But much more important was the action carried out by the government to revive the national economy which, at the end of the civil wars, was in disastrous conditions: the country was depopulated, the progress of agriculture stopped, internal exchanges hindered and made unsafe by exactions. and looting and even arbitrary tolls that reappeared here and there, ruined the industry; the overburdened finances, the overwhelming public debt, the budget in very serious deficit. Two of Henry IV’s collaborators especially work in this field: Sully, the best known, and Laffémas. However, Sully’s work was not based on new ideas and institutes, aiming only at improving the practical functioning of the administration and thus increasing its efficiency: dispersions and abuses were eliminated, rent increased,1 / 4 %). Great care was devoted to agriculture, restoring security in the countryside, decreasing the taille, improving the viability, proclaiming the freedom of trade between the provinces, avoiding any protectionist restrictions: the export of wheat remained free and was suspended only from 1595 to 1601, to face a serious famine. Trade was also generally free. Although Sully wanted to prevent foreign purchases and restrain luxury, and Laffémas, the general controller of commerce, was a staunch protectionist, Henry IV aimed only to encourage the development of domestic industry. According to philosophynearby, several trade treaties were stipulated with foreign nations: a reciprocity treaty was concluded with England (in 1606, renewed in 1623) which that nation never scrupulously observed. With Spain, after the Treaty of Vervins, there was a period of commercial struggle that ended with the treaty of 1604. In the same year, a treaty was stipulated with Turkey, where French trade, during the wars of religion, had lost its supremacy, although Charles IX had renewed in 1569 the capitulations. Colonial activity was also resumed, despite Sully’s aversion. In short, the whole tone of French national life was strengthened: the economy in vigorous recovery, the balanced budget, the well-stocked arsenal, the reorganized and strengthened military forces.
With France thus reorganized, Henry IV could prepare to make it regain a first-rate place in European life. And here he adopted a clearly different political direction from the Italian one, concentrating instead his efforts towards the Rhine and Flanders. In this way the Empire and Spain would have been hit in vital points; and Spanish power would be repressed, to the benefit of French power. Thus it was that, when the death of the Duke of Jülich Clèves, in 1609, the emperor claimed to seize his territories in favor of the empire, Henry IV sided in favor of the Protestant princes who aspired to that crown. To break the Habsburg united front, however, it was necessary for him to act also in Italy, against Milan which represented the bridge between the dominions of the Habsburgs of Spain and the dominions of the Habsburgs of Austria. To this end he allied himself with Carlo Emanuele I of Savoy, through the treaty of Brosolo (v.). Everything was already prepared for the opening of hostilities, when the king was assassinated (May 14, 1610).
Then, instead of a great power politics, there was a new period of internal crisis for France. Regent for her nine-year-old son was the wife of Henry IV, Maria de ‘Medici, who ruled under the influence of her lady Leonora Galigai and her husband Concino Concini. But soon the great ones set themselves against the regency: that is, the princes of blood and bastards, foreign princes (Nevers, Bouillon, etc.), some governors such as Montmorency, d’Epernon, etc., successors of the great medieval vassals and in the which the feudal spirit tries the last resistance against the royal power. To the maneuvers of the great, as well as to the discontent of the Huguenots, against whom after the death of Henry IV the animosity of the Catholics had awakened, Maria opposed a system of widths in which all the fruits of Sully’s economies were dispersed. Then forced to abandon the preparations for war, it, in order to strengthen its power, established a policy of closer union with Spain. In 1612, the contract was published which established the marriage of Louis XIII with Anna of Austria and those of the king of Spain with Henry’s sister. He was also reconciled with the great ones (Treaty of Sainte-Menehould, 1614). The great ones obtained the convocation of the States General, in which they hoped to find a favorable majority. But the court was able to influence the elections in such a way that these had a completely different result from that hoped for by the princes. The meeting took place in Paris. The nobles proposed the abolition of the paulette, a tax that guaranteed the inheritance of the jobs and thus helped the consolidation of the new parliamentary and bourgeois patriciate developed with the venality of the offices; in return, the third state proposed the abolition of pensions. A struggle ensued between the third estate and the clergy over the Gallican autonomy, in which the parliament of Paris took sides against the clergy. With the states closed, the prince of Condé became the champion of popular and Gallican claims, provoking another revolt which had died down with new financial concessions (Treaty of Loudun, 1616). Meanwhile, the ministers of Henry IV were dismissed and Richelieu was appointed secretary for foreign affairs and war (November 1616). Condé, again in revolt, was arrested; and the war against the other lords was waged with great energy. With the’ arrest of the Condé, the Concini had given the supreme proof of their power. But the king, irritated by their dominance, made an agreement with his favorite Luynes and had Concini killed and his wife executed. Maria de ‘Medici had to leave the court, the old ministers were recalled and Richelieu also fell into disgrace.