Anne of Austria - Queen of France and Regent

Anne of Austria - Queen of France and Regent

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« My prize is not in my crown "Was the motto ofAnne of Austria. By marrying her, Louis XIII offered her people a Queen of great lineage, peace, but also and especially without knowing it a Regent of surprising intelligence and energy. Perpetual "Spanish" during the reign of her husband, neglected and despised, this Habsburg, yet Madrilenian to the tips of her fingernails, will surprise everyone when she comes to supreme power.

Illusions and disillusions of a young Infanta from Spain

Like many Queens of France, Anne of Austria presents the same characteristics: golden and happy childhood, gray marriage, neglected and despised wife, queen under control ... but the only notable difference is the regency. She is not Catherine de Medici and even less Marie de Medici. By her intelligence, her strength of character and her taste for power, she is to be placed in the ranks of the regency of Blanche of Castille or Louise of Savoy who dedicated their lives to their respective sons, Saint Louis and François Ier… Kings who have marked France. A model and a political example, she will make Louis XIV an exceptional King.

Coming from the house of Austria, Anne was born on September 22, 1601 in Valladolid. Daughter of King Philip III of Spain, she enjoyed a happy and fairly free childhood which was quite rare for the time. She is endowed with a liveliness of mind which amazes for her young age, but also an intense piety. By the Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1611, she officially became the “fiancée” of the King of France.

This treaty comes to put an end to a project which dated from its birth. It was not until the death of Henri IV, who was dragging out the talks, that things finally came to an end. Philip III of Spain entrusts what he holds most dear and grants his daughter a colossal dowry. Married by proxy in Burgos, exchanged on the Bidassoa, the marriage with Louis XIII took place in Bordeaux on November 21, 1615. It was immediately consummated because the regent Marie de Médicis wanted to ensure that nothing would call into question the union of the two young princes. It goes without saying that this first experience will be disastrous for the two inexperienced teenagers who are terrified of what is being forced on them.

Marie de Medici does not want to give up her place and refuses to give way to Anne. She does not wish too much to see her daughter-in-law gain ascendancy over Louis XIII and acts to continually demean and compromise her in the eyes of the King. Abandoned and despised, Anne remains a "Spanish" and a Habsburg. She must pass in the eyes of the King for a potential enemy. It was not until 1617 when Louis XIII, thanks to his favorite, the Duke of Luynes, brought his mother to heel and took over the power that was due to him. He also had his wife's "Spanish court" driven out, isolating her even more from the rest of the court. Ups and downs, the relationship between the spouses did not end until 1638 when Anne of Austria gave birth to her first child, the future Sun King.

Anne of Austria, a carefree and "rebellious" young queen

In love, frivolous and flirtatious, here is the portrait that Alexandre Dumas left us of her. Yes, she was neglected by Louis XIII. He could not forgive her for her correspondence with Philip IV of Spain, her repeated miscarriages and her opposition to his policies. She went so far as to get involved in plots, the most nefarious of which was an attempt to overthrow Louis XIII for the benefit of her brother Gaston d'Orléans, the latter considering marrying Anne of Austria, who had become a widow. Yes, she hates Richelieu who orders her control and her daily and methodical espionage.

It is by reaction that she mixes with the Great in their struggles and cabals against the minister who only applies what Louis XIII orders her. Yes Anne of Austria made mistakes including the one with the Duke of Buckingham. Pushed into this "inconsequential marivauding" by the Duchess of Chevreuse, she very quickly realizes that we are trying by all means to compromise her and therefore to harm the legitimacy of her unborn children. Carefree and rebellious, Anne of Austria assumes her duties and realizes her past mistakes at the long-awaited birth in September 1638 of Louis Dieudonné, future Louis XIV.

However, Louis XIII always keeps her at a distance and decides to limit her powers as Regent and place her under the authority of advisers, the only guarantors in his eyes of the policy he pursued during his reign. on May 14, 1643, Anne of Austria became regent and, assisted by Séguier, had Louis XIII's will and his wishes annulled. The Greats accede to the Council which Louis XIII did not want and she called on a certain Mazarin, "creature" of Richelieu who knew how to win her trust ...

A “Spanish” Regent more French than the French

The policy of Louis XIII led by Cardinal Richelieu caused a lot of discontent. The Queen's contempt for Richelieu seemed to them to be conducive to a change in royal power. However, this beautiful revenge is not on the agenda because Anne of Austria will continue the absolutist movement initiated by Louis XIII. Anne of Austria is a perfect example of the transfiguration that supreme power brings about over some people.

France at that time was in a dire financial situation and it was an opportunity for the Parliament of Paris to set fire to the powder by opposing the royal measures. Parliament refused in 1648 to register royal edicts. The Regent decided to have the "rebels" arrested, which aroused the indignation of the Parisians who retaliated with the "day of the barricades" and chained mazarinades on mazarinades.

The royal family fled Paris by night on January 6, Kings Day, for Saint Germain from where they learned of the execution by the English parliament Charles I. Besieged by the royal army, the city of Paris capitulated and its Parliament submitted in April 1649. This crisis was followed by that of the Princes which spread throughout the kingdom and ruined the country. The rebel princes appeal to the Spaniards. Paris rises again and if Cardinal Mazarin manages to leave the country to find forces and an army for the King of France, Anne of Austria must face the populace. Coolly, she turns the opinion to her advantage by showing the young king sleeping in his bed at night, claiming that she does not wish to run away.

Reassured by the regent of the kingdom, the people who wanted to put her in the dungeon cheered her. Anne of Austria plays with the times and maintains dissension between the Great and the rebels. Should we not divide in order to reign better? Mazarin organizes the army with Turenne at its head and ends the Fronde.

Anne of Austria, the model wife of Louis XIV

Queen Dowager, She completes her work, the Val de Grâce, and supports Saint Vincent de Paul. She preaches the reason of state to Louis XIV who wishes to marry Laura Mancini. He must marry Maria Theresa of Spain who has neither the character nor the strength of Anne. Louis XIV will seek in vain the one who will equal his mother. Suffering from breast cancer, she died in 1666 following inhuman curative treatment and agony and suffering. Dressed in the Franciscan robe as a last luxury, Anne of Austria justifies her motto: her price was not in her crown but in her strength and intelligence.

Non-exhaustive bibliography

- History of the Queens of France - Anne of Austria, by Philippe DELORME, Pygmalion / Gérard WATELET editions, 1999.

- Anne of Austria, mother of Louis XIV of Claude Dulong. Folio, 1985.

- For the love of the child king: Anne of Austria-Jules Mazarin by Alain-Gilles Minella. Perrin, 2008.

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