Louis XIII

Louis XIII

Louis XIII, 1601-43, king of France (1610-43). He succeeded his father, Henry IV, under the regency of his mother, Marie de' Medici. He married Anne of Austria in 1615. Even after being declared of age in 1614, he was excluded from affairs of state by his domineering mother. In 1617 he caused the assassination of her minister Concino Concini, with the aid of his own favorite, Charles d'Albert, duc de Luynes, and Marie de' Medici was forced into retirement. He was reconciled to her in 1622 and entrusted (1624) the government to her protégé, Cardinal Richelieu. In 1630, urged by his mother to discharge Richelieu, he instead sent his mother again into exile. Melancholy and retiring by nature, Louis thenceforth gave full support to Richelieu and his successor, Cardinal Mazarin. Richelieu strengthened royal authority and centralized government control. Louis's reign was remarkable for the establishment of the French Academy and for the work of St. Francis de Sales and St. Vincent de Paul in religion, René Descartes in philosophy, and Pierre Corneille in literature.

See V. L. Tapié, La France de Louis XIII et de Richelieu (1952); H. W. Chapman, Privileged Persons (1966).

For the cognac, see Louis XIII de Rémy Martin.

Louis XIII (September 27, 1601May 14, 1643) ruled as King of France and Navarre from 1610 to 1643.

Early life

Born at the Château de Fontainebleau, Louis XIII was the eldest child of Henry IV of France (1589–1610) and Marie de' Medici. As the eldest son of the king, he was a Fils de France. His father was the first Bourbon King of France, having succeeded his ninth cousin, Henry III of France (1574–89), in application of Salic law. Louis XIII's paternal grandparents were Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Vendome and Jeanne d'Albret, Queen of Navarre; his maternal grandparents were Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and Johanna, archduchess of Austria, and Eleonora de' Medici, his maternal aunt, was his godmother

Louis XIII ascended to the throne in 1610, at the age of eight and a half, upon the assassination of his father. His mother acted as Regent until Louis XIII came of age at thirteen, but she clung to power unofficially until he took the reins of government in frustration at the age of fifteen. The assassination of Concino Concini (April 24, 1617), who had greatly influenced Marie's policymaking, and Marie's exile to Blois, removed her from power. Louis then came into his own as ruler of France. He filled his court with loyal friends and sidelined those who remained loyal to his mother. Under Louis XIII's rule, the Bourbon Dynasty sustained itself effectively on the throne that Henry IV had recently secured; but the question of freedom of religion continued to haunt the country.

Cardinal Richelieu played a major role in Louis XIII's administration from 1624, decisively shaping the destiny of France for the next 18 years. As a result of Richelieu's work, Louis XIII became one of the first exemplars of an absolute monarch. Under Louis XIII the Habsburgs were humiliated, the French nobility was firmly kept in line behind their King, and the political and military privileges granted to the Huguenots by his father were retracted (while their religious freedoms were maintained). Furthermore, Louis XIII had the port of Le Havre modernized and built a powerful navy. Unfortunately time and circumstances never permitted King and Cardinal to attend to the administrative reforms (particularly of France's tax system) which were urgently needed.

{{Coin image box 1 double | header = Coin of Louis XIII, struck 1612 | image = Image:Louis XIII of France Coin.jpg | caption_left = Obverse: (Latin) LUVS XIII, R[EX} DE FRAN[CORUM] ET NAVA[RRE], or in English, "Louis XIII, King of France and Navarre." |caption_right = Reverse: (Latin) DOVBLE TOVRNOIS, 1612, or in English, "Double Tournois, 1612." |width = 250 |position = left |margin = 0 }}

The King also worked to reverse the trend of promising French artists leaving for Italy to work and study. Louis XIII commissioned the artists Nicolas Poussin and Philippe de Champaigne to decorate the Louvre. In foreign matters, Louis XIII organized the development and administration of New France, expanding the settlement of New France westward along the Saint Lawrence River from Quebec City to Montreal.

Personal relationships

On November 9, 1615, aged only 14, Louis XIII was married to a Habsburg Princess, Anne of Austria (1601–66), daughter of King Philip III of Spain (1578–1621). This marriage followed a tradition of cementing military and political alliances between the Catholic powers of France and Spain with royal marriages. The tradition went back to the marriage of King Philip II of Spain with the French princess, Élisabeth de Valois, the daughter of King Henry II of France, in 1559 as part of the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis. Their sexual relationship did not begin (other than the consummation of the wedding) until 1619 (when he was 18). The marriage, like many Bourbon-Habsburg relationships, was only briefly happy, and the King's duties often kept them apart. After 23 years of marriage and four miscarriages, Anne finally gave birth to a son in 1638.

There is no evidence whether Louis had mistresses (consequently earning the tile of 'Louis the Chaste'), but persistent rumours insinuated that the King may have been homosexual or at least bisexual. Tallemant des Réaux, in his Historiettes, gives quite explicit (but inevitably second-hand) descriptions of what happened in the king's bed. A liaison with an equerry, Francois de Baradas, ended when the latter lost favour fighting a duel after duelling had been forbidden by royal decree.

Though Richelieu was firmly in charge of French policies, the King's favourites left their mark on reign. The first was the Duc de Luynes, 23 years his senior, who was the boy's closest adult friend and adviser at the outset of his reign. The last of the King's favorites (1639–42) was the much younger Marquis de Cinq-Mars, who was executed for conspiring with the Spanish enemy in time of war. The spoiled young aristocrat was beautiful and splendidly dressed, and the gloomy king was captivated and rejuvenated by the dashing youth. Louis' letters to Richelieu are filled with anguished complaints about the distress their lover's quarrels caused him. Tallemant describes how on a royal journey, the king "sent M. le Grand to undress, who returned, adorned like a bride. 'To bed, to bed' he said to him impatiently... and the mignon was not in before the king was already kissing his hands." Cinq Mars, who was himself an ardent womaniser, merely tolerated these passionate attentions.

After Louis XIII's death in 1643, his wife Anne acted as regent for their four-year-old son, Louis XIV of France (1638–1715).


Marriage and issue

On November 24 1615, Louis XIII married Anne of Austria (September 22 1601January 20 1666). They were childless for almost twenty-three years and had nearly lost hope when the heir to the throne, the future Louis XIV, was born. Many regarded this birth as a divine miracle and, in show of gratitude to God for the long-awaited birth of an heir, his parents named him Louis-Dieudonné (“God-given”). As another sign of gratitude, according to several interpretations, seven months before his birth, France was dedicated by his father, Louis XIII, to the Virgin Mary, who, many believed, had interceded for the perceived miracle. However, the text of the dedication does not mention the royal pregnancy and birth as one of its reasons. Also, Louis XIII himself is said to have expressed his skepticism with regards to the miracle after his son's birth.

The couple had the following children:

Name Lifespan Notes
stillborn child December 1619
stillborn child March 14 1622
stillborn child 1626
stillborn child April 1631
Louis XIV, King of France September 5 1638 - September 1 1715 Married Maria Theresa of Spain (1638 - 1683) in 1660. Had issue.
Philippe I, Duke of Orléans September 21, 1640 - June 8, 1701 married (1) Henrietta Anne, Princess of England (1644 - 1670) in 1661. Had issue. Married (2) Elizabeth Charlotte, Princess Palatine (1652 - 1722) in 1671. Had issue.

Louis XIII in fiction and film


  • Moote, A. Lloyd. Louis XIII, the Just. Berkeley, CA; Los Angeles; London: University of California Press, 1991 (paperback, ISBN 0-520-07546-3).
  • Willis, Daniel A. (comp). The Descendants of Louis XIII. Clearfield, 1999.
  • Huxley, Aldous. "The Devils of Loudun". The 1952 book tells the story of the trial of Urbain Grandier, priest of the town who was tortured and burned at the stake in 1634.

See also

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