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CHAPTER III.: THE CIVIL WAR. - Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XII (Age of Louis XIV) 
The Works of Voltaire. A Contemporary Version. A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901). In 21 vols. Vol. XII.
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THE CIVIL WAR.
Queen Anne of Austria, the absolute regent, had made Cardinal Mazarin master of the kingdom and of herself. He had that power over her, which every artful man must have over a woman weak enough to be governed, and resolute enough to persist in the choice she has made of a favorite.
We read in some of the memoirs of those times that the queen made choice of Mazarin for her confidant only because of the inability of Potier, bishop of Beauvais, whom she had at first chosen for her minister, and who is represented as a man of no mean capacity. This might possibly have been the case, and the queen might have made use of this man for some time as a cipher not to exasperate the nation by the choice of another cardinal, and he a foreigner: but we can never believe that Potier began his short administration by declaring to the Dutch that they must become Catholics if they were desirous of continuing in alliance with France; he might as well have made the same proposal to the Swedes. We find this piece of absurdity related by almost all our historians, because they have read it in the memoirs of some of the courtiers and those concerned in the civil war; there are, however, but too many passages in these memoirs either falsified by prejudice, or related on the authority of popular rumor. Puerilities should never be quoted, and absurdities can never be believed.
Mazarin exercised his power with moderation at the beginning. It is necessary to have lived a long time with a minister to be able to draw his character, to determine what degree of courage or weakness there was in his mind, or how far he was prudent or knavish; therefore, without pretending to guess at what Mazarin really was, we shall only say what he did. In the first days of his greatness he affected as much humility as Richelieu had displayed haughtiness. Instead of taking a guard for his person, and appearing in public with royal pomp, he had at first a very modest retinue, and substituted an air of affability, and even of softness, in all things where his predecessor had shown an inflexible pride. The queen was desirous to make the court and the people fond of her person and authority, in which she succeeded. Gaston, duke of Orleans, brother of Louis XIII., and the prince of Condé supported her power, and had no emulation but that of serving the state.
It was found necessary to levy taxes in order to maintain the war with Spain and the empire; some were accordingly imposed, which were in fact very moderate, compared with those which we have since paid, and very insufficient to the wants of the crown.
The parliament, who had the power of authenticating the edicts for these taxes, strongly opposed that of the tariff, and gained the confidence of the people by continually thwarting the schemes of the ministry.
In short, the creation of twelve new places of masters of requests, and the withholding of about eight thousand crowns from the salaries of the superior companies, caused an insurrection among all the people of the long robe, and with them of all Paris; and what at this time would hardly be of consequence enough to make a paragraph in a newspaper, then stirred up a civil war.
Broussel, counsellor-clerk of the upper chamber, a man of no capacity, and whose only merit was that of being the foremost to open all arguments against the court, having been put under arrest, the people expressed more concern than they had ever shown at the death of a good king. The barricades of the league were now revived, the flame of sedition burst out in an instant, and raged so fiercely as hardly to be quenched, being industriously fed by the coadjutor, afterward Cardinal de Retz; this was the first bishop who had ever excited a civil war without a religious pretext. This extraordinary man has given us his own portrait in his memoirs which are written with an air of greatness, an impetuosity of genius, and an inequality, which form a perfect image of his conduct. He was a man who, in the midst of the most debauched course of life, and still languishing with the consequences it produces, had the art of haranguing the people with success, and making himself idolized by them; he breathed nothing but faction and conspiracy. At the age of twenty-three he had been at the head of a conspiracy which was hatched against the life of Cardinal de Richelieu; he was the contriver of the barricades; he always urged the parliament on to cabals, and the people to seditions. What is most extraordinary is that the parliament, wholly guided by him, set up their standard against the court, even before they had the countenance or assistance of any prince.
This assembly had for a long time been looked upon in a different light by the court and the people. According to the declaration of all the ministers of state, and of the court itself, the Parliament of Paris was a court of justice set apart for trying causes between the subjects: this prerogative it held purely from the will of our kings, and had no other pre-eminence over the other parliaments of the kingdom than that of seniority. It was a court of peers only because the court generally resided at Paris: it had no greater right to make remonstrances than the other bodies in the state, and this right was a matter of pure indulgence. It had succeeded those parliaments which heretofore represented the French nation, but it retained nothing more of those ancient assemblies than the bare name; an incontestable proof of which is, that the general estates were actually substituted in the place of the national assemblies; and the Parliament of Paris no more resembled the ancient parliaments held by our first kings, than a consul of Smyrna or Aleppo resembles a Roman consul.
This single mistake in the name served as a pretext to the ambitious pretensions of a body of men in the long robe, all of whom, by having purchased their seats, looked upon themselves as entitled to fill the places of the conquerors of the Gauls, and the lords of crown fiefs. This body has at all times abused the power which a chief tribunal, always existing in a capital, necessarily arrogates to itself. It had the boldness to issue an arret against Charles VII., and to banish him from his kingdom. It began a criminal process against Henry III. It always, to the utmost of its power, opposed its sovereigns; and in this minority of Louis XIV., under the most mild of governments, and the most indulgent of queens, it attempted to raise a civil war against its prince, after the example of the English Parliament, which at that time kept its king a prisoner, and condemned him to lose his head. Such was the manner of speaking, and the thoughts of the cabinet!
But the citizens of Paris, and all those connected with the long robe, looked upon the Parliament of Paris as an august body, that dispensed justice with a laudable integrity; that had the good of the state only at heart, which it cherished at the hazard of its own fortune; that confined its ambition to the glory of curbing the aspiring designs of favorites; that preserved an equal conduct between the prince and the people; and the people, without inquiring into the origin of its rights or authority, supposed it possessed of the most sacred privileges and indisputable authority; and when they saw it maintaining the public cause against ministers whom they hated, gave it the title of “The Father of the State;” and placed a very small difference between the right by which the kings hold their crowns, and that which gives the parliament a power to lay a restriction upon the wills of kings.
It was impossible then to hit upon a medium between these two very opposite extremes, for in short there was no other fixed law but that of time and circumstances. Under a vigorous administration the parliament was nothing; under a weak king it was all-powerful; and that is very applicable which was said by M. de Guimené, when this body, in the reign of Louis XIII., complained of the deputies of the noblesse for having taken precedence of it: “Gentlemen, you will have ample revenge in the minority.”
We shall not repeat in this place all that has been written concerning these troubles, nor copy whole volumes to recall to observation the numerous circumstances which were then thought so important and dear and are now almost buried in oblivion; it is our business to speak of what characterizes the spirit of the nation, and not dwell so much upon what relates to the civil wars in general as to what particularly distinguishes that of the Fronde, as it was called.
Two powers, which were instituted wholly for the maintenance of peace and harmony amongst mankind, namely, an archbishop and a parliament, having begun these troubles, the people looked upon themselves as justified in the greatest extravagances. The queen could no longer appear abroad without being insulted in the grossest manner; she was called by no other name than that of Dame Anne, or if any other title was added, it was generally an injurious one. The populace reproached her in the most virulent terms with her fondness for Mazarin; and, what was yet more insufferable, her ears were filled in all places where she went with ballads and lampoons, the monuments of low ribaldry and malice, which seemed calculated to convey a lasting suspicion of her virtue.
She was now obliged to fly—Jan. 6, 1649—from Paris with her children, her minister, the duke of Orleans, and even the great Condé himself, and to retire to St. Germain, and reduced to pawn the crown jewels for subsistence; the king was frequently in want of necessaries, the pages of his bedchamber were dismissed, because they could no longer be maintained. At that time even Louis XIV.’s aunt, the daughter of Henry the Great, and consort to the king of England, who had taken refuge in Paris after having been expelled from her own kingdom, was then reduced to the utmost extremities of poverty; and her daughter, who was afterward married to the brother of Louis XIV., lay in bed for want of clothes to keep her warm, while the people of Paris, blinded with their mad rage, paid not the least attention to the sufferings of so many royal personages.
The queen, with tears in her eyes, besought the great Condé to protect the young king. The conqueror of Rocroi, Freiburg, Lens, and Nördlingen could not belie those great services. He found himself agreeably flattered with the honor of defending a court which had been ungrateful to his merits, against rebels who sought his assistance. The parliament then had the great Condé to encounter, and yet dared to carry on the war.
The prince of Conti, brother to the great Condé, who was as jealous of his elder brother as he was incapable of equalling him, the dukes of Longueville, Bouillon, and Beaufort, all animated with the same restless spirit as the coadjutor, all fond of novelties, full of the hopes of aggrandizing themselves on the ruins of the state, and of making the blind motions of parliament subservient to their own private interests, went in a body and offered their services to that prelate. The high chamber then proceeded to appoint generals for an army which was not yet raised. Everyone taxed himself to raise troops. There were twenty counsellors possessed of new posts, which had been created by Cardinal de Richelieu; their brethren, by a meanness of spirit of which every society is susceptible, seemed to wreak their vengeance against the memory of Cardinal Richelieu upon them. They gave them a thousand mortifications, would hardly look upon them as members of the parliament, and obliged each of them to pay fifteen thousand livres toward the expense of the war, and to purchase the forbearance of those of their own body.
The high chancellor, the courts of inquests and requests, the chamber of accounts, and the court of aids, who had so loudly inveighed against a trifling and necessary tax which did not exceed a hundred thousand crowns, now furnished a sum amounting nearly to ten millions of our present money, for the subversion of their country. Twelve thousand men were raised by an arret of parliament; every house with a great gate furnished a man and a horse, whence this body of horse got the name of “The Great-Gate Cavalry.” The coadjutor had a regiment of his own, which was called the regiment of Corinth, because he was titular archbishop of Corinth.
Had it not been for the names of the king of France, the great Condé, and the capital of the kingdom, this war of the Fronde would have been as ridiculous as that of the Barberini; no one knew for what he was in arms. The prince of Condé besieged five hundred thousand citizens with eight thousand soldiers. The Parisians came out into the field dressed in ribbons and plumes of feathers, and their evolutions were the sport of the military people; they took to their heels at the sight of two hundred men of the king’s army. All this was made a subject of raillery; the regiment of Corinth having been beaten by a small party of the king’s troops, this little repulse was called “The first of the Corinthians.”
The twenty counsellors who had furnished fifteen thousand livres apiece, had no other distinction than that of being called the Twenty Fifteens.
The duke of Beaufort, who was the idol of the people, and the instrument made use of in stirring them up to sedition, though a popular prince, had but a narrow understanding, and was a public object of raillery both with the court and those of his own party. He was never mentioned but by the name of the “King of the Mob.” The Parisian troops, after sallying out of the city, and always coming back beaten, were received with peals of laughter. They repaired the repulses they met with by sonnets and epigrams; the taverns and brothels were the tents where they held their councils of war, in the midst of singing, laughing, and the most disolute pleasures. The general licentiousness was carried to such a height that one night some of the principal officers of the malcontents, having met the holy sacrament, which was being carried through the streets to a sick person whom they suspected of being a Mazarinian, they drove the priest back again with the flat of their swords.
In short, the coadjutor, coming to take his seat in parliament as archbishop of Paris, the handle of a poniard was seen sticking out of his pocket; upon which some one cried out, “Behold our archbishop’s breviary.”
In the midst of all these troubles, the nobility assembled in a body at the convent of the Augustine friars, appointed syndics, and held public sessions. It might have been supposed this was to remodel the government and convoke the general estates, but it was only to settle a claim to the tabouret, which the queen had granted to Madame de Pons. Perhaps there never was a stronger proof of that levity of mind of which the French were then accused.
The civil discords under which England groaned at the very same time may serve to show the character of the two nations. There was a gloomy desperation and a sort of national rage in the civil wars of the English. Everything was decided by the sword; scaffolds were erected for the vanquished; and their king, who was taken prisoner in a battle, was brought as a culprit before a court of justice, examined concerning the abuse he was said to have made of his power, condemned to lose his head, and executed in sight of all his subjects with as much regularity and with the same forms of justice as if he had been a private man condemned for a crime; while, during the course of these dreadful troubles, the city of London was not even for a moment affected with the calamities incident to a civil war.
The French, on the contrary, ran headlong into seditions through caprice, laughing all the time. Women were at the head of factions, and love made and broke cabals. The duchess of Longueville, in 1649, prevailed on Turenne, lately made a marshal of France, to persuade the army which he commanded for the king to revolt. Turenne failed, and quitted like a fugitive the army of which he was general, to please a woman who made a jest of his passion. From general of France, he descended to be the lieutenant of Don Estevan de Gamara, with whom he was defeated at Rethel by the king’s troops. Everyone knows this billet of Marshal d’Hoquincourt to the duchess of Montbazon: “Perrone belongs to the fairest of the fair;” and the following verses, which the duke of Rochefoucauld wrote on the duchess of Longueville, when he received a wound by a musket at the battle of St. Anthony, by which he was for some time deprived of sight:
The war ended and was renewed again at several different times; and there was not a person who had not frequently changed sides. The prince of Condé, having brought the court back in triumph to Paris, indulged himself in the satisfaction of despising those he had defended; and thinking the rewards bestowed on him unequal to his reputation and the services he had done, he was the first to turn Mazarin into ridicule, to brave the queen, and insult a government which he had disdained. He is said to have written in this style to the cardinal: “To the most illustrious scoundrel;” and that, taking his leave of him one day he said, “Farewell, Mars.” He encouraged the marquis of Jarsai to make a declaration of love to the queen, and pretended to be angry that she was affronted with it. He joined with his brother, the prince of Conti, and the duke of Longueville, who quitted the party of the malcontents. The party formed by the duke of Beaufort at the beginning of the regency had been nicknamed “the Self-Sufficients;” Condé’s faction was called “the Petits-Maîtres,” because they wanted to be masters of the state. There are no other traces left of all these terms except the name of “petit-maître,” which is nowadays applied to young men of agreeable persons, but badly educated, and that of “frondeurs,” or “grumblers,” which is given to those who censure the government.
The coadjutor, who had declared himself an implacable enemy to the adminstration, was privately reconciled to the court, in order to obtain a cardinal’s hat, and sacrificed Condé to the minister’s resentment. In a word, this prince who had defended the state against its enemies, and the court against the rebels; Condé, at the summit of his glory, and who always acted more like the hero than the man of prudence, saw himself arrested, together with the prince of Conti and the duke of Longueville. He might have governed the state, if he would only have endeavored to please; but he was contented with being admired. The people of Paris, who had made barricades for a counsellor-clerk, hardly a degree removed from a fool, made public rejoicings when the hero and defender of France was hurried away to the dungeon of Vincennes.
A year afterward the very men who had sold the great Condé and the other princes to the dastardly revenge of Mazarin, obliged the queen to open the gates of their prisons, and drive her prime minister out of the kingdom. Condé now returned amidst the acclamations of that very people who had shown such hatred to him, and by his presence occasioned new cabals and dissensions.
The kingdom remained for some years longer in this tumultuous situation. The government, always the dupe of weak and uncertain councils, seemed now on the point of ruin; but dissension, which had always prevailed among the rebels, saved the court. The coadjutor, who was sometimes a friend, and at others an enemy, to the prince of Condé, stirred up a part of the parliament and people against him, and boldly undertook at the same time to serve the queen by opposing this prince, and to insult her by obliging her to banish Cardinal Mazarin, who retired to Cologne. The queen, by a contradiction too common to weak administrations, was obliged at once to accept of his services, to put up with his insults, and to nominate to the purple this very man, who, when coadjutor, had been the author of the barricades, and had caused the royal family to quit their capital and besiege it.