Campaign of the Month: August 2011
Le Ballet de l'Acier
- The grands make a show of force against the Queen-Regent, with Condé occupying Sainte-Menehould and the duc de Nevers seizing the citadel of Mézières, effectively taking control of the northeast frontier of France, while the duc de Vendôme, the king’s half-brother, fortifies his holdings in Brittany, to the northwest. They issue a call to summon the Estates General, presumably to challenge and reform the regency. Marie mobilizes the military household and opens negotiations with the rebellious nobles: she agrees to summon the Estates General and award the fractious nobles with additional sinecures and pensions, adding to their already considerable fortunes. Despite the concessions, Condé]] and Vendôme continue their rebellion, leading the teenage king to take the field with the royal army in western France, in a show of force meant to intimidate his half-brother, Vendôme, deny Condé control of towns along the Loire River, and to disperse the Huguenot garrisons of Saumur and Loudon. The rebellion goes quiet as the Estates General are convened in the fall.
- The Estates General meet in Paris. In often-acrimonious sessions held at the hôtel de Bourbon near the Louvre, detailed and dissected by pamphleteers playing their wares among the booksellers on the Pont-Neuf, the clerics, nobles, and deputies each compile lists of grievances and proposed reforms to deliver to the king. The prelates and monastics ask the crown to support the Tridentine reforms, most pointedly opposition to Protestantism. The nobles seek protection of their royal pensions and privileges while demanding an end to the purchase of hereditary royal offices. The deputies representing the Third Estate, who benefit most from the purchase of offices, concede the nobles’ request but ask the crown to reduce royal pensions to the nobles in exchange, and to reduce taxes as well; the deputies also present a petition stating the unquestioned supremacy of the authority of the king in France. Stung by the assassination of two kings, Henri III and Henri IV, and the disorder and internal strife that wracked France for decades, the deputies wish to forestall repeated challenges to the crown’s authority made by the Church and the grands. This petition is opposed by the clerics, in particular the Jesuits and the papal nuncio, for rejecting the supremacy of the pope, and by the nobility, for elevating the king from first-among-equals to an absolute monarch. The Estates General is marked by continual sparring between the Queen-Regent and the prince de Condé. The Estates General complete their work at the end of the year, and one of the final speeches is presented by the bishop of Luçon, who proclaims to the young king that all subjects of France desire “to see the royal dignity asserted through you, so that it will be like a sure rock which breaks everything that strikes against it.”
- On 2 October, Louis formally declares his majority to the Parlement de Paris, officially ending Marie de’ Medici’s regency – the queen mother’s influence over the thirteen year-old king remains virtually unchanged, however.