Childhood & Early Life
Louis XIII was born on September 27, 1601 at Château de Fontainebleau to King Henry IV of France and his second queen Marie de' Medici. The couple had six children, out of which Louis was the eldest. Consequently, Louis became the Dauphin of France at birth.
Although Henry’s first marriage ended childless Louis had numerous half brothers and sisters from his father’s liaison with other women. As a child, he was very sickly and used to stammer extensively. Consequently, he spoke little and was thought to be a taciturn.
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Under the Regency of Queen Mother
Louis XIII came to the throne on May 14, 1610 after his father King Henry IV was stabbed to death on Rue de la Ferronnerie in Paris. At that time, Louis was only eight years old. Marie de’ Medici appointed herself as the young king’s regent.
In 1614, Henri, the Prince of Condé, the second in line to the throne, launched an unsuccessful rebellion against the queen. In the same year, Louis XIII came of age and became the official monarch of France. However, the real power remained with his mother, who continued to act as the de facto ruler.
Initially, Marie d’ Medici retained most of her husband’s ministers and pursued a moderate policy. From 1615, she began to rely more on an Italian nobleman, Concino Concini. This antagonized the Prince of Condé even more and he launched a second rebellion.
To protect Concini, the Queen mother had Prince of Condé arrested, which in turn led to more chaos. On the advice of Charles d'Albert, the king stepped in and had Concini assassinated on April 24, 1617. Marie de’ Medici was sent away to Château de Blois.
On assuming the control of the kingdom in 1617, Louis XIII began to rule the kingdom under the guidance of Charles d'Albert, who was created Duke of Luynes by him. At that time, Louis XIII was only sixteen years old.
In 1618, Thirty Years War between the Catholics and the Protestants broke out. Going against the advice of the noblemen, King Louis XIII supported the Habsburg Ferdinand II, the Holy Roman Emperor. It antagonized the nobles to some extent. This was also the year when he revoked paulette tax, which further annoyed them.
The nobles then began to rally around Marie de’ Merci. From 1619 to 1620, the Queen Mother launched two unsuccessful rebellions against her son. In August 1620, the royal force finally routed the rebels. However, due to the effort of Richelieu, Marie’s principal advisor, the mother and son were reconciled in 1621.
In spite of such rebellions, Louis XIII began to think about colonial ventures. The relation with Japan had already been established in 1615. In 1619, the king decided to send a fleet to Morocco under Isaac de Razilly. It was able to create a base there.
In the same year, an armed expedition was sent from Honfleur to Japan under General Augustin de Beaulieu. Its main objective was to fight the Dutch in the Far East. The King also sent an expedition to the Huguenots of Béarn. As a result, Béarn came under Catholic rule; but since many Huguenots took shelter in neighbouring states, the potential threat remained.
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In 1621, the King along with Charles d'Albert, set out on an unsuccessful expedition to quell Huguenot rebellion. It had to be abandoned because of camp fever that killed many of the royal troops. Charles d'Albert was also a victim of this epidemic.
Following his death, King Louis XIII, decided to form a council of ministers, which would help him to govern. Marie d’ Medici came back in 1622 and became a part of the new council. In the same year in October, the King signed a treaty with Duke of Roahan, it ended the rebellion by the Huguenots.
By 1624, Cardinal Richelieu had been made the principal advisor of the King. His growing influence made Marie de’ Medici uneasy. She appealed to her son to remove the Cardinal. The King reacted by sending her back to exile.
Between 1624 and 1642, France witnessed a tremendous growth. Under Richelieu’s guidance, King Louis XIII was able to keep the nobility under his control and successfully intervened in the Thirty Years War. He also strengthened the navy and established absolute monarchy.
In the American continent, King Louis XIII encouraged a peaceful co-existence between the colonists and the Indians. In 1627, the King declared that any Indian converting to Roman Catholic faith would be treated as natural citizen of France.
The reign of King Louis XIII is also remembered for the cultural development of the nation. Before his time, promising French artists had to travel to Italy to study or to work; the King reversed that trend. He commissioned well known artists to decorate Louvre Palace.
Louis XIII, on the advice of Cardinal Richelieu, also set up Académie Française for the development of French language. Till date, it remains the official authority on the usages, vocabulary, and grammar of the French language.
Personal Life & Legacy
King Louis XIII married Anne of Austria on November 24, 1615. Anne was the daughter of the King of Spain and their marriage was settled in 1611 by the Treaty of Fontainbleau for political gain. The couple mostly lived apart. In spite of that, they had two sons; Louis XIV of France and Philippe I, Duke of Orléans.
Unlike most royals of that time, King Louis XIII did not have any mistress and hence he was often referred as the Louis the Chaste. However, many historians are opinion that he was actually a bisexual if not a gay and was attracted by many of his male courtiers.
King Louis XIII suffered from chronic ill health. He died from intestinal tuberculosis on May 14, 1643. His rule has been immortalized by Alexander Dumas in his famous novel ‘The Three Musketeers’.