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The Story of France by  Mary Macgregor

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THE DAY OF DUPES

[333] LA ROCHELLE had no sooner been taken than the king set out with an army to Italy. The desire of conquest had taken hold of him.

The cardinal rode by his side on a noble war-horse, clad in armour of blue steel, his pistols slung at his saddle-bow.

Abroad, as at home, Richelieu won victories for France, sometimes by his sword, at other times by his pen. But keen-sighted as he was, the cardinal did not notice that the king was growing jealous of his minister's fame.

Little by little Louis began to listen to the queen-mother's complaints about the cardinal and to the slanders of his enemies.

At length, when both king and minister had returned from Italy, Louis seemed to fall completely under the influence of his mother, and actually signed an order sending Richelieu into exile.

No sooner had he done so than he began to wonder how he would get on without the minister on whom he had depended so long and so entirely.

Wishing to forget the matter, the king rode off to hunt, and instead of returning to the Louvre, he stayed all night at the palace at Versailles.

Meanwhile Mary de Medici, giving no thought to the fickle character of her son, did not hide her triumph at the cardinal's fall.

She called her friends around her, promising that this post should be given to one and that to another. Together [334] with Queen Anne she told the court that Richelieu would even now be preparing for flight, if he had not already fled, and there were few who did not rejoice that the great cardinal's power had come to an end.

The queen-mother's joy, as well as that of the court, was short-lived. For the cardinal, knowing as usual what was going on around him, hastened at once to Versailles and demanded to be taken to the king.

Louis was perhaps more glad than sorry to see his minister, yet at first he found it difficult to look in his face.

The cardinal had been in the room but a few moments before the king was sure that he had indeed been foolish to dream of dismissing his powerful servant.

The order banishing Richelieu was speedily counter-signed, and Louis, with something like a sigh of relief, put himself once again under his minister's influence.

Rumours soon reached Paris that the cardinal was with the king, and restored to his favour.

Then indeed there was confusion at court, the queen-mother and her friends seeing how foolish they had been to think that they had thus easily got rid of the great cardinal. Henceforth November 11, 1680, the day on which Mary de Medici had made her great mistake, was known as the "Day of Dupes," a dupe being one who has been deceived. Richelieu now saw more clearly than ever that as long as the queen-mother was at court, her intrigues would never cease. As he could not order her to leave Paris, he himself left the capital with the king. Louis must not again be left alone to struggle against or yield to the queen-mother's influence.

Mary de Medici followed the cardinal to Compiegne, where he and the king had stayed to rest for the night, and thus Richelieu gained his end.

Early the next morning, while the queen-mother, tired with her hurried journey, still slept, the cardinal and the king rode back in hot haste to Paris. When the queen- [335] mother awoke it was to find that she was alone in Compiegne.

From Paris, Louis wrote to his mother asking her not to return, his request being really a command. Mary de Medici, banished from the French court, wandered first to one foreign country and then to another, receiving only a cold welcome from strangers.

Although she was the mother of a king, she soon had neither friends nor money, and at length she took rooms in the house of a shoemaker at Cologne. Sixty years before, the great painter Rubens had been born in this very house. Here Mary de Medici died, sad and alone, save for one servant who attended to her needs.

It was not until she was dead that Louis XIII. seemed to remember that Mary de Medici was his mother. Then he ordered her body to be brought to France, where amid great pomp it was laid to rest.

The cardinal had still to guard against the plots of those who hated him, and the favours showered upon him by the king did not tend to lessen the number of his enemies.

While Richelieu was created a duke, a peer, and also made Governor of Brittany, the other nobles found that positions of trust were gradually taken from them, and their power decreased on every possible opportunity. So they resolved to make one more effort to crush their enemy.

The revolt washed by Henry de Montmorency, though he had received gifts from both the king and the minister. It seemed that nothing could save the country from civil war, for the provinces had only been waiting for a leader to fly to arms.

But the cardinal was swift as ever to check the conspirators, and almost before their plans were formed they seemed to be discovered.

Montmorency was in Languedoc with a band of soldiers when the king's army overtook him. A fierce battle was fought, but the son of the old constable of France was taken, [336] covered with wounds. His rank could not save him from his fate. He had proved a traitor to his king, so he was tried and executed in 1682. Even his enemies were sorry for the brave soldier who went to his death proud and unashamed.

Richelieu was now at the height of his power, and his enemies at home being crushed, he had time to turn to foreign affairs.

In Germany the Thirty Years' War was being fought. It was a religious war, carried on by the Protestant princes in Germany against their emperor, who was a Catholic.

Richelieu, who in France had fought against the Huguenots, now took the side of the Protestants, promising to raise four large armies and to send them to the help of the German princes.

At first the French soldiers were beaten by the great German generals. In 1638, however, the tide began to turn, and the French armies won several battles near the Rhine and also in Italy, while three years later the French were everywhere triumphant.

Turenne, a young French general who afterwards became famous, won his first success in this war with Germany.

At home one more plot was made against the life of the great minister. It was arranged by Cinq-Mars, a mere lad, who was a favourite with the king. That he might overthrow Richelieu, Cinq-Mars even entered into a secret treaty to betray his country to Spain.

Richelieu, who was never strong, was at this time suffering from a severe illness. Both he and the king, who was also ailing, were travelling by different ways toward the Spanish frontier.

The cardinal, though ill, was as alert as ever, and knew all the details of Cinq-Mars' plot. Louis also knew something of his young favourite's plans, and Cinq-Mars believed that the king would uphold his treachery. But the time had long gone by when Louis would fail his minister, even [337] though at times he might grow restless under his control, as the sharp eyes of Cinq-Mars had seen.

Knowing that the cardinal was ill, the king sent him a kind and reassuring message, lest he should be troubled about Cinq-Mars' behaviour.

Richelieu on receiving the king's message, at once sent him a copy of the secret treaty which Cinq-Mars had dared to make with Spain.

This decided the king. He ordered the young favourite to be arrested. Then, hastening to the cardinal, he conferrred on him the title of Lieutenant-General of the Realm, with powers almost equal to his own.

But Richelieu did not long enjoy his new dignity. Already he was slowly dying. His servants carried him to a barge, that he might be taken quietly up the Rhone to Lyons.

Behind him, in another barge, were his two prisoners, Cinq-Mars and De Thou. De Thou, though innocent, had been condemned with his friend. Up the river the barges slowly went their way, the cardinal, like the Roman conqueror of old, leading his prisoners to death. When they reached Lyons the young men were beheaded as traitors.

Richelieu then returned to Paris, but he was so weak that he had to be carried in a litter.

It was a sad procession that slowly wended its way along the streets, for not a voice was raised to cheer the dying cardinal. The people of Paris had never learned to love, but only to dread the hard, relentless ruler of their country and their king.

On the 2nd December 1642 the cardinal became so ill that prayers were offered in all the churches for his recovery.

When Louis came to say good-bye to his minister, who had served him so long and so well, Richelieu said, "I have this satisfaction, that I have never deserted the king, and that I leave his kingdom exalted and his enemies abased."

[338] He then recommended Cardinal Mazarin to his master, saying, "I believe him to be capable of serving the king."

As the sacrament was brought to him, the sick man stretched out his hand and said, "There is my Judge, before whom I shall soon appear; I pray Him with all my heart to condemn me if I have ever had any other aim than the welfare of religion and of the State."

Cardinal Richelieu died on the 4th December 1642, and Louis XIII. lived only a few months after his great minister.

The king's little son, who was barely four years old, was christened while his father lay dying.

"What is your name, my son?" asked Louis XIII.

"My name is Louis XIV.," answered the child.

"Not yet, my son, not yet," murmured the dying king.

But Louis XIII. did not seem sorry to die. He lay in his own room, his windows open, looking toward the Abbey of St. Denis. "Let me see my last resting-place," he said as his courtiers gathered around his bed.

In the glad month of May 1648, Louis XIII. laid down his crown, and his little son became in truth Louis XIV.


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