Saint Vincent’s Reading List LXIV: The Death of Louis XIII (1643)

Title page of Jacques Dinet and Antoine Girard's work.
Title page of Jacques Dinet and Antoine Girard’s work.

Dinet, Jacques and Antoine Girard. L’idée d’une belle mort ou d’une mort chrétienne : dans le récit de la fin heureuse de Louis XIII. surnommé le juste, roy de France et de Navarre, tiré de quelques mémoires du feu P. Jacques Dinet, son confesseur, de la compagnie de Jésus et dédié au Roy. A Paris : De l’imprimerie royale, MDCLVI [1656].

Call Number:  SpC. 944.032 G517i1656

On May 14, 1643, Louis XIII died at the age of 41 after a long illness. His death occurred at the royal chateau at Saint Germain-en-Laye. At the request of the Queen, Vincent de Paul visited the dying monarch twice in his final days. In a letter written the day after the king’s death, Monsieur Vincent noted: “I have never seen anyone die in a more Christian manner…. Never have I seen greater elevation of the soul toward God, greater tranquility, greater apprehension of the smallest atom that seemed to be sin, greater kindness, or better judgment in a person in this state.”[1] When the king’s doctors informed their royal patient that death seemed imminent, the monarch spontaneously recited the Te Deum. Vincent de Paul recounted, “he… finished it with so much fervor that the mere remembrance of it still moves me to tears as I tell you about it now.” Years later in 1657, Monsieur Vincent also told the Daughters of Charity that he had urged the king to take some nourishment as his doctor had prescribed.[2]

In addition to Vincent, the king’s Jesuit confessor Jacques Dinet, his chaplain Dominque Séguier the Bishop of Meaux, and Philippe Cospéan, the Bishop of Lisieux, assisted the dying king. Every aspect of a French king’s life from his birth to his death was a public spectacle since the monarch was not a private person but rather the ideal personification of the kingdom’s civil and religious identities.

Frontispiece of Jacques Dinet and Antoine Girard's work.
Frontispiece of Jacques Dinet and Antoine Girard’s work.

Jacques Dinet, S.J. (1584-1653), left an exhaustive almost minute-by-minute account of the king’s final illness and death. Dinet’s premise was that Louis XIII or “Louis le Juste” had died the way he had lived, as the “Rex Christianissimus.” As the monarch’s confessor, Dinet possessed impeccable credentials for telling the story of the king’s noble and admirable death. Anne of Austria later asked for the publication of Dinet’s account. Antoine Girard, S.J. (1604-1679), published Dinet’s work in 1656 and dedicated it to the young Louis XIV.

Dinet’s work confirms the presence of Monsieur Vincent at the king’s deathbed. The Jesuit filled his account with fascinating details about court etiquette, and gave touching insights into the faith and personality of Louis XIII. Included in these details was the king’s deathbed reconciliation with his deceased mother Queen Marie de Medici who had died in exile the previous year in Cologne.

Dinet’s account confirms that the king recommended that Monsieur Vincent be consulted in the appointment of worthy candidates for bishoprics.

Vincent’s presence at the king’s deathbed has long been commemorated in paintings. Tradition also has held that Vincent de Paul gave the king a crucifix to comfort him in his last hours. Dinet’s and Vincent de Paul’s own accounts do not confirm this detail.

[1] Letter #660.  Vincent de Paul to Bernard Codoing, in Rome.  Dated May 15, 1643 from Paris.  Pierre Coste, C.M., Vincent de Paul: “Correspondence, Conferences, Documents), (New York: New City Press, 1989), 2:435.

[2] Conference #85. “Service of the Sick and Care of One’s own health.”  November 11, 1657. Ibid., 10:276.

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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