St. Vincent’s Reading List: LXXI Political Intrigue and Royal Infighting

Les Deux Faces de la vie et de la mort de Marie de Medicis, Reine de France, vefue de Henry IV. Mere de Louis XIII. Rois Tres-Chrestiens.  Discours Funebre. Par Messire Mathieu de Morgues Sr. de St. Germain, Docteur en Theologies, premier Aumosnier & Predicateur de la dite Dame Reine; Predicateur du Roy Catholique, & Prevost de Harlebeke en Flandres.  Dedie à la reine Catholique. A Anvers, en l’imprimerie Plantinenne.  M.DC.XLIII. SpC. 944.032 M852d1643

Image showing the title page of the book Les Deux Faces de la vie et de la mort de Marie de Medicis..., 1643
Title page of Les Deux Faces de la vie et de la mort de Marie de Medicis…, 1643

Louis XIII ascended to the throne after the assassination of his father Henri IV in May of 1610.  The new king was a few months short of his ninth birthday. Marie de Medici assumed the powers of regent and even after her son’s majority played an influential role in his rule until her downfall and exile from France in November of 1630. At this time, Cardinal Richelieu emerged as the undisputed power behind the throne, a role he would play until his death on December 4, 1642.

Louis was a weak king, easily influenced and easily swayed by strong personalities like that of his mother. Marie de Medici pursued a very unpopular pro-Hapsburg foreign policy which led in 1615 to the double marriages of Louis XIII to Anne of Austria (the daughter of Philip III of Spain), and Louis’ oldest sister Elisabeth to the Prince of the Asturias who would succeed to the Spanish throne as Philip IV. The court was filled with intrigues as the Queen Mother’s and the King’s favorites rose and fell from power in struggles with the nobility. The intrigue broke out into open rebellion at the same time as relations with the French Protestant minority deteriorated. Cardinal Richelieu presented very clear choices and policies to Louis XIII, and had the skill to make them work in support of royal authority. The power struggle between the Queen Mother and the Cardinal led to her defeat and exile from France. Cardinal Richelieu took vengeance on all of Marie’s supporters that he could get his hands on, including most famously Louise de Marillac’s uncles Michel and Louis.[1]

Marie was accompanied into exile in the Spanish Netherlands by a small group of loyal courtiers including her longtime chaplain Matthieu de Morgues. Morgues was an inveterate polemicist and continued attacking Cardinal Richelieu from the safety of his exile. Richelieu confiscated his property and had Morgues condemned to death in absentia. He also tried in vain to obtain his extradition. Marie de Medici died in exile in July 1642, just a few months before her arch-enemy, and less than a year before Louis XIII died in May of 1643.

In death, Marie de Medici received the official recognition and court mourning in France befitting the mother of the monarch. Marie would eventually be buried in the royal crypt at Saint-Denis, but the official mourning for her was perfunctory. Morgues took the occasion to publish one last ringing justification of his royal master in the text of his Oraison Funebre, which was published in Flanders in early 1643. Morgues dedicated the published text to Marie’s daughter who by now was the queen of Spain. The king of Spain rewarded Morgues for his loyalty to Marie de Medici by appointing him as a “royal preacher.”

Vincent de Paul would have been very aware of the intrigues, power-struggles, and other events of the reign of Louis XIII. His extant correspondence, conferences, and documents, however, make no direct mention of these affairs. Even his consolation of Louise de Marillac is very circumspect.

However, interestingly, just two months before his death, Vincent received a letter from Jean de Brevedent, a noble from Normandy. De Brevedent was an ardent anti-Jansenist and he wrote to Vincent:

“I also know other important details concerning Jansenius.[2] In this regard it is said that the Abbot of Saint-Germain, who was with the late Queen Mother, was very close to him for twelve or fifteen years and that he was an out-and-out Calvinist. It is also said that he knows many important things about this, which he has even written down and is ready to have printed but is awaiting the Queen’s instructions in that regards. I think that this is because he expressed his opinion of Cardinal Richelieu too freely one day and was forbidden to speak any more. I think also that you will be rendering an important service to God and to the Church if you oblige him to do this and get permission for him to do so.”[3]

Morgues returned to France after the death of Louis XIII, and seems to have enjoyed the favor of Anne of Austria and Cardinal Mazarin. Vincent’s correspondent seems to indicate, or at least to presume (correctly or incorrectly), that Vincent knew Morgues and could intervene as requested.  There is no record of a response from Vincent de Paul. Matthieu de Morgues died in Nimes on December 29, 1670.

[1] Michel de Marillac died in prison, and his brother was tried and executed.

[2] Cornelius Jansen, (1585-1638), a Catholic theologian at the University of Louvain whose work Augustinius served as the theological foundation for “Jansenism.”

[3] Coste, CCD, 8:405.

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