Absolutism, éminence grise, Cinq-Mars, Day of the Dupes, Henri IV, Louis XIII, Louis XIV, one king-language-religion, Richelieu, the Fronde
* Philippe de Champaigne (26 May 1602 – 12 August 1674)
Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu et de Fronsac (9 September 1585 – 4 December 1642) is probably the best example of an éminence grise, the name given persons who stand behind the official ruler, and ensure his or her success. Richelieu was a clergyman, a noble and a statesman. He became a public figure when he was elected one of the representatives of the clergy of Poitou to the States General of 1614.[i] He became Secretary of State in 1616, six years after Henri IV was assassinated by François Ravaillac.
Marie de Médicis
In 1610, when her husband Henri IV was assassinated, Marie de Médicis or Marie de’ Medici (26 April 1575 – 4 July 1642), a potentially powerful widow, could have ruled France. The future Louis XIII (27 September 1601 – 14 May 1643) was only nine when his father was killed. But the French did not like Marie. She was not very intelligent and there was something vulgar about her: “[t]he queen feuded with Henri’s mistresses in language that shocked French courtiers.” (Wikipedia)
Marie’s main mistake was to befriend the corrupt Concini family, nipping in the bud her chances to govern and leaving room for the then bishop and brilliant Richelieu to enter into the service of Louis XIII and become the chief architect of absolutism.
Absolute Monarchy: one king, one language, one religion
As for Richelieu, he would centralize France and establish absolutism as firmly as he could. Put in a nutshell, absolutism required the people of France to have one king, to speak one language, and to practice the same religion. Between 1624 until his death in 1642, Armand Jean du Plessis did achieve the three goals he had set as his objective.
In theory, Richelieu was nothing more than King Louis XIII‘s chief minister but, in reality, he was king regent and extremely powerful. Louis de Bourbon was a reluctant and unlikely king and therefore needed Richelieu, which goes a long way in explaining the authority afforded Richelieu. The relationship between the king and his chief minister was well nigh symbiotic. In other words, Marie’s intellectual deficiencies and Louis’s inability to rule were ideal circumstances for a bright young Bishop to become a ruler.
Louis XIII was not cut out to be an absolute ruler. Louis liked to go hunting and he and his minions gathered in his hunting lodge at Versailles. He was a homosexual and, as I recently discovered, he was also a composer, as was Frederick the Great.
On the Day of the Dupes (November 10, 1630), when the rumour circulated that Richelieu had been killed, Louis XIII took his chief minister to his hunting lodge in Versailles. According to Britannica, “[a]fter initially agreeing to the cardinal’s dismissal, the king recovered and chose to support Richelieu against the wishes of his mother, his wife, and his confessor.”[ii] Marie was sent to Blois and Richelieu started to rule unopposed, as did his successor Jules Mazarin, the chief minister from December 5, 1642 until March 9, 1661.
The Fronde, a revolt which began in 1635, at the time of the Franco-Spanish War, was the acid test that confirmed absolutism as exercised by Richelieu/Louis XIII. The Fronde opposed, on the one hand, the people (les parlements) and the king, and, on the other hand, the nobility and the king, or his chief minister. Frondeurs actually entered Louis XIV’s bedroom at the Louvre when he was a child. As a result, Louis XIV’s advisors were “bourgeois” who lived upstairs at Versailles which, as I have mentioned recently, fully explains their being called, le conseil d’en haut. Here “en haut” meant upstairs.
We have named the three conditions demanded by absolutism: one king, one language and one religion. I will write about these goals, but not in the order I just used. We will begin with the linguistic condition. All of France had to speack and spoke French.
Well, in this regard, we owe the creation of the Académie-Française (1635) to Richelieu. Very early in the century, Catherine de Vivonne or Madame de Rambouillet, born in Rome, opened her salon. The people who gathered in her chambre bleue, including aristocrats and Richelieu himself, were by an large honnêtes hommes, a term which as I have written in an earlier blog does not mean honest men. Honest men would be called hommes honnêtes. Not only would l’honnête homme speak French, but he would speak it well.
L‘honnête homme is the perfect gentleman. He has Italian roots in that he embodies Baldassare Castiglione‘s courtier. Castiglione is the author of Il Libro del Cortegiano (The Book of the Courtier), published in 1528. During his stay at the Court of Urbino, in what is now Italy, Castiglione observed an “art,” the art of being a courtier, an “honnête homme,” but not necessarily an aristocratic honnête homme. Aristocrats had to learn honnêteté.
In the salons, one spoke well, hence the creation of the above-mentioned Académie-Française whose mission it would be to regulate the French language. The French court and courtiers would have to be as civilized as persons attending salons, but the court could not be “précieuse.” The movement known as La Préciosité was an instance of what Jean Cocteau described as “not knowing just how far one can go too far.” Chairs are chairs and an armchair, an armchair or fauteuil (fautei). Neither are “les commodités de la conversation.”
Ironically, Jean Cocteau’s famous phrase about audacity summarizes l’honnêteté. An honnête homme knew how far he could go too far. “Avoir du tact, c’est savoir jusqu’où on peut aller trop loin.” or “Being tactful in audacity is knowing how far one can go to far.” (Jean Cocteau [5 July 1889 – 11 October 1963]). What a quotation!
Under Richelieu, being a protestant was a major disadvantage. One could pay a price. So despite the Edict of Nantes, promulgated under Henri IV, in 1598, and dictating tolerance towards Huguenots, Richelieu, our éminence grise, but rouge, given his red garments, brought Louis XIII to La Rochelle when it was besieged, in 1627-1628. That year, some twenty-two thousand Huguenots were starved to death. Out of a population of twenty-seven thousand Huguenots, five thousand survived.
“[Richelieu] believed that their [the Huguenots] right under the Edict of Nantes to maintain armed fortresses weakened the king’s position at home and abroad. Protestant rebellions in 1625 and 1627 persuaded the cardinal of the need for a direct confrontation.”[iii] The British tried to rescue the starving Huguenots, but were defeated.
So the Edict of Nantes was revoked long before its official revocation by Louis XIV, on 18 October 1685.
The centralization of France, absolute monarchy in this case, also demanded that France have but one king. This takes us to La Fronde. Various grands seigneurs, dukes who had owned large portions of France, resented being disempowered, which was a requirement of absolutism as designed by Richelieu and put into pratice by his chosen successor, Jules Mazarin (1602–1661), born Giulio Raimondo Mazzarino.
La Fronde des nobles was severely repressed. No one was drawn and quartered by four horses racing respectively east, west, north and south, which had been Ravaillac’s fate, Henri IV’s assassin. But the story of Cinq-Mars (pronounced: Mar), whose father was a friend of Richelieu, illustrates how ruthlessly Richelieu made everyone in France march to the beat of one drummer.
Henri Coiffier de Ruzé, Marquis de Cinq-Mars (1620 – September 12, 1642) became Louis XIII’s lover and told Louis XIII that Richelieu should be executed. Cinq-Mars had a powerful supporter in Gaston de France, Henri IV’s and Marie de Médicis’s son and Louis XIII’s brother. The conspiracy failed and it would appear that Cinq-Mars’s family did not believe Richelieu would have young Cinq-Mars beheaded. At any rate, they did not hire a good executioner and the head took forever to fall. This type of torture led to the invention of the guillotine.
Not only was Richelieu pitiless, but he insisted on being transported to Lyons where the executions took place, lying on his death-bed. He wanted to be a witness to 22 year-old Cinq-Mars’s execution. François-Auguste de Thou (Paris c. 1607 – Lyon 12 septembre 1642), not a conspirator, but one who knew about the conspiracy and did not tell, was also executed on that day. As for Gaston de France, or Gaston d’Orléans, he lost his claim to the throne of France.
So, to conclude, Richelieu
- was the main architect of French absolute monarchy: one language, one religion and one king;
he was or seemed an éminence grise, the man behind Louis XIII;
he ruled France as though he was the king, which makes him look like an impostor, yet he wasn’t.
In other words, Richelieu ruled, but if he did rule, it was because he could not be king. He had no claim to the throne of France, nor did his successor, Mazarin. Both were chief ministers, except that Richelieu was, if not a crowned king, the ruler of France. And if he was, though unofficially, king of France, it is because circumstances created a breech in an otherwise impenetrable world. As mentioned above, his relationship with Louis XIII was all but symbiotic. They were two in one.
There have been several éminences grises. Wikipedia gives a long list of éminences grises. But Richelieu was no ordinary éminence grise. There is always more to tell…
* Henri Motte (1846-1922), peintre historique (Siège de La Rochelle)
(please click on the picture to enarge it and on the titles to hear the music)
- Michel Richard De Lalande – Symphonies pour les Soupers du Roy 7º Suite, Airs du Ballet Flore
- Michel Richard De Lalande – Symphonies pour les soupers du Roi: Caprice de Villers-Cotterets, Part Two
- Charpentier – Marche de Triomphe H. 547 (Marc-Antoine Charpentier)
- Airs de Cour – French Court Music from the 17th Century, Marie Claude Vallin, soprano – Lutz Kirchhof, lute
[i] J. H. Shennan. “France.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 28 Feb. 2012. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/215768/France>.
free numerology reading said:
Hello, i think that i saw you visited my site so i came to “return the favor”.I am trying to find things to enhance my site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!
scentsy products in stores said:
I keep listening to the news update talk about getting free online grant applications so I have been looking around for the best site to get one. Could you tell me please, where could i get some?
I will look, but I don’t know about free only grant applications. I’ll look. Cheers. M,
scentsy wickless products said:
I am continually looking online for articles that can benefit me. Thx!
scentsy wickless candles said:
You made some decent points there. I appeared on the web for the issue and located most people will go along with with your website.
forex trading software said:
I love your writing style really enjoying this internet site .
online forex trading said:
Hi there, You’ve done a great job. I will definitely digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I am confident they’ll be benefited from this website.
etoro download said:
I am glad to be a visitant of this stark weblog ! , thankyou for this rare information! .
find out more said:
I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my difficulty. You’re incredible! Thanks!
Howdy! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!
london olympics 2012 said:
I recently decided to produce a simple video about this, I would be honored if you would maybe take a minute to watch it and possibly leave a comment about what you think, I left the video link in the “website” field, hopefully you can access it, I appreciate it greatly
candle wickless said:
very nice post, i certainly love this web site, keep on it
read more said:
I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back in the future. Many thanks
forex trading software said:
This is very interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your great post. Also, I’ve shared your site in my social networks!
Patricia Pai said:
Nice blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog shine. Please let me know where you got your design. Appreciate it
Zazzle Promo code said:
Good day! I just would like to give an enormous thumbs up for the good data you might have right here on this post. I can be coming again to your blog for extra soon.
Jospeh Goldberger said:
My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find a lot of your post’s to be just what I’m looking for. Would you offer guest writers to write content available for you? I wouldn’t mind publishing a post or elaborating on a lot of the subjects you write concerning here. Again, awesome web log!
Zazzle Promo code said:
Hi there! I just want to give a huge thumbs up for the good info you could have here on this post. I will probably be coming again to your blog for more soon.
Harrison Parlor said:
Have you ever considered publishing an ebook or guest authoring on other blogs? I have a blog based upon on the same subjects you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would enjoy your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an e-mail.
flight simulator controls review said:
Hi! Someone in my Myspace group shared this site with us so I came to check it out. I’m definitely loving the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Fantastic blog and wonderful style and design.
Leo Harbinson said:
Couldn?t be written any better. Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!
flight simulator controls review said:
Hey just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same outcome.
saitek x65f profiles said:
Wonderful blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News. Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thank you
saitek x65f vs thrustmaster warthog said:
Great blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused .. Any suggestions? Cheers!
Bradford Paik said:
You have undoubtedly nailed this 1!
Dre Beats Headphons said:
This page really made me and my friends presume! Are you experiencing ever again analyzing you may encourage?
Europe VPS Server said:
I really like this post but it looks askew on my iPhone
saitek x65f control system said:
Howdy this is somewhat of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding know-how so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
know more said:
Hello! I simply want to give an enormous thumbs up for the nice information you have got here on this post. I can be coming back to your blog for more soon.
saitek x65f ebay said:
Excellent site you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any community forums that cover the same topics discussed in this article? I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get feedback from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Kudos!
Thank you for your comments. No, I do not know of community forums. If I hear, I will let you know. Micheline
Google virus removal tool said:
Whats up! I simply would like to give a huge thumbs up for the good information you will have here on this post. I will be coming again to your blog for more soon.
marketing internetowy said:
Awesome post once again. Thanks a lot;)
Richie Kurtyka said:
excellent submit, very informative. I’m wondering why the other experts of this sector do not understand this. You must proceed your writing. I am sure, you’ve a great readers’ base already!
used bikes said:
Nice post, thanks!
Thank you. Micheline