Marie de Medici was born in 1573 and died in 1642. Mary was married to Henry IV and was the mother of Louis XIII. It was during Marie’s regency, that the magnates and the Huguenots attempted to reassert themselves after having their power cut by Henry IV.

Once Louis got his majority and came under the influence of Luynes, Marie’s power had to decrease. The murder of her favourite, Concini, and the execution of Galigai, Concini’s wife, showed very clearly the direction Louis and Luynes were taking. Louis exiled his mother from court which effectively took her out of the politics.

The one chance she had of regaining her power was when Luynes died in 1621. Louis was left without a chief minister. Still only 20, he might have panicked over the loss of such an outstanding minister. However, Luynes was replaced with an even more formidable opponent – Richelieu – who was as equally supportive of monarchical absolutism as Luynes had been.

Richelieu wanted Marie back in court and arranged for this to occur in 1622. Why did he do this? Richelieu believed that if Marie was at Blois it would be difficult to keep ‘an eye’ on her and she could create more problems by associating herself with disillusioned nobles. If she was in the Royal Court she would be easier to control and less able to associate with angered noblemen as such men would not be at court.

In return for ending her exile, Marie persuaded Louis to appoint Richelieu Chief Minister of France, which he did in 1624.

Richelieu and Marie, however, were to clash. She was pro-Spanish (Marie had been the principal mover behind the arranged marriage between Louis and Anne of Austria) while Richelieu was the opposite. Also Richelieu allowed the Huguenots the right of worship in Languedoc despite defeating them militarily. Marie was a dévot – an ardent Catholic who believed that the Huguenots deserved no tolerance whatsoever. Why did Richelieu, a cardinal, show such tolerance? He wanted France free of internal strife as he believed that at some time France would have to involve herself in the Thirty Years War. Any internal problems would distract from this involvement and possibly undermine it.

Angered by Richelieu’s apparent tolerance of the Huguenots, Marie plotted against him. She allied herself with Marillac, the Keeper of the Seals, in an attempt to overthrow Richelieu. The so-called Day of Dupes (November 10th, 1630) failed and Marie’s involvement condemned her. Marie was arrested and, in July 1631, exiled to Compiegne. From here, Marie escaped to the Spanish Netherlands where she stayed until her death in 1641. The last years of her life were spent plotting the overthrow of Richelieu – something she abjectly failed in.

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