A Short History of France eBook

Mary Platt Parmele
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 173 pages of information about A Short History of France.

The marriage of Louis with the Infanta of Spain, known as Anne of Austria, was doubtless a part of the same line of policy, and was the beginning of many attempts to draw the Spanish peninsula under the control of France.

When the end of all these schemings arrived, on the 4th day of December, 1642, Richelieu calmly laid down to die in his princely residence known at that time as the Palais Cardinal.  But as it was his dying gift to the king, the name was changed to the Palais Royal.  Upon the death of Louis XIII., which occurred in 1643, only a few months after that of his minister, the widowed Queen Anne, with her infant son, Louis XIV., removed from the Louvre to the Palais Royal, which continued to be the residence of the Grand Monarch for some time after his majority.

Anne was appointed regent for her son, not yet five years old, and, to the surprise of everyone, immediately called to her aid as her adviser not a Frenchman, as was expected, but an Italian, Cardinal Mazarin.  So the fate of the kingdom was in the hands of two foreigners, a Spanish queen-regent and an Italian minister.

Richelieu’s and Mazarin’s methods were the opposite of each other.  One was direct, the other tortuous and indirect.  In true Italian fashion Mazarin overcame by seeming to yield; and what he said was the thing he did not mean.  Intrigue and bribery were his implements and weapons.

The situation awoke distrust.  It was a time to recover lost privileges, and to struggle out of the chains riveted by Richelieu.  A civil war known as the Fronde was the result.

As all classes had grievances, all were represented in this general undoing of the last minister’s great work.  But as no two classes desired the same thing, the miserable war, without genius and without system, miserably failed.  The royal cause triumphed; and Richelieu’s political structure was not even shaken.  Mazarin stood inflexibly by the work of his great predecessor.  Turenne and Conde were the military heroes of this, as well as of the subsequent foreign wars, resulting in the acquisition of Alsace (1648) and other great territorial expansion.

When Cardinal Mazarin died in 1661, the young king was asked to whom the ministers should bring their portfolios.  To which came the unexpected reply, “To me.”


The wily Italian was gone, and Louis XIV. settled himself upon the throne which Richelieu had rendered so exalted and immovable.

Cardinal Mazarin had said of the young Louis that “there was enough in him to make four kings, and one honest man.”  His greatness consisted more in amplitude than in kind.  Nature made him in prodigal mood.  He was an average man of colossal proportions.  His ability, courage, dignity, industry, greed for power and possessions, were all on a magnificent scale, and so were his vanity, his loves, his cruelties, his pleasures, his triumphs, and his disappointments.

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A Short History of France from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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