Letter to Monsieur le Bailly de Valancey, in Paris, July, 1650.
Call Number: SpCR. 282.44 F815L1650
Blessed Marie de l’Incarnation (Barbe Acarie) (1566-1618) was one of the key figures of the famous l’age d’or (age of gold) which provided the basis for the successful reform of the French Catholic church at the dawn of the 17th century. She was a noble woman, widow, and mother of seven children. In 1603 she helped to bring to France the Spanish Discalced Carmelites reformed by Teresa of Avila. She also played a role in the founding of the French Oratory of Jesus with her cousin Cardinal Pierre de Berulle (one of Vincent de Paul’s early mentors in Paris), as well as bringing the Ursulines to France. She was renowned for her charity, mysticism, and zeal for the faith. After the death of her husband in 1614 she entered the Carmel at Amiens as a simple lay sister. She died in 1616. Pius VI approved her beatification in 1791.
The present manuscript letter is from the young king Louis XIV, who in 1650 was 12 years old. Louis XIV (1638-1715) at age 5 succeeded his father Louis XIII to the throne of France. His mother Anne of Austria (1601-1666) served as regent from 1643 to 1651 when at age 13 the king reached his majority. The Queen and Cardinal Mazarin continued to play key roles in the kingdom until the king undertook his personal rule in 1661 after Mazarin’s death.
In this letter the young king writes to the French ambassador in Rome in support of the canonization cause of Marie de l’Incarnation. The French ambassador was Henri d’Estampes-Valençay (1603-1678). As a child he joined the venerable order of Saint John of Jerusalem (the Order of Malta). He rose to the high position of bailiff in the order. He was a knight, and successively served as the commander in Metz, general in chief of the French navy, and general of the galleys of Malta. He served as French ambassador to the Holy See, then as ambassador to Venice. He rose in positions of leadership in the Order of Malta. Valencay died in Malta in 1678.
The Coste edition of Vincent de Paul’s Correspondence, Conferences and Documents records one mention of Marie de l’Incarnation in the first recorded conference of the founder on July 31, 1634. In this conference Vincent noted: “Take care to give an account of your prayer as soon as possible after making it. You can’t imagine how useful this will be. Tell one another quite simply the thoughts God has given you and, above all, be careful to remember the resolutions you took at meditation. Blessed Sister Marie de l’Incarnation used this means to make great progress in perfection. She used to give a careful account of her prayer to her maid. Yes, Sisters, you can’t imagine how much this will benefit you and the pleasure you’ll give to God by acting in this way.”
 Coste, C.M., Pierre, Vincent de Paul: Correspondence, Conferences, Documents, ed. Marie Poole, D.C. (New York: New City Press 1984-2014), 14:4.
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.