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Basilica of St Denis, 1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 93200 Saint-Denis, France

Portrait of Louis XIII in his thirty-fourth yearLouis XIII (27 September 1601 – 14 May 1643) was King of France from 1610 to 1643 and King of Navarre (as Louis II) from 1610 to 1620, when the crown of Navarre was merged with the French crown. Shortly before his ninth birthday, Louis became king of France and Navarre after his father Henry IV was assassinated. His mother, Marie de' Medici, acted as regent during his minority. Mismanagement of the kingdom and ceaseless political intrigues by Marie and her Italian favourites led the young king to take power in 1617 by exiling his mother and executing her followers, including Concino Concini, the most influential Italian at the French court. Louis XIII, taciturn and suspicious, relied heavily on his chief ministers, first Charles d'Albert, duc de Luynes and then Cardinal Richelieu, to govern the Kingdom of France. King and cardinal are remembered for establishing the Académie française, and ending the revolt of the French nobility. They systematically destroyed the castles of defiant lords, and denounced the use of private violence (dueling, carrying weapons, and maintaining private armies). By the end of the 1620s, Richelieu had established "the royal monopoly of force" as the ruling doctrine.[1] His reign was also marked by the struggles against the Huguenots and Habsburg Spain.[2]

Louis XIII decided, with the encouragement of Charles d'Albert (the Grand Falconer of France) and other advisers, to break with his mother and to arrest Concini.[6] On 24 April 1617, during the attempted arrest, Concini was killed.[7] His widow Leonora Dori Galigaï was tried for witchcraft, condemned, beheaded, and burned on 8 July 1617,[8] and Marie was sent into exile in Blois.[9] Later, Louis conferred the title of Duke of Luynes on Charles d'Albert.[10]

Luynes soon became as unpopular as Concini had been. Other nobles resented his monopolisation of the King. Luynes was seen as less competent than Henry IV's ministers, many now elderly or deceased, who had surrounded Marie de' Medici. The Thirty Years' War broke out in 1618. The French court was initially unsure of which side to support. On the one hand, France's traditional rivalry with the House of Habsburg argued in favour of intervening on behalf of the Protestant powers (and Louis's father Henry IV of France had once been a Huguenot leader). On the other hand, Louis XIII had a strict Catholic upbringing, and his natural inclination was to support the Holy Roman Emperor, the Habsburg Ferdinand II. The French nobles were further antagonised against Luynes by the 1618 revocation of the paulette tax and by the sale of offices in 1620. From her exile in Blois, Marie de' Medici became the obvious rallying point for this discontent, and the Bishop of Luçon (who became Cardinal Richelieu in 1622) was allowed to act as her chief adviser, serving as a go-between Marie and the King. French nobles launched a rebellion in 1620, but their forces were easily routed by royal forces at Les Ponts-de-Cé in August 1620. Louis then launched an expedition against the Huguenots of Béarn who had defied a number of royal decisions. This expedition managed to re-establish Catholicism as the official religion of Béarn. However, the Béarn expedition drove Huguenots in other provinces into a rebellion led by Henri, Duke of Rohan. In 1621 Louis XIII was formally reconciled with his mother. Luynes was appointed Constable of France, after which he and Louis set out to quell the Huguenot rebellion. The siege at the Huguenot stronghold of Montauban had to be abandoned after three months owing to the large number of royal troops who had succumbed to camp fever. One of the victims of camp fever was Luynes, who died in December 1621.

Claude de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon, was a royal favourite from 1626 to 1636.

There is no evidence that Louis kept mistresses (a distinction that earned him the title "Louis the Chaste"), but several reports suggest that he may have been homosexual. The prolonged temporal gap between the queen's pregnancies may have been a result of Louis XIII's aversion to heterosexuality, a matter of great political consequence, since it took the couple more than 20 years of marriage before Louis XIV's birth.[25] His interests as a teenager were focused on male courtiers and he developed an intense emotional attachment to his favourite, Charles d'Albert, although some say there is no clear evidence of a sexual relationship.[26] Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux, drawing from rumours told to him by a critic of the King (the Marquise de Rambouillet), explicitly speculated in his Historiettes about what happened in the king's bed. A further liaison with an equerry, François de Baradas, ended when the latter lost favour fighting a duel after duelling had been forbidden by royal decree.[27] Louis was also captivated by Henri Coiffier de Ruzé, Marquis of Cinq-Mars, who was later executed for conspiring with the Spanish enemy in time of war. Tallemant described how on a royal journey, the King "sent M. le Grand [de Cinq-Mars] to undress, who returned, adorned like a bride. 'To bed, to bed' he said to him impatiently... and the mignon was not in before the king was already kissing his hands."[28]

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