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HISTORY OF FRANCE UNDER LEWIS XIII., AND OF SPAIN AND PORTUGAL UNDER PHILIP III. and IV.-Mary de Medicis Regent-Siege of Rochelle-Cardinal Richelieu-Death of Lewis XIII-Spain-Philip III.—Philip IV.-Degraded State of Spain-Portugal throws off the Spanish Yoke-Constitution of Portugal-Constitution of Spain.
THE wise, equitable and vigorous administration of Henry IV. had raised the kingdom of France from the lowest pitch of misery and anarchy to peace, dignity, and prosperity. Upon his death, all those advantages were lost at once. Mary de Medicis, his widow, a woman of a weak mind, but of ungovernable passions, and of a domineering, insolent character, had been appointed Regent in the minority of her son Lewis XIII. Her restless and ambitious spirit embroiled both the court and the nation in factions; and in endeavouring to secure to her interest the nobility, whom it was not possible ever firmly to unite among themselves, she squandered away the public money. The kingdom lost all its weight abroad, and relapsed into the same disorders at home, which we have seen in the times of Francis II., of Charles IX., and of Henry III. Mary of Medicis disgusted the French, in the first place, by her partiality to her countrymen, the Italians. Concini, a Florentine, a high favourite of the queen-regent, was
advanced to the dignity of a marshal of France; a sufficient reason for rendering the queen and her minister odious to the nobility and to the kingdom. The Maréchal d'Ancre, for such was the title he assumed, trusted too much to the favour of his mistress, and to that appearance of power which was its consequence. The nobility combined against him, and he was assassinated in a most inhuman manner in the palace of the Louvre. The populace, in that spirit of savage cruelty, which in all scenes of disorder seems to be characteristic of that nation, are said actually to have torn his heart from the carcase and devoured it. The vengeance of the nobility did not stop with the death of the minister. The queen herself was a sufferer as well as her favourite. Her guards were removed, she was hurried from Paris, and confined in the castle of Blois, where she was kept a prisoner for two years, till she was released by the duke of Epernon, to whom she had originally been indebted for her appointment to the regency of the kingdom.
In this conjuncture everything was involved in anarchy and confusion. The queen-mother was actually at war with her own son, the whole nation divided into parties, and the government of France in the lowest state of weakness and inefficacy.
The genius of the great Richelieu, then a young man, effected a reconciliation for a time between the contending factions, and he obtained, as a reward for this piece of service, the dignity of
cardinal, at the queen's soli the 1% of a.
But this calm was of short continuance. The factious nobility began to excite new disturbances, whichH BLOOWINGAS LE
Lewis XIII., who was now of age, had neither the discretion nor the ability to compose. These commotions were increased by religious differences, for the protestants, who had enjoyed an unmolested tranquillity under Henry IV., and for a while under the minority of Louis, were now exposed to fresh persecutions. They were obliged to take up arms; and a political and a religious war raged with equal violence at the same time. The king, amidst these commotions, was obliged alternately to bribe his own servants, and to negociate with his rebel nobility.
While public affairs were in this situation, Mary of Medicis had the address to bring the new favourite Richelieu into the council, against the inclination of the king and his favourite counsellors; and in a very short time this great politician completely gained the confidence of his royal master, and signally displayed his splendid abilities in quieting all disorders, and raising the French monarchy to a very high pitch of splendour.
The cardinal de Richelieu entered on his administration with that vigorous activity which marks a bold and daring spirit. A fleet was necessary for the reduction of Rochelle, where the Calvinists, who then suffered great persecution, were attempting to imitate the example of the Hollanders, and throw off their subjection to the crown of France. The cardinal found it impossible to fit out an armament with that celerity which was necessary, and he concluded a bargain with the Dutch to furnish a fleet for subduing their protestant brethren. An opportunity thus offered of making money-the Dutch had no
scruple on the score of conscience; and they fought for the Catholic religion as keenly as they had done half a century before for the Protestant. It was necessary, however, that the nation should be able to carry on its wars without having recourse to the aid of foreigners, and Richelieu gave peace to the Protestants, that he might be in a capacity of attending to the most material interests of the kingdom, its strength and internal prosperity.
At this time three ministers, equally powerful, regulated the general policy of all Europe; Olivarez in Spain, Buckingham in England, and Richelieu in France. Of these, Buckingham was reckoned the worst politician, as he studied more his own private passions than the grandeur of his country, which is the true source of ambition in a politic minister. An intrigue of Buckingham's with Lewis's queen, Anne of Austria, which gave high umbrage to the court of France, is supposed to have been the real cause of a war with England. That minister prevailed on his sovereign to light up the contention between the Protestants and Catholics in France, by sending a force to the aid of the Calvinists of Rochelle. But the design was not so speedily executed as to escape the vigilance of Cardinal Richelieu, who, at the head of a considerable body of men, obliged Buckingham, with the loss of half his armament, to return to England.
The Rochellers, however, held out the town with the most obstinate resolution, against the troops of the cardinal, who was obliged to employ every resource of policy, as well as of war, for their reduction. In this siege, which lasted for the
course of a whole year, the cardinal commande in person. It was found impossible to take the town while it continued open to the English fleet. An immense mole was therefore constructed in the sea to prevent the approach of the English shipping. The expedient succeeded, and Rochelle at length was obliged to surrender. It was stripped of its privileges, and the Catholic religion established in place of the Protestant; though the Calvinists were allowed the private exercise of their worship. The rest of the Protestant towns of France were treated in the same manner as Rochelle; their fortifications were thrown down, and they were deprived of every privilege that might be dangerous to the state. Thus the Protestant party in France, a very numerous body of men, were disarmed and crushed for ever. Neither the Swiss nor the Dutch were so powerful as the French Protestants, at the time that these nations erected themselves into independent sovereignties. Geneva, though a very inconsiderable state, asserted its liberty and maintained it. Yet the Calvinists of France were quite overpowered, and the reason was, that they were scattered through the whole provinces: it was impossible to unite them; and they were attacked by superior numbers, and by disciplined troops.
Lewis XIII., though a monarch of a weak frame of mind, had somewhat of a military disposition. He entered into the schemes of Richelieu for the aggrandisement of France, and fought at the head of his armies, both in his own kingdom and in Italy. Richelieu was a man whose genius was truly astonishing. He was negociating at one