The abuse of Louis XIII

Louis XIII is an intriguing and very complex character. Accused of coldness, melancholy and homosexuality, he has divided opinion over the years. Many see him as a cipher and pawn of his incredibly clever First Minister, Cardinal Richelieu. But Louis, for all his perceived faults, had undeniable qualities.

The negative slant on his personality is subjective but with a very real basis in fact. And yet – when his childhood is investigated – it is possible to see why he was such a complicated human being.

Jean Héroard was born in Montpellier in the year 1551. His descent was from a long line of influential doctors with international connections and he spent his early career in the pay of the Gonzagas and then Charles IX of France. Charles’ brother and heir, Henri III,  retained this doctor and Henri IV renewed the contract when his wife Marie de Medici became pregnant with the future Louis XIII.

As soon as the umbilical cord was severed, this doctor took control and responsibility for the heir of the throne of France’s care. What set Héroard apart – in history – was the very detailed, day by day account he kept of his new charge’s life.

When just two days old, the dauphin Louis had trouble suckling so Héroard brought in a surgeon who cut the membranes beneath the infant’s tongue in three places – a common enough practice but Louis – for the rest of his life – was afflicted by a stutter and he often had to poke his tongue out of his mouth and hold it between his lips.

From that day on Héroard seems to have sought and found complete control over all of the child’s inputs and outputs. The first suppository was administered when Louis was just 10 days old.

By whatever standards, both activities were an invasion  and one that continued for many years, robbing Louis of control over his own body.

Héroard records the dauphin farting near the nose of an attendant who said, ‘Sir, you must fire your musket again.’

‘But it’s not loaded,’ said Louis.

‘Sir, but what should it be loaded with?’

‘With merde,’ the dauphin replied.

A close reading of Louis’ childhood brings unmistakable proof of profound abuse. He was whipped regularly on the orders of both his mother (Marie de Medici) and his father (Henri IV)

Héroard should not hold the full blame. His nurse, his governess, his siblings(legitimate and illegitimate) play their parts. As does his father,the sexual exhibitionist.

When Louis is only four or five years old and after a visit to his father, Héroard questions the dauphin and records…

‘…he (Louis) said some new words and phrases that are shameful and unworthy of his upbringing, saying that Papa’s was a lot longer than his, that his was a long as that – showing half the length of his arm.’

The violence and the abuse were not abnormal. The adults thus produced were afflicted. These adults populate our history books.

Thought provoking?

Louis as a child by Frans Pourbus the Younger

Louis as a child by Frans Pourbus the Younger

Assassins and the Vatican

In 1604 Denis lebedy de Batilly wrote a 64 page tract titled Traict de l’origine des anciens assasins porte-couteaux. He gave it the subtitle – With examples of their attempts and homicides against certain kings, princes, and lords of Christianity.

The pamphlet was produced in Lyon and gained a wide audience including Camillo Borghese otherwise known as Pope Paul V(1552-1621).

It is said that the passage in the book that this Pope most admired was…

‘Fly from the man who carries the death of kings and princes in his hands.’

Pope Paul V

Pope Paul V

The book was not entirely accurate, historically, but it made certain observations and gave certain revelations which contributed to the knowledge and understanding of assassins to 17th century Europe.

Batilly was one of Henri IV of France and Navarre’s officials and he would have been aware of the attempts made on Henri’s life after he abjured Protestantism to become king of France.

Paris is worth a Mass

Henri IV if France and Navarre

Henri IV of France and Navarre

Henri (husband of Marie de Medici and father of Louis XIII and Henrietta Maria) was certain that, one day, he would be assassinated and took precautions for a time.

But, on 14th May 1610, the king had meetings to attend. He went, despite the fact that an unsealed letter had been found in his rooms – ‘Sire, under no conditions go out this afternoon.’

The story of the assassination of Henri IV is well known. As his coach became caught between a wagon full of hay and one full of buckets in the narrow rue de La Ferronnerie, a man climbed on to the running board and stabbed at the king.

The first strike was to the chest and superficial. The second pierced a lung, cutting the aorta.

It was 4pm, 14th May 1610.

Jean-François Ravaillac, the assassin was caught, brought to the palais de Retz and searched. In his pockets were found eight silver coins, a rosary, a paper with the name Beillard and a strange octagonal piece of parchment with Christ’s name on each side and, in the centre, ‘Prepared for the pain of torment, in God’s name.’

Ravaillac had known associations with the Jesuits, and the Holy Alliance – a secret Vatican agency who employed spies and assassins across Europe.

Pope Paul V held a solemn Mass in the memory of the late King of France . And in secret spaces inside the catacombs of Rome another Mass was said for the Catholic Martyr – Jean François de Ravaillac.

Madame la Princesse – Charlotte de Montmorency, Princesse de Condé

Charlotte de Montmorency

Charlotte de Montmorency

Extracts from Love Tales of Tallement:
Madame la Princesse was the daughter of the last Constable de Montmorency, a man who was almost illiterate, but a good horseman…
Mademoiselle de Montmorency was only four years old when she began to show signs of that extraordinary beauty for which she was afterwards celebrated. Several offers of marriage were made for her, one of them coming from Bassompierre, who was willing to take her without a dowry; but her aunt, Madame d’Angouleme, would not allow an engagement.
When she was fourteen years old, the Queen {Marie de Medici} arranged a ballet in which she wished to have all the Court beauties, & you may be sure that Mademoiselle was not forgotten.
The King {Henri IV} and Queen had a great many squabbles about this ballet. The King wanted Madame de Moiret to appear in it, and the Queen objected; she wanted to have Madame de Verderonne, and he would not hear of it…
During these quarrels the Queen continued to rehearse her ballet, and the King, who was still very angry with her, used to have the doors of his apartments shut whenever she passed by. One day, however, he caught sight of Mademoiselle de Montmorency through the half open door, & he followed her to the rehearsal.
The ladies were dressed as nymphs and part of the ballet consisted in their raising their darts and aiming them at the spectators. The King happened to be just opposite this lovely girl when she raised her dart, and he said afterwards that the action was so graceful that he really felt the wound in his heart and became quite faint.
After that day the King’s doors were no longer shut, and the Queen could do whatever she pleased about the ballet. Madame de Rambouillet was one of the dancers, & it was there that she made friends with Madame la Princesse, as she afterwards became.
Before all this took place, there had been some talk about a marriage between her and M. le Prince, and the King now hastened it on, thinking it would advance his own affair. The Constable gave his daughter  a hundred thousand crowns; M. le Prince was poor, but the honour of having the first prince of the blood for a son-in-law was great…
When the prince found out that the King’s infatuation did not cool, he took his wife to Muret, near Soissons. The King could not bear to be without her, and he arranged to go to a shooting party that the prince was to give, disguised with a false beard; the prince heard of this plan and gave up the party…
The worst thing that the princesse did was to allow herself to be persuaded to sign a request to have her marriage annulled. The King obliged his relations to sign this document, and the Constable was so dishonourable that he only thought of the riches & honours that the King would bestow on the family of his mistress. The princesse herself was made to believe that the King would marry her. Imagine what this would have meant! To begin with, Marie de Medici, who had children, would have had to be poisoned.
The prince, who never forgave his wife the part she took in this scandal, took her to Brussels, where he had cause to be jealous of M. de Coeuvres, afterwards Marshal d’Estrées then ambassador to France…
After the death of Henri IV, the prince brought his wife back to Paris; when he was arrested she had for decency’s sake to offer to go to prison with him.
Had this not happened, they would probably never have had any children, as they were not on good terms; both Madame de Longueville & the prince (the Great Condé) were born there…

Henri IV

Henri IV as written by Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux.

‘If this prince had been born King of France and had lived in peaceful times, it is probable that he would never have arrived at greatness; he would have been nothing more than a voluptuary.

Even in the most critical situations, he would leave all to follow some amour. After the battle of Coutras, instead of following up his advantage, he went off to dally with the Countess de Guiche, taking her the banners he had won that day, and, during the siege of Amiens, he ran after Gabrielle d’Estrées without troubling himself about the Cardinal of Austria, who was coming to relieve the town.


If Sebastian Zamet really poisoned Gabrielle, he rendered a great service to Henri IV, for that good prince was about to commit a great folly, being on the point of declaring that the Prince de Condé was a bastard. The Count de Soissons was a Cardinal, receiving 300,000 crowns a year as benefice; the Prince de Conti was married to a woman who was barren, the Marshal de Biron was to have married the daughter of d’Estrées.
This Madame d’Estrées was from La Bourdaisière, the race that has produced the greatest number of gay women to be found in all France; there were as many as twenty-five or twenty-six of them; some were nuns, some married women; all lived a life of gallantry. It happens, by an amusing chance, that the arms of La Bourdaisière contain a hand sowing vetches, which has earned them the nickname of a handful of vetches.

Madame d’Estrées had six daughters and two sons, one of whom is the Marshal, who is alive today; the six and this brother were called the seven deadly sins. Madame de Neufvic, a witty woman, made this epitaph on the death of Gabrielle.

I saw pass by my window
Six mortal living sins
Led by a Priest’s bastard.
They all sang together
A requiem for the seventh,
Who had passed away.
Henri IV had a most strange collection of mistresses; he was not a gadabout and he was always made a cuckold.
Madame de Verneuil one day called him Captain Good Will, but the next day she scolded him cruelly and remarked that it was a good thing he was King, as if he were not, nobody would endure him, and that he stank like carrion.
She was quite right, for when the late Queen (Marie de Medici) slept with him, she was terribly perfumed afterwards, although she used all sorts of scents which she had brought from her own country. I do not think that anyone approved of the conduct of Henri IV to his wife.


Madame de Verneuil was the daughter of M. D’Entragues, who married Marie Touchet, the daughter of a butcher of Orleans, who had been the mistress of Charles IX. Madame de Verneuil was very proud and showed no respect either to the King or Queen, speaking of the latter to the King as ‘your Fat Banker.’

He once asked her what she would have done if she had been at Neuilly when the Queen had nearly drowned.
‘I should have cried,’ she said, ‘the Queen drinks!’

The King broke with her at last, and she gave herself up to eating and drinking.She became immensely fat, and led a life like that of Sardanapolus (The character which Ctesias depicted or invented, an effeminate debauchee, sunk in luxury and sloth) or Vitellius (lazy and self-indulgent, fond of eating and drinking, and an obese glutton, eating banquets four times a day and feasting on rare foods he would send the Roman navy to procure.)

Her children were taken from her, and the daughters were brought up by the Daughters of France.

Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux

I’m fortunate enough to have Vol. 746 of 1000 of Love Tales from Tallemant.

Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux was born around 1619, the son of financier Pierre Tallemant and his second wife Marie de Rambouillet.
Tallemant’s father was rich but mean and his son found life at home so restrictive that he proposed to his first cousin Elizabeth de Rambouillet. The marriage came about but consummation took two years because of the extreme youth of the bride yet Tallemant had chosen well. Marriage made him independent and free to enjoy the society of his mother’s family, especially the celebrated Arthenice – Catherine de Vivonne, Marquise de Rambouillet.
Arthenice’s famous Blue Salon introduced the bourgeois des Réaux to court society… against whom he sharpened his famous but simple, crude and sarcastic wit in a collection of writings known as the Historiettes.
The Love Tales from Tallemant draw fantastic pictures of the world of Henri IV and his contemporaries.