Louis xiv. was only four years old when his mother, Anne of Austria, brought him to the Parliament of Paris.
The little king, who had learned his lesson well, told the members that he had come to show his goodwill but his uncle, the Duke of Orleans, would say all that was necessary.
Queen Anne was then made regent. As her chief adviser she chose Cardinal Mazarin, although he had been a faithful servant of Richelieu, whom for many years she had so bitterly disliked.
The nobles were not at all pleased with the regent's choice, for Mazarin was an Italian, who could not even speak French like a Frenchman. But neither their displeasure nor their plots did Mazarin much harm, and before long he was the real ruler of France.
When Louis xiii. died, war was still going on between France and Spain. Spain thought that now the great cardinal was dead it would be easier to beat the French armies. She therefore laid siege to Rocroy, a town on the borders of Flanders.
The young Duke of Enghien, who was barely twenty-two years of age, commanded the French army. It was he who later was known as the Great Condé.
"Dying with impatience" to fight, the young duke led his army so close to the Spanish troops that it was impossible to avoid a battle, though older heads than his would have deemed it wiser to wait.
The night before the struggle began Enghien sat over the camp-fire talking with his officers, and only in the early morning did he snatch a little sleep.
No sooner was he awake than he led his men to battle. "Mark him as he flies to victory or death. He was seen almost in the same moment, driving in the enemy's right, rallying the half-beaten French, putting to flight the victorious Spaniards, striking terror everywhere and dumbfounding with his flashing looks those who escaped from his blows."
With such a leader the French quickly routed the right and the left wings of the Spanish troops. There was still a solid square of Spanish infantry, which until now had proved invincible on every battlefield.
Three times the Duke of Enghien threw himself against this solid Spanish wall, three times he was beaten back. For the fourth time he rallied his men and dashed upon the enemy, and then at length the dreaded square broke to pieces, and the Spanish soldiers were slain in thousands. Slain, for they would neither retreat nor ask for quarter.
The battle of Rocroy took place in the month of May 1643.
Two years later the Duke of Enghien, along with Marshal Turenne, who you remember fought in the Thirty Years' War, won two great battles.
In one of these the duke fought with his usual daring and rashness, so that two horses were killed under him, and but for the greater caution of Marshal Turenne the victory would have been lost.
Success after success made the Duke of Enghien ever more ambitious. He was already one of the richest, haughtiest nobles in France, and Cardinal Mazarin began to fear that when peace was made Enghien would come to Paris and wrest from him his power.
In 1648 the Peace of Westphalia brought the Thirty Years' War to an end, and the duke, now by his father's death the Prince of Condé, did indeed return to France.
Meanwhile Mazarin was growing more and more unpopular. He wasted the money Richelieu had saved, and then laid new taxes on the people. At length, when he declared that all provisions brought into the capital by land or by water would be taxed, the Parliament of Paris refused to allow this new burden to be laid upon the citizens.
Anne of Austria was so angry with the Parliament for resisting her minister's decree that she ordered Broussel, who had led the revolt, to be arrested.
But Broussel was beloved by the people of Paris, and no sooner did they hear that he was arrested than they shut their shops, barricaded the streets, and began to rush up and down, shouting, "Liberty and Broussel! Liberty and Broussel!"
The regent, finding that the citizens were determined to have their way, was forced to yield and set Broussel free. But she was too angry to stay in Paris among her rebellious subjects. Taking with her Mazarin and the little king, she left the capital and went to St. Germain. The palace there was unfurnished, with scarcely a bed fit for the queen to sleep on, yet she did not appear to notice any discomforts. She seemed to have left all her anxieties behind her at Paris.
Meanwhile, in 1648, a foolish strife called the War of the Fronde had begun to occupy the nobles and citizens of Paris. You may wonder why this war was called the War of the Fronde. A fronde was a sling used by the little street-boys of Paris in their mimic battles, and the battles of the Fronde were sometimes no more serious than the combats of the little boys of Paris.
It was rare for the citizens to fight side by side with the nobles, and at first they thought it was a great honour. They never doubted that the lords were serious in their efforts to free Paris from the tyranny of the regent and Mazarin. But soon the citizens began to see that the skirmishes between the Royalists and the Frondeurs were more for fun and laughter than anything else, while the funds which the people had given to the Frondeurs were wasted on banquets and balls. It was true that the court ladies, among whom was Mademoiselle de Montpensier, better known as La Grande Mademoiselle, invited the citizens to their assemblies, but this honour scarcely atoned for their wasted money.
At length Matthew Mole, the President of the Parliament, went to the regent and tried to arrange terms of peace. He was not very successful, and when he went back to Paris the mob threatened to kill him, although he had always done all he could to help them.
Soon after this the queen-mother, grown tired of her exile, made peace with the Parliament and returned to Paris. The old Fronde, as it was called, now came to an end.
The Prince of Condé came to the capital with the regent, and she would fain have kept the haughty noble at her side. But the prince hated Mazarin too much to stay with the regent, so he founded a separate party for himself. The Prince of Condé's party was called the "Young Fronde," and to it belonged the young and discontented nobles.
As Condé had deserted her, the regent persuaded Turenne to take the command of the Royalist troops.
Then the Young Fronde, with Condé at its head, assembled an army, hoping to overpower Turenne and seize Paris.
The prince had thrown up a great earthwork, near the gate of St. Antoine, to protect his men. Here Turenne attacked him, took the earthwork and steadily pushed Condé backward. It seemed that the prince must either be taken or killed.
La Grande Mademoiselle was in Paris with the troops of her father, the Duke of Orleans, encouraging the Fronde with all her strength. "Condé was in a pitiable state," she tells us. He had two finger-breadths of dust on his face, and his hair all matted. His collar and shirt were covered with blood, although he was not wounded. His breastplate was riddled all over and he held his sword-bare in his hand, having lost the scabbard.
"You see a man in despair: I have lost all my friends," said the prince to mademoiselle.
La Grande Mademoiselle told him that his friends were not so seriously wounded as he thought, and after having comforted the great soldier, she sent him back to his men, while she hastened to the Bastille.
Here she ordered the commander to load the guns which were directed upon the city, and to fire as soon as she was gone.
"She ordered the commander to load the cannon."
She then went quickly to the gate of St. Antoine. When Prince Condé's men saw La Grande Mademoiselle, they shouted, "Let us do something that will astonish them; our retreat is secure. Here is mademoiselle at the gate, she will have it opened for us if we are hard pressed."
At that moment the cannon of the Bastille sent ball after ball crashing down upon the royal troops, until they were thrown into confusion.
The Prince of Condé seized the moment to make a fresh effort, and he and his men reached the gate of St. Antoine, which mademoiselle had thrown wide open. Thus the prince and his men reached safety within the walls of the city, and were able to make it their own.
But the Prince of Condé was so cruel to the citizens that they soon revolted against him and made peace with the regent.
Condé, too proud to ask for pardon at her hands, accepted a post in the Spanish army, and thus the "war of the Young Fronde" came to an end in 1653.
The Prince of Condé and Turenne were now on opposite sides, and fought against each other in Spain and Flanders.
As a rule Turenne was more than a match for the prince, but in 1656 Condé, at the head of the Spanish troops, defeated the French.
Meanwhile, Mazarin having made a treaty with England, Cromwell promised to send his well-trained Ironsides to help the French against their Spanish foes.
In 1658 the last battle in this war was fought on the sand-dunes near Dunkirk.
Condé saw that the Spanish troops had encamped on the shifting sand-banks, and urged their commander to move to more solid ground. The Spanish officer refused, and Condé knew that his chance of victory was so much the less.
Turning to the young Duke of Gloucester, the son of Charles i. , who was serving in the Spanish army, Condé said, "My lord, did you ever see a battle?"
"No, prince," answered the English lad. "Well, then, you are going to see one lost,"answered Condé.
As the prince foresaw, so it was. At the Battle of the Dunes the Spanish were totally defeated, and soon after they begged for peace, which was made in 1659 at the Treaty of the Pyrenees.
By this treaty it was agreed that Louis xiv. should many Maria, the Infanta of Spain, but that the two crowns of France and Spain should never be worn by the same king. The marriage took place in 1661, and shortly after Cardinal Mazarin died. His great wealth he left to be divided between his seven nieces. He also founded a college for the education of children of noble birth, and to this college he bequeathed his splendid library.