately Gallican.
Contrary to the theories which he had maintained in his discourse of
1614 he considered, now that he was a minister, that the needs of
the State constituted a case of force majeure, which should oblige
the clergy to submit to all the fiscal exigencies of the civil power. As
early as 1625 the assembly of the clergy, tired of the incessant
demands of the Government for money, had decreed that no deputy
could vote supplies without having first received full powers on the
subject; Richelieu, contesting this principle, declared that the needs
of the State were actual, while those of the Church were chimerical
In 1638 the struggle between the State and the clergy on the subject
of taxes became critical, and Richelieu, to uphold his claims,
enlisted the aid of the brothers Pierre and Jacques Dupuy, who
about the middle of 1638 published "Les libertés de l'église
gallicane". This book established the independence of the Gallican
Church in opposition to Rome only to reduce it into servile
submission to the temporal power. The clergy and the nuncio
complained; eighteen bishops assembled at the house of Cardinal
de la Rouchefoucald, and denounced to their colleagues this "work
of the devil". Richelieu then exaggerated his fiscal exigencies in
regard to the clergy; an edict of 16 April, 1639, stipulated that
ecclesiastics and communities were incapable of possessing landed
property in France, that the king could compel them to surrender
their possessions and unite them to his domains, but that he would
allow them to retain what they had in consideration of certain
indemnities which should be calculated in going back to the year
1520. In Oct., 1639, after the murder of an equerry of Marshal
d'Estrees, the French Ambassador, Estrees declared the rights of
the people violated. Richelieu refused to receive the nuncio
(October, 1639); a decree of the royal council, 22 December,
restrained the powers of the pontifical Briefs, and even the canonist
Marca proposed to break the Concordat and to hold a national
council at which Richelieu was to have been made patriarch.
Precisely at this date Richelieu had a whole series of grievances
against Rome: Urban VIII had refused successively to name him
Legate of the Holy See in France, Legate of Avignon, and coadjutor
to the Bishop of Trier; he had refused the purple to Father Joseph,
and had been opposed the annulment of the marriage of Gaston
d'Orléans. But Richelieu, however furious he was, did not wish to
carry things to extremes. After a certain number of polemics on the
subject of the taxes to be levied on the clergy, the ecclesiastical
assembly of Mantes in 1641 accorded to the Government (which was
satisfied therewith) five and a half millions, and Richelieu, to restore
quiet, accepted the dedication of Marca's book "La concorde du
sacerdoce et de l'empire", in which certain exceptions were taken to
Dupuy's book. At the same time the sending of Mazarin as envoy to
France by Urban VIII, and the presentation to him of the cardinal's
hat put an end to the differences between Richelieu and the Holy
Upon the whole, Richelieu's policy was to preserve a just mean
between the parliamentary Gallicans and the Ultramontanes. "In
such matters", he wrote in his political testament, "one must believe
neither the people of the palace, who ordinarily measure the power
of the king by the shape of his crown, which, being round, has no
end, nor those who, in the excesses of an indiscreet zeal, proclaim
themselves openly as partisans of Rome". One may believe that
Pierre de Marca's book was inspired by him and reproduces his
ideas. According to this book the liberties of the Gallican Church
have two foundations: (1) the recognition of the primacy and the
sovereign authority of the Church of Rome, a primacy consisting in
the right to make general laws to judge without appeal, and to be
judged neither by bishops nor by councils; (2) the sovereign right of
the kings which knows no superior in temporal affairs. It is to be
noted that Marca does not give the superiority of a council over the
pope as a foundation of the Gallican liberties. In 1636 Richelieu
founded the Academie Française. He had great literary pretensions,
and had several mediocre plays of his own composition produced in
a theatre belonging to him. With a stubbornness inexplicable today
Voltaire foolishly denied that Richelieu's "Testament politique" was
authentic; the researches of M. Hanotaux have proved its
authenticity, and given the proper value to admirable chapters such
as the chapter entitled, "Le conseil du Prince", into which Richelieu,
says M. Hanotaux, "has put all his soul and his genius".
During March 1629. the French Royal Army was ready to launch an
offensive and were assembled at the snow covered entrance to the
narrow mountain pass of Suze. King Louis XIII demanded that the
Duke of Savoy grant free passage for his army through the pass. The
Duke refused to do so and after much delay, a battle ensued in
which the Duke was soundly beaten and was forced into an alliance
with the French. The defeat of the Duke of Savoy also resulted in the
Governor of Milan lifting the siege on Casal on the command of the
Spanish and allowing the Duke of Nevers to again possess his
hereditary lands ---- end of military probate for the time-being. But
down the road there will be an attempted hostile takeover of the
Duke of Nevers hereditary lands by the House of Habsburg for
With the objectives of the Italian expedition performed, King Louis
XIII, followed soon thereafter by Richelieu, returned home to France
to crush the still simmering pockets of rebellion that existed in the
South of France. But foreign trouble still loomed on the horizon due
to the continuing strategic value of the Northern Italian Provinces.
Most importantly, the Spanish could not tolerate any French gains in
this area. Consequently, the House of Habsburg launched its own
offensive inside the territory of the Duke of Mantua also known as
the Duke of Nevers and once again the town of Casal was laid under
The beleaguered people of Casal who must of been tired of
opposing armies coming to their town to lay siege, this time had to
face another siege engineered by the famed Italian aristocrat Don
Ambrogio Spinola Doria, 1st Marquis of the Balbases (1569–
September 25, 1630), who, as a Spanish general, won a number of
important battles. He is often called "Ambrosio". Richelieu at the
first sign of Spanish military activity sent an Army to Italy. But the
Duke of Savoy se domain was supposedly in an alliance with the
French due to an earlier defeat proved to be an unnecessary
hindrance to Richelieu's plan for he demanded negotiations before
he would give consent to the French march across his territory.
Consequently, Richelieu concluded that the Duke as a man whose
word could not be trusted . The Duke, in the viewpoint of Richelieu,
only engaged in compacts to cause division in the hope of reaping
benefits for himself. Not willing to be compromised by this tactic,
Richelieu resorted to military force to take the Piedmontian fortress
of Pinerolo which guarded an important passage through the Alps,
much to the horror of the Duke of Savoy who appealed to Spinola for
aid. But at that time the General was preoccupied at Casal.
With no aid forthcoming to save him, the Duke of Savoy fled to Rivoli
where he spend his last days. ...The Duke of Savoy sustaining an
additional blow to his dynastic ambitions when the Spanish captured
the Dukedom of Mantua for themselves. French King Louis XIII
joined Richelieu's military expedition after the Cardinal's initial
defeat of the Duke of Savoy and was present for French victories at
Chambery, Annecy and Saluzzo.
His dynastic hopes dashed, and reaping misfortune from direct or
indirect military force by both the French and Spanish , Charles
Emmanuel, the Duke of Savoy soon thereafter died a broken hearted
and weak man. The historian Guizot expresses the following about
his legacy: "By just Punishment of God, he who, during forty or fifty
years of his reign, had constantly tried to set his neighbors a-blaze,
died amidst the flame of his own dominions which he had lost by his
own obstination against the advice of his friends and allies."
Upon the death of the Duke of Savoy, the stage was ready for
Richelieu to engage the Spanish in combat for the first time in head
to head competition. But as it happened, Louis XIII , a known
hypochondriac, had withdrawn from the Italian Front gravely ill and
as a consequence of this departure, Richelieu cancelled the
operation due to the loss of morale created by the King's absence as
well as the Spanish victory in Mantua. There was also another
concern, Richelieu also worried that his absence from the King's
Court would encourage the Queen-Mother to undermine his position,
Therefore, the Cardinal thought it better to end his expedition in Italy
in a honorable manner in order to free himself to come home. His
close associate, Father Joseph , François Leclerc du Tremblay,
offered to help him diplomatically by concluding the Treaty of
Ratisbonne with the Holy Roman Emperor. But Richelieu reacted
differently than expected by declining its ratification on grounds that
it would sacrifice French national interest. And this also was the
thinking of Richelieu's military officers as they declined to cease
operations for they said the treaty was with the Holy Roman Empire,
not with Spain whom they were prepared to battle. But this pending
battle did not immediately come as Italian Cardinal Mazarin
intervened on behalf of the French to produce a temporary peace or
armistice when he persuaded the Spanish to leave Casal. France,
however, kept Pinerolo in violation of the agreement to the
diplomatic outcry of the Spanish.
Between the years 1624 to 1631, France was very embroiled in
Italian Affairs ... Clearly during that period where the European Thirty
Years war was spreading, the French did not cast blind eye on what
was happening and she used other nations whether they be
Protestant or Catholic to advance her national interest. Upon the
urging of France, Denmark came to the aid of the Protestant cause.
To the misfortune of Christian IV, the Imperial and Catholic forces
under the leadership of the great generals, Wallenstein and Tilly,
forced the Danes and their Protestant allies to retreat in 1629 and the
first two periods of the Thirty Years War ended. Ferdinand regained
the Crown of Bohemia and in the same year promulgated
(publicized) an Edict of Restitution which cost the Protestants all
Church lands secularized by them since 1555. With the defeat of
Christian IV, peace seemed imminent to the Emperor for the
Protestant princes in Germany appeared to be too weak to fight.
Only the persistent intrigues or agitation of the foes of Habsburg
power brought forth a new rising star to carry on the fight. A capable
Champion or standard bearer was found in Gustavus Adolphus, the
King of Sweden and a devout Protestant. Armand-Jean du Plessis,
Duke de Richelieu, a Cardinal of the Catholic Church, selected
Adolphus as the man most likely to carry out his plans.
In this study we have already said that the Novelist Alexandre
Dumas made Richelieu a crafty villain in his 1844 book The Three
Musketeers, and Richelieu's name has since become synonymous
with political intrigue and ambitious power "behind the Throne.
Obviously Richelieu's role in keeping the hot fires of war in the
Empire a brazing to benefit France demonstrates why Dumas
characterized Richelieu as he did.
In 1628 the Cardinal agreed to extend aid over a two year period
totaling 500,000 livres to Gustavus on the condition that he launch
an offensive inside Germany. But as it happened, Gustavus had a
distraction which prevented him launching an immediate military
surge into Germany. ...The issue involved a challenge by the King
of Poland to the legitimacy of Gustavus in holding the title of King of
Sweden. A title that the King of Poland claimed for himself. And a
challenge that led to war between the two Kingdoms to Richelieu's
frustration. But undaunted, Richelieu used one of his diplomats to
arrange a truce between the two Kingdoms and that freed Gustavus
to act as the point man for France in his offensive against the
Habsburg's in Germany.
Thus in 1631, Gustavus signed a five year defense treaty with
France which obligated the Swedish King to send a force of 36,000
men into Germany with the French furnishing him with 1,200,000
livres per year. As we said, Gustavus a devout Protestant would be
the point man in the attack for the France. On the delicate question
of religion would he do like many German Princes did, force his
religion on those adherents of the Catholic faith in lands he
conquered? Richelieu apparently thought of this potentially
contentious issue and put in the Treaty a provision that would settle
the issue once and for all. Richelieu in the Treaty obtained the
promise from Gustavus that he would allow the worship of the
Catholic faith in areas which he conquered.
Gustavus Adolphus embarked from Sweden at the head of a
splendid army but before he left his native land he told his people"
" I have hopes of ending by bringing triumph to the cause of the
oppressed; but as the pitcher that goes often to the well gets
broken, so do I fear it may be' my fate. I who have exposed my life
amidst many dangers, who have so often spilt my blood for the
country without, thanks to God having been wounded to the death
must in the end make a sacrifice of myself; for that reason I bid you
farewell, hoping to see you again in a better world."
With his well disciplined army, Gustavus pushed deep into the heart
of the Empire to the astonishment of the Emperor who once
remarked: "This snow-king will go on melting as he comes south."
In his plight the Emperor has to recall Wallenstein whom he had
dismissed. In 1632, a decisive battle was fought at Lützen in Saxony.
Wallenstein was defeated and Protestantism was saved but
Gustavus was killed and the Swedes became reluctant to carry on
the fight. In 1635 Ferdinand consented to the compromise Peace of
Prague. The third period of the war had come to an end. But since
Habsburg power did not wither away, France began to stir up a new
coalition to carry on the fight. This time, however, France did not
keep her military force on the sidelines. Instead, France joined the
War outright and sent her own troops into the German theatre of war.
Peace of Prague (1635)
The Peace of Prague of 15 June 1635 was a treaty between the Holy
Roman Emperor, Ferdinand II, and most of the Protestant states of
the Empire. It effectively brought to an end the civil war aspect of
the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648); however, the war still carried on
due to the continued intervention on German soil of Spain, Sweden,
and, from mid-1635, France
Negotiations towards the agreement had been instigated by the
Elector of Saxony, John George I, who whilst being a Lutheran
prince had nonetheless been an ally of the Emperor until the
Swedish intervention in 1630. Years of fighting, an inability to
reimpose Roman Catholicism by force, and the need to put an end to
the intervention of foreign powers in German affairs all combined to
bring Ferdinand to the table with a degree of willingness to make
concessions towards the Lutheran princes.
The main terms of the treaty were:
• The Edict of Restitution of 1629 was effectively revoked, with
the terms of the Peace of Augsburg of 1555 being re-established as
at 12 November 1627.
• Formal alliances between states of the Empire were prohibited.
• The armies of the various states were to be unified with those
of the Emperor as an army for the Empire as a whole.
• Amnesty was granted to the enemies of the Emperor (with the
exception of the former Elector Palatine, Frederick V).
As well as bringing to an end the fighting between the various
states, the treaty also brought to an end religion as a source of
national conflict; the principle of cuius regio, eius religio was
established for good within the Empire. In return for making
concessions in this area, Ferdinand gained the alliance of the
Lutheran princes both in the struggle against the Swedish
intervention, and against the expected intervention of France.
Ferdinand was also forced to make individual concessions to some
of the major states to get them to sign the treaty: Saxony was
granted the Margraviates of Lower and Upper Lusatia by Ferdinand
in his capacity as King of Bohemia, Brandenburg had its claim to
Pomerania confirmed, and even Bavaria, which had supported the
Emperor throughout the war, extracted some minor concessions.
Discussion XVI --- Thirty Years War
The Thirty Years War, was a general European war fought mainly
the geographical area of Germany between the years 1618 - 1648.
Please note --- due to the vast material available, I will limit any
detailed discussion to the role that Richelieu Played in that war ...
What appears below is essentially a summation of what happened.
*** General Character of the War
There were many territorial, dynastic, and religious issues that figured in the
outbreak and conduct of the war. The extent of \religious motives is debated, but
cannot be dismissed, particularly in
explaining individual behavior. Throughout the war there were
shifting alliances and local peace treaties. The war as a whole may
be considered a struggle of German Protestant princes and foreign
powers (France, Sweden, Denmark, England, the United Provinces)
against the unity and power of the Holy Roman Empire as
represented by the Hapsburgs, allied with the Catholic princes, and
against the Hapsburgs themselves.
Please note --- The war began with the resistance and eventual
revolt of Protestant nobles in Bohemia, which was under Hapsburg
domination, against the Catholic king Ferdinand (later Holy Roman
Emperor Ferdinand II). It spread through Europe because of the
constitutional frailty of the Holy Roman Empire, the inability of the
German states to act in concert, and the ambitions of other European
*** The Bohemian Period
The revolt began in Prague, where two royal officers were hurled
from a window by Protestant members of the Bohemian diet—the so-
called Defenestration of Prague (May, 1618). Ferdinand was declared
deposed and the Bohemian throne was offered to Frederick V, the
elector palatine. Revolt also appeared in other Hapsburg dominions,
especially under Gabriel Bethlen in Transylvania. Duke Maximilian I
of Bavaria, with the army of the Catholic League under Tilly, helped
the imperial forces defeat the Bohemians at the White Mt. near
Prague (Nov., 1620). John George of Saxony, a leading German
Protestant prince, supported Ferdinand. Frederick, ever afterward
called the Winter King, had lost his brief hold on Bohemia. The war
continued in the Palatinate, and severe repression began in
*** The Palatinate Period
Mansfeld and Christian of Brunswick led the revolutionary forces in
the Palatinate. Frederick expected aid from his father-in-law, James I
of England, but got no effectual help. The Palatinate was taken by
Tilly; he won at Wimpfen and Höchst (1622). Frederick's lands were
confiscated by the emperor, and the Upper Palatinate and the
electorate were conferred on Maximilian of Bavaria. The imperialist
victory at Stadtlohn (1623) practically ended one phase of the war.
*** The Danish Period
The new phase saw the German war expanded into an international
conflict. Christian IV of Denmark came into the fighting, principally
because of his fear of the rise of Hapsburg power in N Germany; he
openly avowed religious motives but hoped also to enlarge his
German possessions. England and the United Provinces gave a
subsidy to aid the opponents of the Hapsburgs, and England sent a
few thousand soldiers. Christian IV advanced into Germany. The
emperor's cause was advanced by the work of Wallenstein, who
gathered an effective army and defeated Mansfeld at Dessau (1626).
A little later the Danish king was soundly defeated by Tilly at Lutter.
The imperial armies swept through most of Germany. Wallenstein
went into Jutland and vanquished the Danes but failed before
Stralsund (1628). In 1629, Denmark, by the Treaty of Lübeck,
withdrew from the war and surrendered the N German bishoprics.
The Edict of Restitution (1629), issued by Ferdinand II, attempted to
enforce the ecclesiastical reservation of the Peace of Augsburg and
declared void Protestant titles to lands secularized after 1552; its full
application would have had a disastrous effect on German
Protestantism and naturally aroused the Protestant states to
determined, if at first latent, hostility.
*** The Swedish Period
Gustavus II (Gustavus Adolphus) of Sweden now came into the war.
His territorial ambitions had embroiled him in wars with Poland, and
he feared that Ferdinand's maritime designs might threaten
Sweden's mastery of the Baltic. Moved also by his Protestantism, he
declared against the emperor and was supported by an
understanding with Catholic France, then under the leadership of
Cardinal Richelieu. Swedish troops marched into Germany.
Meanwhile, Ferdinand had been prevailed upon (1630) to dismiss
Wallenstein, who had powerful enemies in the empire. Tilly now
headed the imperial forces. He was able to take the city of
Magdeburg while the Protestant princes hesitated to join the
Swedes. Only John George of Saxony, vacillating in his support
between Tilly and the Swedish king, joined Gustavus Adolphus, who
offered him better terms.
The combined forces crushed Tilly at Breitenfeld (1631), thus
winning N Germany. Gustavus Adolphus triumphantly advanced and
Tilly was defeated and fatally wounded in the battle of the Lech
(1632). Wallenstein, recalled with some pleading by the emperor,
took the field. He defeated the Saxon forces and later met the
Swedish forces at Lützen (Nov., 1632); there the imperialists were
defeated, but Gustavus Adolphus was killed and the anti-Hapsburg
troops were disorganized. Wallenstein after his great defeat
remained inactive and entered into long negotiations with the
enemy. Meanwhile, the able anti-imperialist general, Bernhard of
Saxe-Weimar, stormed Regensburg (1633).
Wallenstein was murdered in 1634 by imperialist conspirators. Soon
afterward the imperial forces under Gallas defeated Bernhard at
Nördlingen (Feb., 1634). Germany was in economic ruin, her fields
devastated and blood-soaked. There was strong feeling in Germany
against the foreign soldiers that overran the land. A general desire
for peace led to the Peace of Prague (1635). This agreement
drastically modified the Edict of Restitution, thus helping to
reconcile Catholics and Protestants. It was accepted by almost all
the German princes and free cities. A united imperial army was to
move against the Swedish troops in Germany. A general peace
seemed to be forthcoming, but Richelieu was unwilling to see the
Hapsburgs retain power.
*** The Franco-Swedish Period
France entered openly into the war in 1635. Oxenstierna, the
Swedish chancellor, anxious to preserve Sweden's hold in Germany,
supported Richelieu. The final stage of the Thirty Years War began.
The war now occupied most of Europe, with fighting in the Low
Countries, where the United Provinces and France opposed Spain;
in Italy, where France and Spain struggled for power; in France; in
Germany; in the Iberian peninsula, where Portugal revolted against,
and France attacked, Spain; and in the North, where Denmark
The Austrian forces went into France and achieved some success,
but this was temporary. For the most part this period of the war was
disastrous for the empire. Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar and the
Swedish general, Baner, were victorious in Germany. In 1636 Baner
won a notable victory at Wittstock. Bernhard conducted a series of
brilliant campaigns, culminating in the capture of Breisach (1638).
Bernhard died in 1639, Baner in 1641. Meanwhile, Emperor Ferdinand
II was succeeded by Ferdinand III (1637). In 1642 Richelieu died; his
successor, Cardinal Mazarin, continued the established French
policy. Germany was exhausted.
Peace negotiations were begun before 1640, but the intricate
diplomacy proceeded slowly and haltingly. Meanwhile, the empire
was reduced by the armies of the Swedish Torstensson, Louis II de
Condé, and Turenne. Torstensson defeated the imperialists at
Breitenfeld (1642), defeated Gallas after going north to subdue
Danish opposition, then won a climactic victory over Hatzfeldt at
Jankau (1645). Meanwhile, Condé had destroyed the flower of the
Spanish infantry at Rocroi (1643); in 1645 he and Turenne (after a
severe defeat) were victorious near Nördlingen. Austria had been
stripped of all conquests and her enemies were at the very door of
Vienna. Austria's strongest ally, Bavaria, was overrun. The Swede
Wrangel and the Frenchman Turenne were carrying on a successful
campaign when the long-delayed peace was obtained
*** The Aftermath
The general results of the war may be said to have been a
tremendous decrease in German population; devastation of German
agriculture; ruin of German commerce and industry; the breakup of
the Holy Roman Empire, which was a mere shell in the succeeding
centuries; and the decline of Hapsburg greatness. The war ended
the era of conflicts inspired by religious passion, and the Peace of
Westphalia was an important step toward religious toleration. The
incredible sufferings of the German peasantry were remembered for
centuries. The political settlements of the peace were to the
disadvantage of Germany as well as the Hapsburgs. The
estrangement of N Germany from Austria, then begun, was to
continue for more than two centuries.
TREATY OF WESTPHALIA, appears to be a collective name given to
the two treaties concluded on the 24th of October 1648 by the Holy
Roman Empire with France at Munster and with Sweden and the
Protestant estates of the Empire at Osnabruck, by which the Thirty
Years' War was brought to an end.
As early as 1636 negotiations had been opened at Cologne at the
instance of Pope Urban VIII., supported by the seigniory of Venice,
but failed owing to the disinclination (unwillingness) of Richelieu to
stop the progress of the French arms, and to the refusal of Sweden
to treat (deal with) with the papal legate. In 1637 the agents of the
emperor began to negotiate at Hamburg with Sweden, though the
mediation of Christian IV., king of Denmark, was rejected by
Sweden, and the discussions dragged on for years without result. In
the meantime the new emperor Ferdinand III. proposed at the diet of
Regensburg in 1640 to extend the peace of Prague to the whole
empire, on the basis of an amnesty, from which, however, those
Protestant estates who were still leagued with foreign powers were
to be excluded. His aim was by settling the internal affairs of the
empire to exclude the German princes from participation in
negotiations with foreign powers; but these efforts had no result.
A more practical suggestion was made by the Comte d'Avaux, the
French envoy at Hamburg, who proposed in 1641 that the
negotiations at Cologne and Hamburg should be transferred to
Munster and Osnabruck, two cities in the Westphalian circle not
more than 30 meters apart. A preliminary treaty embodying this
proposal was concluded between the representatives of the
emperor, France and Sweden at Hamburg on Christmas Day 1641. A
dispute as to precedence between France and Sweden, and the
refusal of the latter power to meet the papal nuncio, made the choice
of a single meeting-place impossible. It was arranged, however, that
the two assemblies should be regarded as a single congress, and
that neither should conclude peace without the other.
The date fixed for the meeting of the two conventions was the July
11th 1643, but many months elapsed before all the representatives
arrived, and the settlement of many questions of precedence and
etiquette caused further delays. England, Poland, Muscovy and
Turkey were the only European powers unrepresented. The war
continued during the deliberations, which were influenced by its
The chief representative of the emperor was Count Maximilian von
Trautmansdorff, to whose sagacity the conclusion of peace was
largely due. The French envoys were nominally under Henry of
Orleans, duke of Longueville, but the marquis de Sable and the
comte d'Avaux were the real agents of France. Sweden was
represented by John Oxenstierna, son of the chancellor, and by
John Adler Salvius, who had previously acted for Sweden at
Hamburg. The papal nuncio was Fabio Chigi, afterwards Pope
Alexander VII. Brandenburg, represented by Count Johann von Sayn-
Wittgenstein, played the foremost part among the Protestant states
of the empire. On the 1st of June 1645 France and Sweden brought
forward propositions of peace, which were discussed by the estates
of the empire from October 1645 to April 1646. The settlement of
religious matters was effected between February 1646 and March
1648. The treaty was signed at Munster by the members of both
conventions on the 24th of October 1648, and ratifications were
exchanged on the 8th of February 1649. The papal protest of January
3, 1651, was disregarded.
The results were determined in the first place by the support given
to each other by France and Sweden in their demands for
indemnification, the concession of which necessitated
compensation to the German states affected, and secondly by the
determination of France to weaken the power of the emperor while
strengthening the Roman Catholic states, especially Bavaria.
Sweden received western Pomerania with Rugen and the mouths of
the Oder, Wismar and Poel, in Mecklenburg, and the lands of the
archbishopric of Bremen and the bishopric of Verden, together with
an indemnity of 5,000,000 thalers. The privileges of the Free Towns
were preserved. Sweden thus obtained control of the Baltic and a
footing on the North Sea, and became an estate of the empire with
three deliberative voices in the diet.
The elector of Brandenburg received the greater part of eastern
Pomerania, and, as he had a claim on the whole duchy since the
death of the last duke in 1635, he was indemnified by the bishoprics
of Halberstadt, Minden and Kammin, and the reversion of the
archbishopric of Magdeburg, which came to him on the death of the
administrator, Prince Augustus of Saxony, in 1680. The elector of
Saxony was allowed to retain Lusatia. As compensation for Wismar,
Mecklenburg-Schwerin obtained the bishoprics of Schwerin and
Ratzeburg and some lands of the Knights of St John. Brunswick-
Luneburg restored Hildesheim to the elector of Cologne, and gave
Minden to Brandenburg, but obtained the alternate succession to the
bishopric of Osnabruck and the church lands of Walkenried and
Groningen. Hesse-Cassel received the prince-abbacy of Hersfeld,
the county of Schaumburg, &c. The elector of Bavaria was confirmed
in his possession of the Upper Palatinate, and in his position as an
elector which he had obtained in 1623. Charles Louis, the son and
heir of Frederick V., the count palatine of the Rhine, who had been
placed under the ban of the empire, received back the Lower
Palatinate, and a new electorate, the eighth, was created for him.
France obtained the recognition of the sovereignty (which she had
enjoyed de facto since 1552) over the bishoprics and cities of Metz,
Toul and Verdun, Pinerolo in Piedmont, the town of Breisach, the
landgraviate of Upper and Lower Alsace, the Sundgau, the advocacy
(Landvogtei) of the ten imperial cities in Alsace, and the right to
garrison Philippsburg. During the Thirty Years' War France had
professed to be fighting against the house of Austria, and not against
the empire. It was stipulated that the immediate possessions of the
empire in Alsace should remain in enjoyment of their liberties (in ea
libertate et possessione immedietatis erga imperium Romanum, qua
hactenus gavisae sent), but it was added as a condition that the
sovereignty of France in the territories ceded to her should not be
impaired (ita tamen, ut praesenti hac declaratione nihi-1 detractatum
intelligatur de eo omni supremi dominii lure, quod supra concessum
est). The intention of France was to acquire the full rights of Austria
in Alsace, but as Austria had never owned the landgraviate of Lower
Alsace, and the Landvogtei of the ten free cities did not in itself
imply possession, the door was left open for disputes. Louis XIV.
afterwards availed himself of this ambiguous clause in support of his
aggressive policy on the Rhine. The independence of Switzerland
was at last formally recognized, as was that of the United
Netherlands in a separate treaty signed by Spain at Minster.
Apart from these territorial changes, a universal and unconditional
amnesty to all those who had been deprived of their possessions
was declared, and it was decreed that all secular lands should be
restored to those who had held them in 1618. Some exceptions were
made in the case of the hereditary dominions of the emperor.
Even more important than the territorial redistribution was the
ecclesiastical settlement. By the confirmation of the treaty of Passau
of 1552 and the religious peace of Augsburg of 1555, and the
extension of their provisions to the Reformed (Calvinist) Church,
toleration was secured for the three great religious communities of
the empire. Within these limits the governments were bound to
allow at least private worship, liberty of conscience and the right of
emigration, but these measures of toleration were not extended to
the hereditary lands of the house of Habsburg. The Protestant
minority in the imperial diet was not to be coerced by the majority,
but religious questions were to be decided by amicable agreement.
Protestant administrators of church lands obtained seats in the diet.
Religious parity was established in the imperial chamber
(Reichskammergericht), and in the imperial deputations and
The difficult question of the ownership of spiritual lands was decided
by a compromise. The edict of restitution of 1629 was annulled. In
Wurttemberg, Baden and the Palatinate these lands were restored to
the persons who had held them in 1618 or their successors, but for
the rest of the empire possession was determined by the fact of
occupation on the 1st of January 1624 (annus decretorius or normal
year). By the provision that a prince should forfeit his lands if he
changed his religion an obstacle was placed in the way of a further
spread of the Reformation. The declaration that all protests or vetoes
by whomsoever pronounced should be null and void dealt a blow at
the intervention of the Roman curia in German affairs.
The constitutional changes made by the treaty had far-reaching
effects. The territorial sovereignty of the states of the empire was
recognized. They were empowered to contract treaties with one
another and with foreign powers, provided that the emperor and the
empire suffered no prejudice. By this and other changes the princes
of the empire became absolute sovereigns in their own dominions.
The emperor and the diet were left with a mere shadow of their
former power. The emperor could not pronounce the ban of the
empire without the consent of the diet. The diet, in which the 61
imperial cities gained the right of voting on all imperial business, and
thus were put on an equality with the princes, retained its legislative
and fiscal powers in name, but practically lost them by the
requirement of unanimity among the three colleges, which,
moreover, were not to give their several decisions by majorities of
their members, but by agreement between them.
Not only was the central authority replaced almost entirely by the
sovereignty of about 300 princes, but the power of the empire was
materially weakened in other ways. It lost about 40,000 sq. m. of
territory, and obtained a frontier against France which was incapable
of defence. Sweden and France as guarantors of the peace acquired
the right of interference in the affairs of the empire, and the former
gained a voice in its councils. For many years Germany thus
became the principal theatre of European diplomacy and war. But if
the treaty of Westphalia pronounced the dissolution of the old order
in the empire, it facilitated the growth of new powers in its
component parts, especially Austria, Bavaria and Brandenburg.
The treaty was recognized as a fundamental law of the German
constitution, and formed the basis of all subsequent treaties until the
dissolution of the empire.
By 1634 Richelieu had gained masterly over France after many
years of struggle with the nobility and the Huguenots. The Cardinal
jubilantly informed foreign countries of the victory saying that
France was free from "those domestic squabbles, and was more
ready than ever to assist powerfully her friends and allies" in the
struggle against the Habsburg. Moreover, due to the fall of Gustavus
in West Europe, no leader was available to carry on the fight; as a
result, Richelieu elected to send French troops into battle against
the dreaded Habsburg, On the other hand, a relatively recent article
pointed out that Richelieu's decision was based on the influence of
diplomatic and military developments in Eastern Europe upon the
war and has featured the Polish-Russian and Bourbon-Habsburg
hostilities. Boris Porchnev contended that Richelieu's diplomatic
relations with Gustavus Adolphus and the ladders military activity in
Germany were strongly influenced by the fortunes of war between
and Russia and that France's active participation in the Thirty Years
War was partially motivated by the collapse of the anti-Habsburg
(Russian) forces in the east. In either case, it is sufficient to say that
from the moment Richelieu made the decision to commit troops, he
devoted his ceaseless energy towards winning the war. The
Venetian ambassador Nani commented on Richelieu:
"He feared the repose of peace, and thinking himself more safe
amidst the bustle of arms, he was the originator of so many wars
and such long continued and heavy calamities, he caused so much
blood and so many tears to flow within and without the Kingdom,
that there is nothing to be astonished at, if many people have
represented him as faithless, atrocious in his hatred, and inflexible
in his vengeance. But no one, nevertheless, can deny him the gifts
that his world is accustomed to attribute to its greatest men, and his
most determined enemies are forced to confess that he had so
many and such great ones that he would have carried with him
power and prosperity wherever he might have had the direction of
affairs. We may say that, having succored Italy, upset the Empire,
confounded England and enfeebled Spain, he was chosen by divine
Providence to direct the great events of Europe."
Upon the death of Gustavus, France began to assume a new role in
the course of the Thirty Years War. No longer was she going to play
the part of a coach who makes the lineup for the game but does not
participate herself; therefore the time has come for her to become a
player-coach. For Richelieu, the policy would remain the same. It
was still essential for France to check the power of the Habsburg.
Just the same, he did not desire to allow another power to jump over
the Habsburg for supreme power. Richelieu although he enabled
him watched with jealousy and apprehension the marvelous
success of the Swedish King. Therefore, upon the death of the
Swedish King, Richelieu decided to take the lead of the war effort
after careful consideration of all events occurring elsewhere.
Oxensteirna, the Chancellor and friend of Gustavus elevated himself
to the position as the Swedish military leader. A treaty was signed
April 9, 1633 at Hailbron by which Oxensteirn was appointed to direct
the Protestant Party. Feuquieres was the French ambassador in
those days and his correspondence detailed those sensitive
negotiations fully. From Feuguires instructions and letters, it
appears that France preferred that Oxensteirna and the Electors of
Saxony and Brandenberg should be associated in command; but the
Swedes declined such an arrangement. France at the same time
renewed her treaties with Sweden and Holland, In 1634, the French
agreed to furnish an army for the cause.
The dismissal of Wallenstein in 1630 by the Emperor was temporary,
but it had a profound effect on his future attitudes toward himself
and the Emperor. Even the recall after the defeat of the Imperial
Army at Breitenfeld did not lessen the ill-feeling he felt. It only
tended to increase his personal ambition. Therefore for the first
time, he began to treat (deal with) the enemies of the Habsburg.
While the protestant parties and France were preparing themselves
for renewed warfare at Heilbron, the Imperial Generalissimo
Wallenstein made secret advances to the Cardinal and Oxenstierna.
Correspondence between the French diplomat Feuguieres indicated
the vain in which the discussions were carried out. Wallenstein
offered to supply money and men to the cause in exchange for a
crown. In making this offer, Wallenstein brought out the fact that he
had the desire to create a free Bohemia state under his jurisdiction
stretching from the mouth of the Elbe to the Hungarian Plain.
It did not take long before the Emperor became aware of the
treasonous activities of Wallenstein. Therefore he planned to take
measures to secure the loyalty of the greater number of the
Wallensteinian staff. But first he let Wallenstein operate in such a
way as to incriminate himself. The Emperor's opportunity came as a
result of the Pilsen Conference of January 12, 1634 when
Wallenstein ordered his staff to bound himself to his protection,
However, many of his officers refused to abide by his order. One
such officer Max Piccilomini is credited with revealing to the
Emperor Wallenstein's treasonous intrigues. Consequently,
Wallenstein was placed under the ban of the Empire by Ferdinand.
Wallenstein's capture or death would be welcome news to Vienna
and his life was at the mercy of any man desirous to receive a
reward for murder done under the guise of patriotism. On February
25, 1634, Wallenstein and his most trusted officers were
assassinated by a trio of Scottish and Irish officers. Wallenstein was
only fifty years old and his death removed from European affairs a
figure as important and influential as that of Richelieu.
Upon the death of Wallenstein, the Imperial Army in which he was in
command fell into the control of a seldom sober but intensely
obedient servant of the Austrian branch of the Habsburg dynasty,
Gallas. Upon assuming command, he laid siege to Nordlingen. It was
to save this town that Bernard of Saxe-Weimar offered battle to the
combined forces of Austria and Spain whose leaders were the
young Habsburg cousins --- Ferdinand, the son of the Emperor and
Ferdinand, the Cardinal-Infant of Spain. The decisive Habsburg
victory that followed brought the German War to the end. The
Elector of Saxony, betraying the cause, made his peace with the
Emperor at Prague in June 1635. Of the German Princes, only
Bernard of Sax-Weimar refused to submit to the Emperor and he
was, of course, now on the payroll of Richelieu. At Prague, the
Emperor practically abandoned the Edict of Restitution
Except for the hatred which existed between France and Spain,
there was no longer any reason for the war to continue.
But those forces that remained in the battle remained there for their
The Swedes would continue to fight in order to improve their
bargaining position at the Conference table.
Maximillian in Bavaria would attempt to manipulate this policy in
order to be on the right side at the right time.
Finally after Nordlingen, the policy of Vienna would be tied to
the policy of Spain. Spain was still committed to the Dutch War. At
the battle of White Mountain the soldiers of Tilly had fought under
the slogan: "Sancta Maria." At Nordlingen, the Imperialist banner
was "Vive Espana." The war ceased to be a Holy Crusade against
Protestantism. It became a war for international prestige and power.
While changes were taking place in Germany, France was preparing
to go to war. The army destined for this enterprise was in
preparation and the King planned to visit in when, in April, 1635,
Chancellor Oxenstierna arrived in Paris. Oxenstierna had come to
Paris to negotiate in person with the French whose manner he found
"very strange and depends much on finesse." Accompanying
Oxenstierna was the well-known political theorist, Hugo Grotius, a
Hollander, who would serve as an interpreter between the French
delegation and Oxenstierna. Louis XIII awaited him at Compiegne.
Richelieu had known that Oxenstierna needed his alliance and that
he had little to offer for it but mutinous armies and an empty purse.
But the veteran Swede could overcome this liability by stressing the
points which would tend to increase Spanish power --- the presence
of the Spanish armies on the Rhine, the defection of Saxony, and the
menace of court intrigue between Anne of Austria and her brother
the Cardinal-Infant.... That Richelieu himself had realized the threat is
demonstrated by the treaty he made with Holland in February by
which he offered troops to the Prince of Orange. At Compiegne on
April 20th, the negotiators had come to terms. The French
recognized Sweden as an equal partner, agreed to make no peace
without her, made fresh subsidies and took over the left bank of the
Rhine from Breisach to Strasbourg. When Oxenstierna left France,
he carried away a new Treaty of alliance between Sweden and
France and the assurance that the King was about to declare war
The open alliance with Sweden was followed in 1635 by a formal
declaration of war against Spain. As justification , the detention of
the Elector of Traves was given as the basis for declaring a war that
was in fact begun some years before.
Richelieu, interestingly, gave to declaration a formality that would
have seemed more in place in the wars of Louis XI and Charles the
Bold. On May 21, 1635 in the Grande Palace of Brussels, Alencon, a
French herald, proclaimed with Medieval pomp that the Most
Christian King Louis XIII declared war upon His Catholic Majesty
Phillip IV of Spain. After years of war by proxy, France finally
entered the war in person. Richelieu could no longer gain advantage
by diplomacy. Sweden and Bernard of Saxe-Weimar might be able
backup forces, but they were too weak to carry on the fight. The
national interests of France demanded that France in order to
maintain the security of her eastern frontier and her influence in
Germany must act immediately.
It is one thing for a nation to act in regards to national interest, then it
is for a nation to be militarily prepared to carry out the politics
dictated by national interest. Yet this was especially the case when
we speak of the situation that Richelieu faced in 1635. Previously,
Richelieu had used the Swedish army to fight the Spanish war for
him in Germany until its destruction at Nordlingen. That disaster had
forced upon him a declaration of war before he was ready for it.
Should the French Army prove unequal to the mission which was
asked of it, French diplomacy for its last eleven years would have
been carried out in vain. It must also be noted that an open war with
Spain and its allies and would expose not only the Pyrenean frontier
but also the whole eastern frontier to attack from the Channel coast
along the unprotected flat areas of the Somme up through the
wooded Ardennes and the Vosges as far the Alpine borders of the
Genevan Republican and the Duke of Savoy.
Richelieu's doubts as to the readiness of the French forces were
borne out by a series of initial reverses culminating in 1636 in the
advance of a Spanish army on Paris. The Spanish crossing the
Somme and their seizure of the town of Corbie caused a panic in
Paris that revealed the depth of the division which plagued Richelieu
and his policies. This it happened, in the face of adversity,
Richelieu's nerve failed him; And he gave depressing council to the
King: " The line at the Seine should be held, but Paris evacuated."
Undisturbed, Louis XIII defied his councilors and rode off to join the
army at Senlis. His instinct was sound for defeatism did not become
the son of Henry IV. This gesture and the news of a Swedish attack
on Brandenberg which forced the Austrians to retire put new heart
into his troops. The Cardinal-Infant refused to continue the offensive
without the Austrians. Consequently, with the departure of the
Spanish, the town of Corbie was recaptured. But while this was
happening, Father Joseph brought Richelieu back to his senses with
the admonition to the Cardinal that he cease behaving like "une
poule mouil'ee.: Two years later when the French captured the
Rhine fortress of Breisach "the year of Corbie" was but a memory.
Strategically, Father Joseph and the Cardinal saw Breisach as a
French bridgehead that threatened the heart of the Austrian Empire
and cut the link with the Spanish Netherlands. And Richelieu
appreciated the loyalty that Father Joseph gave to him ,,, As Father
Joseph died still possessing the affection of Richelieu, whom he had
served faithfully, but without ever receiving his long-promised
reward of a Cardinal's hat during life. Here too politics had played a
role for opposition by Spain prevented Urban VIII from promoting the
Father to that position. Nevertheless, Father Joseph stands
prominent among Avaux, Charnace and skillful diplomats who gave
France valuable services during the early part of the Seventeen
Even at Breisach, the fruits of victory almost eluded Richelieu for his
mercenary general, Bernard of Saxe-Weimer, turned against him.
Consequently, at Bernard's death in 1639, Richelieu enrolled his
mercenaries in the French armies which fought thenceforth under
national command. As it happened in the remaining three years of
the Richelieu Administration, the French seized the initiative along
with the north-eastern frontier ( an area known today as Alsace-
Lorraine) and laid siege to Perpignam, a Spanish fortress on the
French side of the Pureness. At the same time, Richelieu's spies and
agents organized revolts in Portugal and Catalonia so as to prevent
the Spanish from having the ability to oppose the National Army of
France and the Bernardines. Richelieu died in 1642. During these
eighteen years of power, France became the foremost power of
Charles De Gaulle, the WWII Free-French General and President of
France in the twentieth century sought to reestablish for France the
grandeur of past ages. In seeking this, his actions sometimes proved
not to the best interests of the 20th Century power , United States of
America ... And at one time raised the ire of the Canadian
government struggling to keep English and French Speaking Canada
together, when De Gaulle on a State Visit to Canada called for a Free
Quebec in Montreal .... In reverse it was Cardinal Richelieu who
captured for France what she always esteemed. Richelieu left
France in the position of chief arbiter of Europe. The chief target of
his enterprises was the entangled Habsburg Houses of Austria and
Spain whose territories surrounded France on her Northern , Eastern
and Southern sides. Richelieu chose active participation in the Thirty
Years War for he felt that Habsburg domination of Europe was
upsetting the Balance of Power that existed. If Spain would suppress
the revolt in the United Provinces and reestablish control over it,
French national interest would be threatened. Therefore, Richelieu
desired to rectify the situation by negotiating a series of treaties with
Northern Germany, the United Provinces, Denmark, and Sweden to
reestablish the Balance of Power, However, Richelieu , instead of
bringing the world to equilibrium established a new order with
France, its unchallenged leader ... But don't tell the English because
their Colonies in the New World proved to be a Royal pain to the
French in the late Seventeenth and the Eighteenth Century.