War and Social Upheaval: The Fronde (1648-53)


Figure 1.--.

The Fronde was a French civil war resulting from the conflict between and increasongly absolutist maonarchy and the nobels of France. It occured the monarchy of King Louis XIV, but while he was still a child. It occurred at about the same time as the later stages of the Civil War in England and immediately after the Thirty Years War in Germany. All three of these conflicts were caused by the attempt of the monarchy to expand the authority of the monarchy at the expense of the nobility and wealthy merchants. The outcome in each country was radically different. The name Fronde was derived from a play sling used by the boys of Paris in mimic street fights.

Louis XIV

T he Fronde occured the monarchy of King Louis XIV, but while he was still a child. His father Louis XIII had died at a relativeky young age (1643). Thus Louis became king when he was only 5 years old. The Fronde was to put the monarchy and the royal family in danger. Louis would go on to become perhaps France's most powerful king, but at the time of the Fronde he was still a child and in mortal danger. It was an experience that he would never forget.

Comparable Developents

The Fronde occurred at about the same time as the later stages of the Civil War in England and immediately after the Thirty Years War in Germany. All three of these conflicts were caused by the attempt of the monarchy to expand the authority of the monarchy at the expense of the nobility and wealthy merchants. The outcome in each country was radically different. The failure of the Fronde enabled Louis XIV to establish an absolutist monary. The English Civil War on the otherhand confirmed and expanded constitutional limits on the British monarchy. The Thirty Years War in German not only essebntially destroyed the authority of the Germany monachy (Holy Roman Emperor), but left Germany disunited for over three centuries.

Cardinal Mazarin

Cardinal Mazarin was the protege and successor of Cardinal Richelieu who served Louis XIII and worked tirelessly to centalize the french state and expand the powers of the monarchy. Mazarin attempted to bring the finances of the French Government under control. The royal finances had been strained by French participation in the Thirty Years War againstv both the Hapsburgs in Germany and Spain. For his austere financial measures and other reasons the Italian-born prealet became very unpooular, the nobels accusing him of despotic behavior. Mazarin's appointment of foreigners was especially unpopular. The Parlement of Paris thought its perogatives were threatened. People compalined of excessive taxes and administrative abuses.

Parlement of Paris

The Parlement launched the Fronde when they refused to approve royal edicts and Mazarin's economic program. Under Richelieu the Parlement had been a sunservient body, routeinly endorsing royal edicts. This was intially a limited action and within constitutional lines, although not what Mazarin expected. Gradually the French nobels expanded the confrintation into a struggle aimed at regaining the privliges they had enjoyed before Richelieu. The leaders of the Fronde were first president of Parlement Mathieu Molé and councilers Blancmenil and Broussel.

Thirty Years War (1618-48)

France had aided the northern Protestant princes in the Thirty Years War to oppose the Hapsburgs which it faced in Germany, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands. Finally Framnce entered the War directly to avoid a Hapsburg victory. This proved very costly and was a major reason Mazarin needed additional taxes. The ending of the War in Germany and the French victory over the Spanish at Lens (1648) by the Prince de Condé (1648) strengthened the position of Mazarin and the court as it ended foreign distractions and freed a trained army for domestic uses if needed.

Mazarin Acts

Mazarin struck the first blow, ordering the arrest of Parelment councilers Blancmenil and Broussel (August 1648). Mazarin hoped to destroy the Fronde before opposition grew any further.

Paris Takes Up Arms

The people of Paris took up arms, attacked and dispersed the royal guard, and erected baricades around the Palais Royal. The young Louis XIV was inside the palace and was in fear for his life. The people if oaris and the Parlement were joined by some nobels. This is a time that King Louis XIV as an adult would look back on with great fear.

Truce

Negotiations followed. Mazarin approved an ordinance regulationg financial and judicual matters (August 1, 1649). There was some reduction of taxes, but Mazarin and his aides retained their offices. This placated some, but not the nobels who insisted on removing Mazarin. The two sides observed each others movements closely, with great distrust. The Court party began calling the Parlement party "frondeurs"--loosely "slingers".

Mazarin Acts Again

Mazarin made another attemp to end the Fronde by arresting its leaders. This time he moved against some of the most important nobels. He had the Prince de Condé (Duc de Longueville) and Armand de Bourbon (Prince de Conti) arrested by royal decree (January 1650). This act aroused the provinces. The Duchess Longueville, Conde's sister, persuaded the Vicomte de Tuerenne to lead an army against the Court party. Tuerenne scorded some initial successes, but was defeated at a battle near Rethel. Despite this victory, Mazarin had become so unpopular, he had to relaese the arresyted nobels and flee to the Netherlands.

Intrigue

Following the battle at Rethel, Mazarin and Louis gradually out manaeuvered the Frounde leaders in domestic political infighting and intrigue. Basically instead of arresting the leaders, Mazarin and the Court bought off important leaders, leaving the remaining opposition leaders to weak to defy the Court. The conflict which began over the oppression of the people and oppresive tactics turned to court intrigue. The Queen Mother and regent, Anne of Austria, convinced Turenne to transfer his alligance. Mazarin bribed another imprtant Fronde leader, Jean François Paul de Gondi with the offer of a cardinate. Condé who had made himself unpopular by his obnoxious behavior fled to Guienne southwest France. Louis XIV by this time was 14 years old and beginning to take a more prominent role in the affairs of state. He tried to convince Condé to return to Paris. Condé having been arrested once did not trust the King and forned an army. Condé's forces fought with a royal army commanded by Turenne (July 2, 1652). Parelement again negotiated with the Court over the removal of Mazarin who had returned from the Netherlands. Louis agreed to this and declared a general amnesty. Condé still distrustful offerdec his services to the Soanish crown and Louis deckared him a traitor. Soon afterwards, Mazarin returned again.

Consequences

The victory of the Court party led by Mazarin effectively removed all organized constitutional restrints on royal power. This left Louis open when he assumed his majority to rule as an absolute monarch. And this is precisely what he did, summarizing his rule with the statement, "I am the state".

Sources

Well, H.G. The Outline of History: The Whole Story of Man (Doubleday & Company: New York, 1971), 1103p.






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Created: January 28, 2004
Last updated: 6:35 AM 11/27/2007