Louis XIII, also known as Louis the Just; (September 27, 1601 – May 14, 1643) was King of France from 1610 to 1643 and King of Navarre (as Louis II) from 1610 to 1620, when the crown of Navarre was merged with the French crown.
Young Louis XIII, King of France and Navarre.
Born at the Palace of Fontainebleau, Louis XIII was the eldest child of King Henri IV of France And Navarre and his second wife Marie de’ Medici. As son of the king, he was a Fils de France (“son of France”), and as the eldest son, Dauphin of France. His father HenrI IV was the first French king of the House of Bourbon, having succeeded his second cousin, Henri III (1574–1589), in application of Salic law.
Louis XIII’s paternal grandparents were Antoine de Bourbon, duc de Vendôme, and Jeanne III d’Albret, Queen of Navarre. His maternal grandparents were Francesco I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Joanna of Austria, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, the youngest daughter of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, and Anna of Bohemia and HungarY.
Eleonora de’ Medici, his maternal aunt, was his godmother. As a child, he was raised under the supervision of the royal governess Françoise de Montglat.
The ambassador of King James I-VI of England, Scotland and Ireland to the court of France, Sir Edward Herbert, who presented his credentials to Louis XIII in 1619, remarked on Louis’s extreme congenital speech impediment and his double teeth:
his words were never many, as being so extream [sic] a stutterer that he would sometimes hold his tongue out of his mouth a good while before he could speak so much as one word; he had besides a double row of teeth, and was observed seldom or never to spit or blow his nose, or to sweat much, ‘tho he were very laborious, and almost indefatigable in his exercises of hunting and hawking, to which he was much addicted.
Louis XIII ascended the throne in 1610 upon the assassination of his father, May 14, 1610 and his mother Marie de’ Medici acted as his Regent. Louis XIII was considered to have become of age at thirteen (1614). Although his coming-of-age technically ended Marie’s Regency, she remained the de facto ruler of France. His mother did not give up her position as Regent until 1617, when he was 16. Marie maintained most of her husband’s ministers, with the exception of Maximilien de Béthune, Duke of Sully, who was unpopular in the country.
Marie de’ Medici, Queen and Regent of France.
As regent Marie came to rely increasingly on Concino Concini, an Italian who assumed the role of her favourite, and was widely unpopular because he was a foreigner. This further antagonized Louis XIII’s cousin, Henri, Prince of Condé (1588–1646) who launched another rebellion in 1616. Huguenot leaders supported Condé’s rebellion, which led the young Louis XIII to conclude that they would never be loyal subjects. Eventually, Condé and Queen Marie made peace via the Treaty of Loudun, which allowed Condé great power in government but did not remove Concini. With growing dissatisfaction from nobles due to Concini’s position, Queen Marie, with Louis’s help, imprisoned Condé to protect Concini, leading to renewed revolts against the Queen and Concini.
Henri, Prince of Condé
In the meantime, Charles d’Albert, the Grand Falconer of France, convinced Louis XIII that he should break with his mother and support the rebels. Louis staged a palace coup d’état. As a result, Concini was assassinated on April 24, 1617. His widow Leonora Dori Galigaï was tried for witchcraft, condemned, beheaded, and burned on July 8, 1617, and Marie was sent into exile in Blois. Later, Louis conferred the title of Duke of Luynes on d’Albert.
Charles d’Albert, Duke of Luynes soon became as unpopular as Concini had been. Other nobles resented his monopolisation of the King. Luynes was seen as less competent than Henri IV’s ministers, many now elderly or deceased, who had surrounded Marie de’ Medici.
The Thirty Years’ War broke out in 1618. The French court was initially unsure of which side to support. On the one hand, France’s traditional rivalry with the House of Habsburg argued in favour of intervening on behalf of the Protestant powers (and Louis’s father Henri IV of France had once been a Huguenot leader). On the other hand, Louis XIII had a strict Catholic upbringing, and his natural inclination was to support the Holy Roman Emperor, the Habsburg Ferdinand II.
The French nobles were further antagonised against Charles d’Albert, Duke of Luynes by the 1618 revocation of the paulette tax and by the sale of offices in 1620. From her exile in Blois, Marie de’ Medici became the obvious rallying point for this discontent, and Armand Jean du Plessis, the Bishop of Luçon (who became Cardinal Richelieu in 1622) was allowed to act as her chief adviser, serving as a go-between Marie and the King.
In 1621 Louis XIII was formally reconciled with his mother. Charles d’Albert, Duke of Luynes was appointed Constable of France, after which he and Louis XIII set out to quell the Huguenot rebellion. The siege at the Huguenot stronghold of Montauban had to be abandoned after three months owing to the large number of royal troops who had succumbed to camp fever. One of the victims of camp fever was, Charles d’Albert, Duke of Luynes who died in December 1621.
Following the death of Luynes, Louis determined that he would rule by council. His mother returned from exile and, in 1622, entered this council, where Condé recommended violent suppression of the Huguenots.
Louis XIII, King of France and Navarre
Spain was constantly interfering in the Valtellina, which angered Louis, as he wanted to hold possession of this strategically important passageway. (In these years the French kingdom was literally surrounded by the Habsburg realms, for the Habsburgs were Kings of Spain as well as Holy Roman Emperors. In addition, the Spanish and Holy Roman empires included the territories of today’s Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, and northern Italy.)
Charles de La Vieuville Superintendent of Finances was also chief adviser to King Louis XIII. Charles de La Vieuville held similar views toward Spain as the king, and who advised Louis to side with the Dutch via the Treaty of Compiègne. However, La Vieuville was dismissed by the middle of 1624, partly due to his bad behaviour (during his tenure as superintendent he was arrogant and incompetent) and because of a well-organized pamphlet campaign by Cardinal Richelieu against his council rival. Louis XIII needed a new chief advisor; Cardinal Richelieu would be that counsellor.
Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal Richelieu
Cardinal Richelieu played a major role in Louis XIII’s reign from 1624, determining France’s direction over the course of the next eighteen years. As a result of Richelieu’s work, Louis XIII became one of the first examples of an absolute monarch. Under Louis and Richelieu, the crown successfully intervened in the Thirty Years’ War against the Habsburgs, managed to keep the French nobility in line, and retracted the political and military privileges granted to the Huguenots by Henry IV (while maintaining their religious freedoms). Louis XIII successfully led the important Siege of La Rochelle. In addition, Louis had the port of Le Havre modernised, and he built a powerful navy.
On 24 November 1615, Louis XIII married Anne of Austria, daughter of Felipe III of Spain, his wife Margaret of Austria, the daughter of Archduke Charles II of Austria and Maria Anna of Bavaria and thus the paternal granddaughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I.
The couple were second cousins, by mutual descent from Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor. This marriage followed a tradition of cementing military and political alliances between the Catholic powers of France and Spain with royal marriages. The tradition went back to the marriage of Louis VII of France and Constance of Castile.
Anne of Austria (Spain)
The marriage was only briefly happy, and the King’s duties often kept them apart. After twenty-three years of marriage and four stillbirths, Anne finally gave birth to a son on 5 September 1638, the future Louis XIV.
Many people regarded this birth as a miracle and, in show of gratitude to God for the long-awaited birth of an heir, his parents named him Louis-Dieudonné (“God-given”). As another sign of gratitude, according to several interpretations, seven months before his birth, France was dedicated by Louis XIII to the Virgin Mary, who, many believed, had interceded for the perceived miracle.
However, the text of the dedication does not mention the royal pregnancy and birth as one of its reasons. Also, Louis XIII himself is said to have expressed his scepticism with regard to the miracle after his son’s birth. In gratitude for having successfully given birth, the queen founded the Benedictine abbey of the Val-de-Grâce, for which Louis XIV himself laid the cornerstone of its church, an early masterpiece of French Baroque architecture.