Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV.: CONTINUATION OF THE CIVIL WAR, TILL THE END OF THE REBELLION IN 1654. - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XII (Age of Louis XIV)
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CHAPTER IV.: CONTINUATION OF THE CIVIL WAR, TILL THE END OF THE REBELLION IN 1654. - 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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CONTINUATION OF THE CIVIL WAR, TILL THE END OF THE REBELLION IN 1654.
At length Condé determined upon a war, which he should have begun in the time of the rebellion, if he was desirous of being master of the state, or never to have undertaken, if he meant to live as a subject. He quitted Paris, armed the provinces of Guienne, Poitou, and Anjou, and applied for aid against his own country to those Spaniards, of whom he had so lately been the most dreadful scourge.
Nothing can better show the madness of these times, and the confused manner of proceeding, than what then happened to this prince. A courier was sent to him from Paris, with proposals for engaging him to return and lay down his arms. The courier by a mistake, instead of going to Angerville, where the prince then was, went to Augerville. The letter came too late; Condé declared that if he had received it sooner he would have accepted the proposals for peace; but since he was now at such a distance from Paris, it was not worth while to go back. Thus, by the mistake of a courier, and the mere capriciousness of this prince, France was once more plunged in a civil war.
And now Cardinal Mazarin, who, while an exile at the farther end of Cologne, had still continued to govern the court, returned to France, in December, 1651, rather like a sovereign who returns to take possession of his dominions, than like a minister coming to resume his post; he was escorted by a small army of seven thousand men, raised wholly at his own expense; that is to say, with the government’s money, which he had appropriated to his own use.
The king, in a declaration at this time, is made to say that the cardinal actually raised those troops with his own money; which at once overturns the opinion of those writers who say that when he first left the kingdom he was very poor. He gave the command of his small army to Marshal d’Hoquincourt; all the officers wore green sashes, which was the color of the cardinal’s livery. Each party at that time had its particular sash. The king’s was white, and the prince of Condé’s yellow: it was surprising that Cardinal Mazarin, who had all along affected so much humility and modesty, should have had the arrogance to make a whole army wear his livery, as if he had been of a different party from the king, his master; but he could not resist this emotion of vanity. The queen approved of it, and the king, who was then of age, with his brother, went to meet him.
On the first news of his return, Gaston, duke of Orleans, brother of Louis XIII., who had insisted upon his being banished, began to raise troops in Paris without well knowing how he was to employ them. The parliament renewed its arrets, proscribed Mazarin, and set a price upon his head. They were obliged to consult the registers for the price paid for the head of an enemy to the state, and they found that in the reign of Charles IX. the sum of fifty thousand crowns had been promised by arret to any person who should produce Admiral Coligny alive or dead. It was, therefore, seriously determined to act according to form, by setting the same price on the assassination of a cardinal and prime minister. No one, however, was tempted to gain the fifty thousand crowns offered by the proscription, which, after all, would never have been paid. In any other nation, or at any other time, such an arret would have met with persons to put it in execution; but now it served only to afford new subject of raillery. Blot and Marigni, two witty writers, who mingled gayety with these tumults and disorders, caused a paper to be fixed up in the public places of Paris, offering a reward of one hundred and fifty thousand livres, divided into shares; so much to the person who should cut off the cardinal’s nose, so much for an ear, so much for an eye, and so much for the person who would make him a eunuch. This raillery was the only effect produced by this proscription. The cardinal, on his side, made no use of either poison or assassination against his enemies; and notwithstanding the rancor and madness of so many factions, and their hatred, no very great crimes were committed on any side. The heads of parties were not inclined to cruelty, nor were the people very furious, for it was not a religious war.
The whimsical spirit which prevailed at that time had taken such thorough possession of the body of the Parliament of Paris that, having solemnly ordered an assassination which was laughed at, they issued an arret, by which a certain number of counsellors were ordered to repair to the frontiers and take depositions against the army of Cardinal Mazarin, that is to say, the king’s army.
Two of these counsellors had the imprudence to take some peasants with them, and break down the bridges over which the cardinal was to pass: they were taken prisoners in the attempt by a body of the king’s troops, but were released again, without any further punishment than that of being laughed at by all parties.
At the very time that this body was running into these extremes against the king’s minister, it declared the prince of Condé, who had taken up arms solely to oppose this minister, guilty of high treason; and by a strange reverse of judgment, which nothing but their former actions could render credible, they ordered the fresh troops which had been raised by Gaston, duke of Orleans, to march against Mazarin, and at the same time prohibited any sums to be taken out of the public funds to pay them.
Nothing else could be expected from a body of magistrates which, thrown quite out of its proper sphere, ignorant of its own rights and real power, and as little acquainted with state affairs and war, meeting in a tumultuous manner, and passing decrees in hurry and confusion, took measures which it had not thought of the day before, and which afterward astonished it.
The Parliament of Bordeaux, which was at that time in the prince of Condé’s interest, observed a more uniform conduct, because, being at a greater distance from the court, it was not so much agitated by opposite factions.
But objects of greater importance now engrossed the attention of all France.
Condé, in league with the Spaniards, appeared in the field against the king; and Turenne, having deserted those Spaniards with whom he had been defeated at Rethel, had just made his peace with the court, and commanded the king’s army. The finances were already too much drained to allow either of the two parties to keep large armies on foot; but small ones were sufficient to decide the fate of the kingdom. There are times when an army of one hundred thousand men is barely sufficient to take two towns; and there are others in which eight thousand men may subvert or establish a throne.
Louis XIV., who was brought up in adversity, wandered, with his mother, his brother, and Cardinal Mazarin, from province to province, with not nearly so many troops to attend his person as he afterward had in time of peace for his ordinary guard; while an army of five or six thousand men, part sent from Spain, and part raised by the prince of Condé, pursued him to the very heart of his kingdom.
The prince of Condé, in the meantime, made quick marches from Bordeaux to Montauban, taking towns and increasing his numbers in every place.
All the hopes of the court were centred in Marshal Turenne. The king’s army was at Guienne, on the Loire, and the prince of Condé’s a few leagues distant, under the command of the dukes of Nemours and Beaufort. The misunderstanding between these two generals nearly proved fatal to the prince’s party. The duke of Beaufort was unfit for the least command. The duke of Nemours passed for a brave and amiable, rather than a skilful general. The army was ruined by them both together. The men, who knew that the great Condé was a hundred leagues distant from them, looked upon themselves as lost; when, in the middle of the night, a courier presented himself to the main guard in the forest of Orleans: the sentinels presently discovered this courier to be the prince himself, who had come post from Agen, through a thousand adventures, and always in disguise, to put himself at the head of his army.
His presence did a great deal, and this unforeseen arrival still more: he knew that men are elated with whatever is sudden and unexpected; he therefore took immediate advantage of the confidence and boldness with which his presence had inspired his troops. It was this prince’s distinguishing talent in war to form the boldest resolutions in an instant, and to execute them with equal prudence and promptitude.
The royal army was divided into two corps. Condé attacked that which lay at Bléneau, under the command of Marshal d’Hoquincourt, which was shattered almost as soon as attacked. Turenne could not receive advice of this. Cardinal Mazarin, struck with a panic, flew to Gien in the midst of the night to awaken the king and acquaint him with this news. His little court was struck with consternation: it was proposed to save the king by flight, and convey him privately to Bourges. The victorious Condé advanced toward Gien, and the fear and desolation became universal. Turenne, however, quieted the apprehensions of the people by his steadiness, and saved the court by his dexterity. With the few troops he had left he made such dexterous movements, and so well improved his ground and time, that he prevented Condé from prosecuting the advantage he had gained. It was difficult at that time to determine which of these two generals had acquired the most honor; Condé by the victory he had gained, or Turenne by having snatched the fruits of his victory from him. It is certain that in this battle of Bléneau, which for a long time continued to be famous in France, there were not above four hundred men killed: nevertheless, the prince of Condé was on the point of making himself master of the whole royal family, and of getting his enemy, the cardinal, into his hands. There could not well be a smaller battle, greater concerns depending, or a more pressing danger.
Condé, who did not flatter himself with the notion of surprising Turenne as he had done Hoquincourt, made his army march to Paris, and hastened to enter that city, and enjoy the glory he had acquired in the favorable dispositions of a blinded people. The admiration of this last action, which was exaggerated in all its circumstances, had raised in all ranks of people the general hatred to Mazarin, and the name and presence of the great Condé seemed at first to make him absolute master of the capital: but in fact the minds of the people in general were divided, and each party was split into different factions, as is the case in all civil troubles. The coadjutor, now Cardinal de Retz, who had apparently been reconciled to a court that feared him, and whom he equally distrusted, was no longer master of the people, nor acted the principal part in these transactions. He governed the duke of Orleans, and opposed Condé. The parliament fluctuated between the court, the duke of Orleans, and the prince; but all sides joined in crying out against Mazarin: every one in private took care of his own concerns. The people were like a stormy ocean, whose waves were driven at hazard by many contrary winds. The shrine of St. Geneviève was carried in procession through Paris to obtain the expulsion of the cardinal minister; and the populace did not in the least doubt that the saint would perform this miracle in the same manner as she grants rain.
Nothing was to be seen but negotiations between the heads of parties, deputations from the parliament, meetings of the chambers, seditions among the people, and soldiers all over the country. Guards were mounted even at the gates of convents. The prince had called in the Spanish to his assistance. Charles IV., duke of Lorraine, who had been driven out of his dominions, and who had nothing left but an army of eight thousand men, which he sold every year to the Spanish king, advanced with this army toward Paris: but Cardinal Mazarin offering him more money to return than he was to have from the prince of Condé for advancing, the duke soon withdrew from France, after having laid the countries waste in his march, and carried off a handsome sum of money from both sides.
Condé then remained in Paris, where his power was every day growing weaker, and his army dwindling away, while Turenne conducted the king and his court toward the capital. The king, who was then fifteen years old, beheld from the heights of Charonne, the battle of St. Anthony, in which these two generals, with a handful of troops, performed such great things as considerably increased the reputation of both, which already seemed incapable of addition.
The prince of Condé, with a few noblemen of his party, and a small number of soldiers, sustained and repelled the efforts of the king’s army. The king himself, attended by Cardinal Mazarin, beheld this fight from a neighboring eminence. The duke of Orleans, uncertain which side to take, kept within his palace of Luxembourg, and Cardinal de Retz remained in his archbishopric. The parliament waited the issue of the battle to enact new decrees. The people, who at that time were equally afraid of the king’s troops and the prince’s, had shut the city gates, and would not suffer anyone to come in or go out, while the most noble blood of the kingdom was streaming in the suburbs. There it was that the duke de La Rochefoucauld, who was so famous for his courage and wit, received a blow over his eyes, which deprived him of his sight for some time. Nothing was to be seen but young noblemen killed or wounded, being carried to St. Anthony’s gate, which was kept shut.
At length the daughter of the duke of Orleans, taking Condé’s part, whom her father had not dared to assist, ordered the gates to be opened for the wounded, and had the boldness to fire the cannon of the Bastille upon the king’s troops. The royal army retired. Condé gained only glory; but mademoiselle ruined herself forever with the king, her cousin, by this imprudent violence; and Cardinal Mazarin, who knew the great desire she had to espouse a crowned head, observed that those cannon had killed her husband.
Most of our historians amuse their readers only with accounts of the battles fought, and the prodigies of valor and politics displayed on these occasions; but whoever is acquainted with the shameful expedients which were put in practice, the wretchedness which was brought upon the people, and the meanness to which all sides were reduced, will look upon the glory of the heroes of these times with more pity than admiration; as we may judge from what we find related by Gourville, a man who was devoted to the prince of Condé. This writer acknowledges that he himself, in order to procure money for the prince on a pressing occasion, was obliged to rob a receiver’s office; and that he went one day and seized a director of the posts in his own house, and obliged him to purchase his liberty with a sum of money; he relates all these outrages as common occurrences at that time.
After the bloody and indecisive battle of St. Anthony, the king could neither enter Paris, nor could the prince of Condé think of remaining there much longer. A commotion of the populace and the deaths of several citizens, of which he was thought to be the author, had made him hateful in the eyes of the people. Nevertheless, he had still a party in the parliament. This body, who had then little to apprehend from the resentment of a wandering court driven, as it were, from their capital, being pressed by the duke of Orleans and the prince’s cabals, issued an arret declaring the former lieutenant-general of the kingdom, though the king was then of age. This was the title that had been conferred on the duke of Mayenne in the time of the league. The prince of Condé was appointed generalissimo of the forces. The court, incensed at these proceedings, ordered the parliament to remove itself to Pontoise, which some few of the counsellors did; so that there were now two parliaments, who disputed each other’s authority, enacted contradictory decrees, and would by this means have fallen into universal contempt, had they not always agreed in demanding the cardinal’s expulsion: so much was a hatred to that minister looked upon at that time as the essential duty of a Frenchman.
At that time all parties were alike weak, and the court was as much so as the rest. They all wanted men and money. Factions were daily increasing: the battles which had been fought on both sides had produced only losses and vexations. The court found itself obliged once more to give up Mazarin, whom everyone accused of being the cause of these troubles, while he was in fact only the pretence. Accordingly he quitted the kingdom a second time; and, as an additional disgrace, the king was obliged to issue a public declaration, by which he banished his minister, while he commended his services and lamented his exile.
Charles I. of England had lately lost his head upon a scaffold, for having, at the beginning of his troubles, sacrificed the life of his friend and counsellor, the earl of Strafford, to his parliament’s resentment. On the other hand, Louis XIV. became the peaceable master of his kingdom by agreeing to the banishment of Mazarin. Thus the same weakness had very different successes. The king of England, by giving up his favorite, emboldened a people who delighted in war, and had a hatred to all kings: and Louis XIV.—or rather the queen-mother—by banishing the cardinal, took away all pretence for a revolt from a people who had grown weary of war, and had an affection for the royal character.
No sooner had the cardinal departed on his way to Bouillon, the place fixed for his new retreat, than the citizens of Paris, of their own accord, sent deputies to the king to beseech him to return to his capital, which he accordingly did; and everything appeared so peaceable, that it would have been difficult to suppose that a few days before all had been in confusion. Gaston of Orleans, ever unfortunate in his undertakings, for want of spirit to carry them through, was banished to Blois, where he passed the rest of his days in repentance; and he was the second of the great Henry’s sons who died without glory. Cardinal de Retz, who was perhaps as imprudent as he was bold and aspiring, was arrested in the Louvre, and after being carried from prison to prison, he for a long time led a wandering life, which at length ended in retirement, where he acquired virtues which his high spirit had made him a stranger to, amidst the tumults of his fortune.
Some counsellors of the parliament who had most abused their power paid the forfeit of their faults by banishment; the rest were restricted within the proper limits of the magisterial function; and some were encouraged to do their duty by a yearly gratification of five hundred pounds, which was paid them privately by Fouquet, procureur-general, and comptroller of the finances.
In the meantime the prince of Condé, abandoned in France by almost all his partisans, and but weakly seconded by the Spaniards, still carried on an unsuccessful war on the frontiers of Champagne. There were still some few factions in Bordeaux, but they were soon quelled.
The calm which the kingdom now enjoyed was owing to the banishment of Cardinal Mazarin. Yet scarcely was he expelled by the general cry of the French nation, and by the royal declaration, than he was recalled by the king, and to his infinite surprise, entered Paris once more in full power, and without the least disturbance, in March, 1653. The king received him as a father, and the people as a master. A public entertainment was made for him at the town-house, amidst the acclamations of the citizens: he distributed money among the populace on this occasion; but amidst all the satisfaction he received in this happy change, he is said to have shown a contempt for our levity and inconstancy. The parliament, who had before set a price upon his head as a public robber, now sent deputies to compliment him; and this very parliament, a short time afterward, passed sentence of death on the prince of Condé for contumacy; a change common in such times, and which was the more base, as by this decree they condemned the very man in whose crimes they had been so long partakers.
The cardinal, also, who urged this condemnation of the great Condé, was soon afterward seen to give one of his nieces in marriage to the prince of Conti, Condé’s brother, a proof that this minister’s power would soon become boundless.