351-12 The Fronde & the English Civil War

Cardinal Jules Mazarin (1602-61)
Cardinal Jules Mazarin

Charles I
King Charles I


 The rise of Mazarin

Cardinal Richelieu died in December 1642; Louis XIII died in May 1643.

Anne of Austria and Louis
Anne & Louis

On his accession, Louis XIV was only four years old. His mother Anne of Austria (in fact a Spanish Hapsburg, daughter of Philip III of Spain) became regent.
Anne's chief advisor was Jules Mazarin (1602-61). Born in Pescina, near Rome, he was educated at a Jesuit school in Rome and at a Spanish university before becoming a captain in the papal army. He moved into the papal diplomatic service where his main patron was Cardinal Barberini, nephew of Pope Urban VIII.

Urban VIII

Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini) was a Florentine aristocrat. He was determinedly pro-French and anti-Hapsburg. The Duke of Modena commented that "The Pope better affects [likes] the French side than any citizen of Paris."
Mazarin was very impressed by Cardinal Richelieu when he met him, and became so firm a friend of France at the Papal Court that Louis XIII in 1638 pressed to have him promoted to Cardinal. (He became a Cardinal in December 1641).
Mazarin moved permanently to France in 1640 and became Richelieu's client. Anne of Austria grew to trust Mazarin (they may even have married secretly) and placed him in charge of government from 1643.
François de Vendôme, Duke of Beaufort, (son of an illegitimate son of Henry IV) and Marie de Rohan, Duchess of Chevreuse conspired to seize power in 1643, but were captured and punished.

Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-83)
Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-83)

Mazarin adopted a self-effacing manner and treated opposition mildly. He did find support amongst professional bureaucrats especially Jean-Baptiste Colbert and Michel Le Tellier. Both these men would go on to play an important role in the reform of France's civil and military administration.


Mazarin inherited Richelieu's foreign policy - including the war against the Spanish and Austrian Hapsburgs. Continuing the war meant that taxation had to be kept at very high levels. It also alienated Catholic dévots from Mazarin, since the policy involved allying with Protestants against Catholics in the Empire and Spain.

Annual military expenditure in millions of livres








Mazarin also continued Richelieu's policies of centralization, especially using intendants to control the provinces.
Mazarin took advantage of his position to build up a vast fortune - between 1643 and 1648 he banked about one million livres per annum. At his death, his fortune was estimated at 39 million livres; (Richelieu had only amassed about 24 million livres over a far longer period of power).


The Fronde


Mazarin was not liked by ordinary Frenchman. In Paris in 1648, popular discontent erupted into open violence.
Paris was a city of about half a million people in the mid-seventeenth century. In 1644, Mazarin tried to prevent it growing further and to raise taxes by fining those who built houses outside the City Walls. This policy produced widespread resentment.
New sales taxes on wine and meat in 1646-7 created more anger.
The noble and administrative elite, many of whom lived in Paris, were also increasingly unhappy with the concentration of power in Mazarin's hands.
The Fronde began in January 1648, when the Paris mob used children's slings (frondes) to hurl stones at the windows of Mazarin's associates. The supporters of the revolt were called frondeurs.

The Fronde of the Parlement 1648-49

Mazarin's continual need to raise money for the war against the Hapsburgs provoked the troubles known as the Fronde of the Parlement (la Fronde parlementaire).
Mazarin proposed that the magistrates of the high courts forego their salaries for a number of years. Naturally, they were outraged, as was the parlement of Paris because although its deputies' salaries were not threatened, Mazarin wanted to create new offices that would undermine its powers.
The Parlement joined with other government bodies (the Great Council, the Chamber of Accounts, and the Cour des aides) to demand various reforms. These included suppressing the intendants, reducing taxation (especially the taille) and forbidding all new taxes without the consent of the parlement, no imprisonment without trial, and limiting the creation of new offices of state.
Anne and Mazarin responded by ordering the arrest of several deputies of the parlement, including the popular Pierre Broussel.
The Paris mob rioted and built barricades in the streets, hence August 26-27 1648 became known as The Days of the Barricades (Les journées de barricades). This forced the release of Broussel and the others.

Henry of Orléans,
Duke of Longueville & Estouteville
Anne and Mazarin could not rely on the support of the nobility. The Duchess of Longueville (whose husband Henry was governor of Normandy, and whose brother, the Great Condé, had won the battle of Rocroi in 1643) and others sided with the Parlement.

Anne and Mazarin were forced to concede many of the insurgents' demands in the Declaration of Saint Germain (October 1648). The concessions were extracted by force and it is doubtful if Mazarin ever really intended to abide by them.
Renewed disturbances in Paris led Anne to take Louis and leave Paris (January 1649). Further talks began between the Frondeurs and the government at the court of Saint Germain. Both sides were intransigent until Spain invaded France, taking Pontavert.  In March 1649, the government confirmed the Declaration of October, in return for which Paris and the Parlement layed down their weapons and allowing royal troops to return. Anne and Mazarin did not yet consider it safe for themselves or the king to return.


Jean-François-Paul de Gondi
Cardinal de Retz

The Fronde of the nobles

(La Fronde des Grands)


Many frondeurs had been unhappy with the compromise reached in 1649 and one of their leaders, Jean-François-Paul de Gondi, (later Cardinal de Retz) had been trying for some time to recruit Louis, Prince of Condé to their cause. By January 1650, Mazarin feared that an alliance between Condé and his faction and the frondeurs was imminent. He bought off Gondi and the frondeurs with promises, and on 18 January 1650 arrested Condé, his brother Armand, Prince of Conti, and his brother-in-law, Henry, Duke of Longueville.
The agreements of 1649 had brought peace to Paris, but there was unrest in other parts of France - particularly Normandy, Provence, and Guyenne - where supporters and opponents of the government raised forces and disrupted tax collection and administration.

Anne Geneviève de Bourbon, Duchess of Longueville (1619-1679)
The arrest of Condé provoked these areas to open revolt, as Condé's friends and allies spread out across the country recruiting forces to oppose Mazarin and liberate the princes. Condé's wife raised a revolt in Bordeaux, while his sister (Longueville's wife) and Henry (Henri) de la Tour d’Auvergne, Viscount of Turenne (like Condé, a hero of France's wars against Spain) raised troops and sought Spanish help against the government.

Mazarin and Anne were strong militarily, but when the Condéans, the frondeurs and the parlement allied and demanded the princes' release, their political position collapsed. In February 1651, Anne freed the princes and Mazarin, fearing the parlement's vengeance, fled the country.
The Prince of Condé seemed the real winner and returned to Paris in triumph. Unfortunately, although a fine general, he was a tactless and incompetent politician, who soon alienated nobles, parlement, and Parisians.
In the Fall of 1651, Condé openly revolted against the crown. In July 1652 his troops entered Paris, but acted with such undisciplined brutality that his cause lost credibility.
Although in exile, Mazarin had not been idle and had reached agreement with Turenne - a general as talented as Condé. Turenne's forces pursued Condé's, who in 1653 fled to the Spanish Netherlands.
Louis XIV (officially proclaimed of age) re-entered Paris (October 1652) and recalled Mazarin in February 1653. The last vestiges of resistance in Bordeaux fizzled out in the late summer of 1653.
The French people suffered terribly in the Fronde but it achieved no constitutional reform. Royal absolutism was reinstalled without any effective limitation. Indeed, popular riots and noble factionalism had convinced much of the population that any attempt to restrict royal power led to anarchy. "Frondeur" came to mean a troublemaker or backbiter acting for personal or partisan motives.


The English Civil War

The Coming of Civil War

The First Civil War

The English Revolution

Commonwealth and Protectorate

The Restoration


General Crisis?

The political problems that marked the late 1640's and early 1650's in France, England, Naples, Ukraine, Portugal and Catalonia have led some historians to posit a "General Crisis of the seventeenth century". Marxists have suggested that a crisis of production produced political disorder, whilst liberal historians have portrayed it as a response to absolutism and centralization.
It is true that the early seventeenth century was one of economic decline in many parts of Europe, and that the downturn in economic activity coincided with unfavorable variations in climate (particularly the cold summer and harvest failures of 1647). Increased taxation to support unprecedented military expenditure was common to almost all of Europe. It is also true that it many countries of Western Europe the relationship between central government and the hereditary nobility was shifting and unstable.
However, there were also significant variations across Europe. The economies of England and the Netherlands thrived. The Ukraine revolted without any provocation from high taxation. Russia's impoverished serfs little resembled the United Provinces' prosperous and efficient small farmers. The Fronde took place when the crown was weak because of Louis XIV's minority, while the English Civil War was provoked by Charles I's high-handed attempts to increase his power. The revolts of Naples, Catalonia, Portugal and Normandy expressed regional resentment of "foreign" rule, while the English Civil War and the Fronde of the nobles had few such overtones.
Although there were some factors common to the disturbances of the 1640's and 1650's, no simple overarching theory explains them all.


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