Saint Vincent’s Reading List: LXX The Birth of Louis XIV

Ode a la Reyne sur la naissance de Monseigneur le Dauphin. Presentée a sa Majesté par Mr. Le Grand. A Paris, Chez Jean Brnet, ruë neusve Sainct Louys, à la Crosse, & au Canon Royal, M. DC. XXXVIII. SpC. 841.4 O23b1638

Ode a la Reyne sur la naissance de Monseigneur le Dauphin, 1638.
Title page of Ode a la Reyne sur la naissance de Monseigneur le Dauphin, 1638

In a postscript to a letter he wrote on January 30, 1638, Vincent de Paul added this request: “Please pray and have others pray for the Queen’s pregnancy.”[1] Anne of Austria had been married to Louis XIII since 1615, and after suffering four miscarriages she was still childless twenty-three years later. Louis XIII therefore lacked an heir. His brother Gaston d’Orleans (1608-1660) stood in line for succession to the throne. The relationship between Louis and his Spanish queen had been distant at best. The relationship between Anne and Louis’ first minister, Cardinal Richelieu, was fraught with tensions, as the cardinal rightly suspected the queen of plotting to undermine his authority. The cardinal made sure he was tightly in control of the queen and her household.  Anne knew that giving birth to a son would improve her position.

Both Louis and Anne desired an heir (a son of course, since a daughter was ineligible for succession). After so many years of disappointment, both made vows asking God to grant them a son. Louis famously vowed to dedicate the kingdom to the Virgin Mary, and Anne for her part promised to build a grand monastery honoring the birth and infancy of Jesus Christ. Finally, in January of 1638, Anne was pregnant. On September 5, 1638, Anne gave birth to a son. The heir to the throne, or Dauphin, was named Louis Dieu-Donné (Louis, God’s gift.). The birth of the new Dauphin set off great national rejoicing and celebrations.

The present volume, published before the end of 1638, is a poem or “ode” honoring the queen (an “adorable” and “wise” princess) on the occasion of the birth of her son. The author in essence says that her ultimate “grandeur,” “splendor,” and “immortality” before God and all of France for all time would be as the mother of the long-awaited heir to the throne, even if the birth came about by “accident.” This comment refers to the common gossip that Anne became pregnant when Louis XIII was caught in a storm and unexpectedly decided to spend the night with his queen. The author of the present work, a Monsieur Le Grand, has not been further identified.

Both Louis XIII and Anne of Austria kept their vows. In Anne’s case, the result was the baroque masterpiece of the monastery and chapel of Val-de-Grace in Paris.

On September 21, 1640, Anne produced a “spare” heir with the birth of her second son Philippe. Cardinal Richelieu died on December 4, 1642.  Louis XIII died soon afterward on May 14, 1643. Louis XIV ascended to the throne at the age of four and a half.  Anne of Austria worked to successfully set aside her husband’s will, and served as Regent until 1651. Working with Richelieu’s successor, Cardinal Mazarin, Anne defended the power of the monarchy during the Fronde and handed over to her son the foundation for his amazing rule. Anne died on January 20, 1666.

[1] Coste, CCD, 2:422.

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