Charles, Duke de Luynes, was born in March 1578 and died in December 1621. The Duke de Luynes was the chief minister for the young Louis XIII and played a key role in early Seventeenth Century France until his death. Cardinal Richelieu, who has tended to overshadow the part Luynes played in French history, replaced him.
Luynes was born into a minor aristocratic family – the D’Albert family. He was educated at the Royal Court where he went into the service of Louis XIII. Louis was to develop a strong attachment to the man who was to take on the French magnates who had threatened Louis during his minority. These magnates wanted to re-claim old powers that had been successively stripped away by Francis I and Henry IV and which had been resurrected on occasions during the French Wars of Religion when the magnates exploited the weak monarchy.
In May 1610, Henry IV was assassinated and Louis became king of France. However, he was just 9 years of age and during his minority, his mother, Marie de Medici, governed as Regent. During this regency, Marie struggled to maintain the power of the monarchy against the Princes of the Blood lead by Henry, Prince de Condé. During this time, the Huguenots also tried to expand their power in their "state within a state" in the south and south-west of France.
Both these groups assumed that a regency run by a female would give them ample opportunity to regain power taken from them by past kings who were strong enough to curb the power of the magnates and the Huguenots in the south.
The young Louis was angered at the little attention shown to him by his mother. Louis was also angered by the fact that his mother had allowed a lady called Leonora Galigai – Marie’s favourite at court – to monopolise power within the Royal Court. Galigai’s husband, Concino Concini, was equally as influential as his wife.
In April 1617, Concini was assassinated. Luynes organised the murder with the full support of Louis. Marie de Medici, royal mother or not, was exiled to a chateau at Blois while Galigai was burned as a witch in July 1617. This event tied Luynes to Louis and vice versa as both were equally as guilty. After July 1617, Luynes was head of the government in France and served as a loyal servant to Louis.
Luynes became Governor of Picardy in 1619, Constable of France in 1621 and Keeper of the Seals, also in 1621. Such positions made him the most powerful civilian in France. They also gave him the opportunity to make money and when he died aged 43 in 1621, he had amassed a fortune.
In terms of foreign policy, Luynes could do little as he was to be fully engaged with internal issues in France itself. However, he did what he could diplomatically to hinder the Habsburg cause in the very early years of the Thirty Years War.
In the four years that Luynes had real power in France (1617 to 1621) he targeted the nobles and the Huguenots. The treatment of Galigai and Concini had been an obvious statement of intent should any of the magnates wished to have challenged Luynes. If this is what happens to the Queen Mother’s favourites……………
In 1617, the First Estate was invited to an Assembly of Notables at Rouen. Here, Luynes persuaded the First Estate that they should make a greater contribution to the nation’s exchequer. Luynes was well aware that yet more taxation of the poor could provoke problems. In 1618, Luynes reduced noble pensions and this provoked a rebellion between 1619 and 1620.
The nobles, lead by the Duke d’Epernon rescued Marie de Medici from Blois. Why would they do this? The nation needed a figurehead and Marie fitted this role. But the magnates also believed that if she regained her old power, she would be easy to manipulate and that she could be persuaded to restore the magnates’ old privileges. The Huguenots supported the nobles by rebelling in the south.
The nobles were defeated at the Battle of Ponts-de-Cé in August 1620. Louis then turned on the Huguenots. Luynes had reversed the quasi-independence the Huguenots had gained under Henry IV in 1617 when he declared that Bearn and Navarre were to be fully incorporated into the France. Now, with the nobility defeated, Luynes marched south with the French Army.
In October 1620, the Huguenots were forced to agree to the 1617 decision at a ceremony held in Pau, their capital. After this, Protestants were treated harshly in what had been a ‘state-within-a-state’. The Huguenots, under the Duke of Rohan, went onto a war footing but in June 1621, Louis took the fortress at St Jean-d’Angély which overlooked the major Huguenot stronghold of La Rochelle. Luynes attacked the equally important Huguenot base at Mountaban, Languedoc, in August 1621 but here he caught a fever and died In December 1621. It was to be Richelieu who was to finish off what Luynes had started.