The Internal Reorganization of France 3

The Internal Reorganization of France and the Resumption of an European Policy Part III


During the domination of Luynes, one still had to fight against the great ones who had gathered around Maria. According to physicscat, the struggle ended with the treaty of Angers (1620) by which the queen obtained the freedom to approach the king and the faculty to keep those who had served her in their offices and dignity.

Much more serious was the clash against the Protestants, who had again assumed an attitude of clear political opposition to the central power, and who in La Rochelle (May 1621) had proclaimed an autonomous constitution to be applied to all of reformed France, despite the opposition of the Huguenot gentlemen themselves. This led to a new conflict with the Huguenots, which lasted until 1622 and ended with the Peace of Montpellier, which confirmed the Edict of Nantes, but forced the Protestants to partially demolish the fortifications of some of their cities.

But with Richelieu, by now the true master of the government, French politics resumed the great directives of Henry IV. While the power of the crown is definitively consolidated inside and national unity is perfected, safer borders are conquered abroad, the Austrian empire is lowered, the decline of Spain is hastened. The great obstacles and the Calvinists were the main obstacles to the implementation of the internal program. Gastone d’Orléans, around whom the lines of conspiracies were often knotted, always forced to betray his comrades, lost all reputation, and was thus rendered harmless. With equal energy the ambitions of Anna of Austria who had tried to unite the enemies of the cardinal and the supporters of Spain were cut short. The fight against the Huguenots, peace of Alais, followed by the edict of grace (1629) which confirmed the edict of Nantes, but, by requiring the reformed to demolish all the fortifications of their cities within three months, annulled the strength of the reformed “party” and raised the question of the Calvinists a pure religious question (see also richelieu).

Having thus established the royal power within, Richelieu was able to devote himself to foreign policy, here too resuming the program of Henry IV, that is, the fight against the Habsburgs. Just then, in the Thirty Years War, they were trying to merge all the Germanic states into a single and hereditary state and to conquer, through a vast work of Catholic restoration, hegemony in Europe. France opposed these plans for five years with a covert war, successfully hindering the moves of the Austrians in Italy in the war of succession of Mantua and Monferrato (v.), Aiding the enterprises of Gustavo Adolfo, trying to provoke against the emperor the hostility of the German princes. After the death of Gustavo Adolfo, Ferdinand II having succeeded in reconciling himself with his German enemies and to isolate Sweden, Richelieu decided to take the field; but, in order not to discover himself entirely and to reserve a free field for negotiations and intrigues, he had war declared on Spain (1635). After an initial period of uncertain military events, the French took over. (For military operations and diplomatic negotiations seethirty years, war of the gods). But in 1642, when peace preliminaries had already been signed with the emperor and France, having conquered Alsace, Artois, Roussillon, given a serious shock to the power of the house of Austria, Richelieu died. His work was continued by his successor, Cardinal Mazarin, the true leader of France during the reign of Anne of Austria. The Peace of Westphalia (v.), Which put an end to the Thirty Years’ War in October 1648, not only definitively recognized France as possessing Metz, Toul and Verdun, but also attributed it to Brisac, the langraviato of the lower and upper Alsace, Sundgau and the provincial prefecture of the ten imperial cities (see alsace): that is, essentially all of Alsace, except Strasbourg. The diplomatic text was obscure, even contradictory: and later Louis XIV had to draw from it to extend his dominion. But in short, it was a very important purchase. Less important, but nevertheless remarkable, was the purchase of Pinerolo: above all because France could from then on control the action of the Duke of Savoy, thereby threatening the Spanish domination of the Milanese. In the Peace of Westphalia, only the Habsburgs of Austria were included as contracting parties. Spain, on the other hand, continued the war against France, both in Flanders and in Italy. But, repeatedly defeated, the Spanish monarchy finally had to access the peace of the Pyrenees (7 November 1659; v.), With which France obtained Roussillon and part of the Cerdagne, almost all of Artois, a series of northern strongholds and even some towns in Lorraine. It also concluded the marriage of Louis XIV with Maria Theresa, infant of Spain, who, through a dowry of 300,000 gold scudi, renounced her rights of succession to the throne of Spain. The Peace of the Pyrenees, followed shortly after by the acquisition of the protectorate over the Rhine League, concluded Mazarin’s diplomatic work. In 1661 he died, having reaffirmed the power of France abroad and finished establishing monarchical absolutism internally.

In the age of Richelieu and Mazarin the work of monarchical centralization was in fact strongly advanced. From the great and the governors, Richelieu demanded passive obedience, and not only repressed all rebellious ambitions, but he demolished the traditional position of the large houses which he also lowered morally. By placing the nobles in front of the dilemma of complete docility or the most rigorous penalties, he strongly contributed to debase their character and to prepare that court aristocracy which, transforming itself into a worldly society, brought a very serious blow to the economic life of the nation, but allowed the monarchy to exercise of despotic power. It is true that after his death, the great ones tried to regain part of the lost power; It is true that the parliament of Paris, forced by Richelieu to submit to the will of the king, he also tried to make up for it at the expense of the Regency. But the two Fronds, the parliamentary one and the princes’ one (v.fronda), the two disintegrating movements that were both a civil war and a fashion, completely failed: and so, at the actual advent of Louis XIV, the reaction against monarchical absolutism was a thing of the past.

A policy of centralization and unification was also implemented with regard to provincial and municipal autonomies. The royal stewards who had hitherto held inspection posts became executive agents under Richelieu. However, they retained the character of missi dominici, nor was it yet thought of establishing them permanently as local and fixed magistracies. Financial policy, especially after 1635, followed no other criterion than that of procuring as much money as possible for the war. The great increase of the army and the formation of a powerful fleet required enormous expenses. Previously, there was an attempt to encourage industrial and commercial development, following the directives of Henry IV in general, to destroy the piracy that infested the seas, to form large companies for foreign trade (an attempt that did not succeed), to extend the colonization of Canada, to gain a foothold in the Antilles and in Africa. But entering the war forced the government to abandon its reconstructive designs. The absolute monarchy, considering the nation as an instrument for the struggle for continental hegemony, he returned to the politics of financial expedients and, with the overwhelming burden of taxes, led to a very strong economic hardship which wars made more acute. Thus there were riots and riots: serious among all, that of 1639 in Normandy, which Richelieu repressed ruthlessly.

The Internal Reorganization of France 3