Saint Vincent’s Reading List LXIX: Royal relations, royal etiquette, royal mourning

Les Ceremonies Royalles, Observees a Fontainebleau, et Dans l’Eglise Nostre Dame de Paris, le Ieudy 29. Auril, & Samedy 1. May 1621. Paris : Nicolas Alexandre, 1621.

Call number: SpC. 944.032 F815c1621  

In an era when the ruling houses of Europe were closely linked by layers of intermarriage, there existed a very detailed code of court etiquette to manage these relationships within courts and within international diplomacy which, because of these relationships, was highly personal, if not familial. During Saint Vincent’s lifetime the dynastic ties between Bourbon France and Hapsburg Spain illustrate these relationships.

After the assassination of Henry IV in 1610, the king was succeeded by his nine year old son Louis XIII. In 1614, when the king reached his majority, one of the first issues to be faced was the question of his marriage. Given the religious and geo-political stakes in France and Europe at this time, the issue caused one of the first crises in the young king’s reign as France and Spain (both very wary of each other) negotiated a double wedding. On 24 November 1615, Louis XIII married (by proxy) Anne of Austria, the daughter of Philip III of Spain. At the same time, his sister Elisabeth of France was married (by proxy) to Philip, the heir to the Spanish throne. The king’s marriage was unpopular in France.

“Le Mariage de Louis XIII, Roi de France et de Navarre, et d’Anne d’Autriche,” by Jean Chalette (1581-1644)

The early years of Louis and Anne’s marriage were troubled, as the king showed little interest in his child bride, and the Queen Mother showed little deference to her daughter-in-law, now queen. Anne, for her part, surrounded herself with Spanish ladies and was slow to adapt to France and the French court. French courtiers took the situation in hand and did all they could to bring the king and queen closer together. In 1619, the queen became pregnant for the first time, though the child was stillborn.

Philip III of Spain (who was also King of Portugal, Naples, Sicily and Sardinia and Duke of Milan) died on 21 March 1621, and was succeeded by his son as Philip IV. Word reached France sometime later and the court immediately went into mourning. At the king’s command, formal requiem masses were held for Philip III at the palace of Fontainebleau on April 29th and at the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris on May 1st. The present pamphlet contains the details for these ceremonies which would have taken place with all the pomp and ceremony of a royal funeral.

The French-Spanish marriage alliances did not in the end keep France and Spain from going to war with each other. Within a few years, war between the two monarchies would break out and continue for thirty-five years, until the French victory in 1659. This peace would be sealed by the marriage of the young Louis XIV with his first cousin Maria-Theresa of Spain.

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St. Vincent’s Reading List is a recurring blog series exploring texts known to have been read and recommended by Saint Vincent de Paul, those which can be presumed to have been read by him, and works published during his lifetime (1581-1660) illustrating his world. All materials discussed are held by DePaul University’s John T. Richardson Library. The entire series may be viewed here.

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