Armand-Jean du Plessis
was the son of François du Plessis, seigneur
de Richelieu. François had been a
close friend and advisor of Henry III but had died young.
Armand-Jean was being
trained for a career in the army, when family plans changed. He was
sent to study theology and became Bishop of Luçon. He was then so
young that a papal dispensation was needed for him to take the post; he went to
Rome to obtain it and greatly impressed the Pope with his
intelligence and scholarship.
Richelieu was a
forceful bishop, active in his diocese and eager to suppress heresy.
In the Estates General of 1614-1615, he was one of the clerical
himself into the service of Marie de Medici and Concini, but when they
fell he was sent back to his bishopric on Louis's orders.
Louis XIII allowed
Marie de Medici to return to court (1621) and she persuaded him to
advance Richelieu. In September 1622, the pope made Richelieu a Cardinal at
Louis' request. Louis distrusted the clever Richelieu but
he recognized his great abilities and employed him on the royal
council, conseil d’en haut (1624.)
government as Marie de Medici's client, but he found himself
increasingly at odds with her and the
dévot faction she led. They placed the suppression of heresy
at the head of their priorities and saw the Hapsburgs as their
greatest allies in this crusade.
||One of the leading
Michel de Marillac (1563-1632.) His main concern was encouraging
economic growth, and his key proposals were embodied in the
Code Michaud (1629.)
Gaston d'Orléans, Louis' brother and Marie's favorite child, also promoted
bons français faction, in contrast, placed national interest before Catholic
solidarity, and feared Hapsburg imperialist domination.
Louis XIII's earlier campaign against the
Huguenots had ended unsuccessfully with the Peace of Montpellier
(October 1622). This had allowed the Protestants to keep their
In 1627-28, La Rochelle - the most important
Protestant town - rebelled. All factions at court agreed that the
rebellion must be suppressed. Despite
incompetent attempts to help them, this was achieved with the capture
of La Rochelle (October 1628). At the Peace of Alais (June 1629) the
Huguenots were forced to accept the destruction of their military
The dispute over the
Mantuan succession pushed
Louis into an open breach with the Hapsburgs. French troops invaded
and captured Pinerolo (March 1630).
Richelieu wanted to retain this important
fortress, but Marillac feared the economic consequences of a long war
with the Hapsburgs.
The conflict between Richelieu and Marie de
Medici came to a head on the Day of (the) Dupes (10-11 November
1630.) Marie de Medici demanded Richelieu's dismissal, but Louis
(after some apparent hesitation) refused and instead had her and his
brother Gaston arrested. Marie escaped to the Spanish Netherlands.|
Mother [Marie de Medici] has come to throw herself into the arms
of Her Highness [the Infanta, Governor of the Spanish
Netherlands], cast out by the violence of Cardinal Richelieu.
He has no regard for the fact that he is her creature, and
that she not only raised him from the dirt but placed him in
the eminent position from which he now hurls against her the
thunderbolts of his ingratitude."
(Peter Paul Rubens, August 1631)
Marillac was tried by a court of judges hand-picked by
Richelieu and died in captivity in 1632. Marillac's brother, who had served as a general of the
French army in Italy, was beheaded that same year.|
Gaston d'Orléans went to Luxembourg, raised
an army and invaded (June 1632;) he was defeated, imprisoned, escaped,
fled, and finally returned to a reconciliation with Louis XIII in
Richelieu's domestic policy
(i) The nobles
and his antics were typical of French noblemen, who had taken the
opportunity offered by the Religious Wars and Louis XIII's minority to
increase their power and independence. Richelieu was determined to put
a stop to this.
Gaston d'Orléans was
aided in his rebellion of 1632 by Henri, Duke of Montmorency, governor
of Languedoc and a last representative of one of the noblest families
in France. Richelieu had him executed, 3 October 1632.
Louis de Bourbon, Count of Soissons also plotted
against Richelieu, fled to Sedan and then invaded France (with the
help of an army provided by the Hapsburgs) in 1641. He was winning the
battle (at La Marfée on July 6, 1641)
but died from a gunshot wound (probably from his own gun).
||Henri Coiffier-Ruze D'Effiat, Marquis of Cinq-Mars
(1620-42), a handsome favorite of Louis XIII who resented
Richelieu's power, was probably involved in the Soissons
rebellion. In 1642 he returned to plotting Richelieu's overthrow.
Richelieu was able to show that Cinq-Mars had secretly reached an
agreement with Spain - at war with France at the time. Cinq-Mars
was executed, September 1642.
(ii) Representative assemblies
In 1617 Louis
XIII called an Assembly of Notables, consisting of eleven
clerical representatives, thirteen nobles (nine Catholic, four
Protestant) and twenty-seven senior officials. Louis and Luynes used
the Assembly as a sounding-board for their new plans for reform.
Another Assembly of Notables was summoned by Richelieu in 1626. He
wanted it to approve his plans for fiscal reform, the expansion of the
French navy, and the promotion of commerce. The Assembly also asked for the
abolition of the purchase and sale of government offices (with which
Richelieu agreed) and for an expansion of education (the usefulness of which Richelieu doubted).
Marie de Medici (under pressure from the
nobility) had summoned the national Estates General in 1614.
The Estates General represented the three estates of France - clergy,
nobility and commons. It came closest to expressing the views of the
political nation. Richelieu had saw the Estates-General merely as an inefficient
institution and a potential focus of opposition and never summoned it.
Richelieu did permit various provincial Estates to continue
assembling, but stopped others meeting when they proved recalcitrant
(e.g. Normandy, Burgundy).
Parlements (of which the Parlement of
Paris was the most important) were not political or
representative bodies but courts of justice where the king's edicts,
ordinances, and declarations were registered. They were a final court
of appeal in judicial matters and could temporarily hold up (though
not prevent) royal legislation. The King could always enforce
registration of an edict he wanted by appearing in the Parlement
himself in a lit-de-justice.
The Parlement of Paris protested on various occasions about onerous new
taxation, venality of offices and Richelieu's summary justice against
his enemies. Finally in 1641, Louis XIII forbade the Parlement to
discuss matters "that might concern the State, and its administration
and government". However, the crown could not abolish the Parlement
because its members owned their offices.
The sale of offices (which Richelieu was forced for
financial reasons to continue) produced an average of 20
million livres per year under Richelieu, but there was a price
to pay. Those who had purchased offices were naturally eager to recoup
their outlay by making as much money as possible from their posts.
This did not make for efficient and economical government. To keep
tabs on local governors and tax collectors, Richelieu appointed
Intendants were both judges and administrators, sent to the
provinces to ensure that taxes were fairly levied and promptly
collected. Directly appointed by and directly answerable to central
government, Richelieu made sure that they only served short terms in
any particular area so that they did not become too friendly with the
officials they were overseeing. The 120-150 intendants could
call on military force and had extensive, vaguely-defined powers, but
their decisions could be revoked and they could be dismissed at the
king's pleasure. Intendants greatly increased central
government efficiency and control and so - naturally - were intensely
disliked by the local officials they supervised.
Richelieu was eager to increase the prosperity of
France and devised various schemes for encouraging economic growth.
France had only a small merchant fleet and many of these
ships were built in the United Provinces, not in French shipyards; French ports
were poorly maintained, and there were too few French seamen. Richelieu
attempted to remedy these problems. He directed a significant increase in the
size of the French navy (from 11 Mediterranean galleys to 24, and from no
Atlantic warships to 46.)|
a vessel of 74 guns, launched in 1637 with a ship's complement of 620 men.
Richelieu also did his best to promote trade. He
encouraged the establishment of the Compagnie de Morbihan and
the Compagnie del la Nacelle de St Pierre Fleurdelysée
to trade on the Atlantic and Mediterranean respectively, in the hopes of
rivaling the Dutch and English East India companies.
|Richelieu himself contributed to a venture in the West Indies,
where the French had established colonies in the Lesser
Antilles, especially Martinique and Guadeloupe.
|Richelieu established another
to revive the failing New France (Canada) colonies.
Unfortunately, none of these
colonial ventures did well. Moreover, little was
done for industry; indeed excessive government regulation strongly
discouraged its development.
Richelieu also tried to
discourage the increase in the number of students being given
education in the liberal arts, and instead pressed for technical
Richelieu faced an
uphill battle in a country where retail trade was regarded with contempt and
a secure income could be obtained without effort from land or
Foreign policy and reason of state
foreign policy of Louis XIII and Richelieu took France into war.
This was enormously expensive. The military budget was five times as
much in 1635 as in 1618.|
on war rose as a proportion of total state expenditure, which also went up
|Revenue also increased but not as rapidly as expenditure, so
Richelieu borrowed heavily and constantly anticipated revenue.|
|The rapidly increasing levels of taxation produced evasion and even
revolts in Languedoc (1632) and Normandy (1639.)|
|War cost France an enormous amount in men and money with few
territorial rewards, yet it is arguable that only war could have
ended the looming threat of Hapsburg encirclement|
responsible for the war, its continuation, the resulting warfare
state, and his government's heavy-handed suppression of revolts
against wartime innovations" (Moote.)
or survival: these were the alternatives with which France was
confronted. Louis XIII and Richelieu chose survival" (Le Tapié.)