1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Louis XIII. of France
LOUIS XIII. (1601-1643), king of France, was the, son of Henry IV. and of Marie de Medici. He became king on his father's assassination in 1610; but his mother at once seized the full powers of regent. She determined to reverse the policy of her husband and to bring France into alliance with Spain and the Austrian house, upon which power Henry had been meditating an attack at the time of his death. Two marriages were designed to cement this alliance. Louis was to marry Anne of Austria, daughter of the Spanish king, Philip III., and the Spanish prince, afterwards Philip IV., himself was to marry the Princess Elizabeth, the king's sister. Notwithstanding the opposition of the Protestants and nobles of France, the queen carried through her purpose and the marriages were concluded in 1615. The next years were full of civil war and political intrigue, during which the queen relied upon the Marshal d'Ancre. Louis XIII. was a backward boy, and his education had been much neglected. We have the fullest details of his private life, and yet his character remains something of a mystery. He was fond of field sports and seemed to acquiesce in his mother's occupation of power and in the rule of her favourites. But throughout his life he concealed his purposes even from his closest friends; sometimes it seems as if he were hardly conscious of them himself. In 1617 he was much attached to Charles d'Albert, sieur de Luynes; and with his help he arrested Marshal d'Ancre, and on his resistance had him assassinated. From this time to her death the relation between the king and his mother was one of concealed or open hostility. The article on FRANCE must be consulted for the intricate events of the following years.
The decisive incident for his private life as well as for his reign was the entrance of Cardinal Richelieu, hitherto the queen's chief adviser, into the king's council in 1624. Henceforth the policy of France was directed by Richelieu, who took up in its main features the system of Protestant alliances and opposition to the power of Austria and Spain, which had been begun by Henry IV. and had been interrupted by the queen mother during the regency; while he asserted the power of the crown against all rivals at home. This policy had remarkable results for the king's private life. It not only brought him into unremitting conflict with the Protestants and the nobles of France, but also made him the enemy of his mother, of his brother Gaston of Orleans, who made himself the champion of the cause of the nobles, and sometimes even of his wife. It is not easy to define his relations to Richelieu. He was convinced of his loyalty and of his genius, and in the end always supported his policy. But he disliked the friction with his family circle which this policy produced. In the difficulty with which he expressed himself and in a certain indecision of characte r the king was curiously unlike his father, the frank and impetuous Henry of Navarre, and his absolute son Louis XIV. He took a great interest in all the externals of war. He was present, and is said to have played an important part at the passage of Susa in 1629, and also eagerly participated in the siege of Rochelle, which surrendered in the same year. But for the most part his share in the great events of the reign was a passive one. The one all-important fact was that he supported his great minister. There were certain occasions when it seemed as if that support would be denied. The chief of these was what is known as the “ Day of Dupes ” (1630). Then the queen-mother and the king's brother passionately attacked the minister, and for a moment it was believed that Richelieu was dismissed and that the queen mother and a Spanish policy had triumphed. But the sequel only strengthened the power of the minister. He regained his ascendancy over the king, punished his enemies and forced Marie de' Medici and Gaston of Orleans to sue for pardon. In 1631 Gaston fled to Lorraine and the queen-mother to Brussels. Gaston soon returned, to plot, to fail and to sue for pardon again and again; but Marie de'Medici ended her life in exile.
Richelieu's position was much strengthened by these incidents, but to the end of life he had to struggle against Conspiracies which were designed to deprive him of the king's support, and usually Gaston of Orleans had some share in these movements. In 1632 the duke of Montmorency's conspiracy brought its leader to the scaffold. But the last great effort to overthrow Richelieu was closely connected with the king. Louis XIII. had from the beginning of his reign had favourites—-young men for the most part with whom he lived freely and intimately and spoke of public affairs lightly and unreservedly; and who in consequence often exaggerated their influence over him. Henri d'Effat, marquis de Cinq-Mars, was the last of these favourites. The king is said to have allowed him to speak hostilely of Richelieu and even to recall the assassination of Marshal d'Ancre. Cinq-Mars believed himself secure of the king's favour. He entered into negotiations with Spain and was secretly supported by Gaston of Orleans. But Richelieu discovered his treasonous relations with Spain and by this means defeated his plot. Louis was reconciled to his minister. “We have lived too long together to be separated” he is reported to have said (September 1642). Yet when Richelieu died in December of the same year he allowed himself to speak of him in a jealous and satirical tone. He died himself a few months later (May 1643).
His nature was timid, lethargic and melancholy, and his court was not marked by the scandals which had been seen under Henry IV. Yet Mademoiselle de la Fayette and Madame d'Hautefort and others are said to have been his mistresses. His brother Gaston survived him, but gave unexpectedly littlentrouble during the wars of the Fronde which ensued on the death of Louis XIII.
The chief source of information on Louis XIll.'s life is to be found in the contemporary memoirs, of which the chief are: Bassompierre, Fontenay-Mareuil, Gaston d'Orléans, Montrésor, Omer Talon. Richelieu's own Memoirs are chiefly concerned with politics and diplomacy. Of modern works those most directly bearing on the king's personal life are R. de Beauchamp, Louis XIII. d'apres sa correspondence avec le cardinal de Richelieu; G. Hanotaux, Histoire du cardinal de Richelieu (1893-1896); Rossignol, Louis XIII. avant Richelieu; M. Topin, Louis XIII. et Richelieu (1876). See too Professor R. Lodge, Richelieu; ]. B. H. R. Capefigue, Richelieu, Mazarin et la Fronde (1835-1836); and Dr J. H. Bridges, Richelieu, Mazarin and Colbert (1866).
For full bibliography see G. Monod, Bibliographic de l'histoire de France; Cambridge Modern History, vol. iv. (“ The Thirty Years War"); Lavisse et Rambaud, Histoire géuérale, vol. v. (“ Guerres de religion ). (A. J. G.* )