Louis XIII of France was born in 1601 and died in 1643. Louis was the son of Henry IV and Marie de Medici. He was king from 1610 on, the year of his father’s assassination. His monarchy was dominated by the careers of the Duke de Luynes and Cardinal Richelieu. His monarchy saw an expansion of absolute monarchical power started by Louis XI and advanced by the likes of Francis I and Henry II. The power of the monarchy was weakened during the French Wars of Religion and Louis wanted to build on the increase in monarchical power that his father, Henry, had introduced once the war had ended.
Louis became king at the age of nine. Therefore, as a minor, France was governed by a Regent – in this case, his mother Marie de Medici. She allowed her favourites, Galigai and Concini, to do as they wished, thereby discrediting the monarchy after the exalted heights Henry IV had taken it to.
From 1614 on, Louis became more and more influenced by Charles, Duke de Luynes, who favoured an extension of royal absolutism. Both Luynes and Louis were implicated in the murder of Concini and the concocted trial that found Galigai guilty of being a witch, a decision that lead to her execution. Once both former favourites were out of his way, Luynes used his position to expand his power, but also the power of Louis.
From 1617 on, France witnessed an expansion of monarchical power at the expense of the power of the magnates. Marie de Medici was exiled to a chateau at Blois and kept out of the royal court.
Louis had married at the age of 14. His wife was Anne of Austria, the Spanish Infanta. It was an arranged marriage (it had been settled as early as 1611 in the Treaty of Fontainbleau) and it was not a happy marriage. Louis and Anne spent years living apart, and the birth of their son, the future Louis XIV, surprised many but was the result of a rare night spent together. “It was probably out of a sense of duty to his kingdom.” EN Williams
Louis was a mass of contradictions. He came across as modest and reserved but he could be very cruel and ruthless – as the murder of Concini indicated. He was a very religious man who sanctioned murder. He was also a hypochondriac who always believed that he was ill yet he enjoyed leading his soldiers into battle.
Louis knew that he did not possess the ability to grasp the detail needed to run his kingdom well – hence his reliance on Luynes and Richelieu. However, both men were in favour of absolute monarchy and they formed a formidable team between 1617 and 1643; Luynes until his death in 1621 and Richelieu until the death of the king in 1643. The final decision on policy always rested with Louis.
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