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For the cognac, see Louis XIII de Rémy Martin.

Louis XIII (27 September 1601 – 14 May 1643) reigned as King of France and Navarre from 1610 to 1643.

Early life, 1601—1610

Born at the Château de Fontainebleaumarker, Louis XIII was the eldest child of Henri IV of France (1589-1610) and Marie de' Medici (1575-1642). As son of the King, he was a Fils de France, and as the eldest son, the Dauphin. His father was the first Bourbon King of France, having succeeded his ninth cousin, Henry III of France (1574–1589), in application of Salic law. Louis XIII's paternal grandparents were Antoine de Bourbon, duc de Vendôme and Jeanne d'Albret, Queen of Navarre; his maternal grandparents were Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and Johanna, archduchess of Austria, and Eleonora de' Medici, his maternal aunt, was his godmother

Speech impediment

James I’s ambassador to Paris, Edward Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury, who presented his credentials to Louis XIII in 1619, remarked on Louis’ extreme congenital speech impediment, and his double teeth:

Rule of Marie de' Medici, 1610—1617

Louis XIII ascended to the throne in 1610, at the age of eight-and-a-half, upon the assassination of his father. His mother, Marie de' Medici, acted as Regent until Louis XIII came of age at thirteen. Marie maintained most of her husband's ministers, with the exception of Maximilien de Béthune, duc de Sully, who was unpopular in the country. She mainly relied on Nicolas de Neufville, seigneur de Villeroy, Noël Brûlart de Sillery, and Pierre Jeannin. Marie pursued a moderate policy, confirming the Edict of Nantes. She was not, however, able to prevent rebellion by nobles like Henry II de Bourbon, prince de Condé, the next-in-line to the throne. Condé did squabble with Marie in 1614, briefly raising an army, but he received little support, and Marie was able to raise her own army. Nevertheless, Marie agreed to call an Estates General assembly to address Condé's grievances.
Louis in 1616.
This Estates General assembly was delayed until Louis XIII formally came of age on his thirteenth birthday. Although Louis's coming-of-age formally ended Marie's Regency, she remained the de facto ruler of France. The Estates General accomplished little, spending its time discussing the relationship of France to the Papacy and the venality of offices, but not reaching any resolutions.

Beginning in 1615, Marie came to rely increasingly on Concino Concini, who now assumed the role of her favourite. This further antagonized Condé, who launched another rebellion in 1616. Huguenot leaders supported Condé's rebellion, which led the young Louis XIII to conclude that they would never be loyal subjects. Soon, however, the bishop of Luçon joined this rebellion.

In the meantime, Charles d'Albert, the Grand Falconer of France, convinced Louis XIII that he should break with his mother and support the rebels. As a result, Concino Concini was assassinated (24 April 1617) and Marie was sent into exile in Bloismarker. Louis created Charles d'Albert, his new favourite, the first duke of Luynes.

Ascendancy of Charles de Luynes, 1617—1621

Luynes soon became as unpopular as Concini had been. Other nobles resented what they saw as Luynes's monopolization of the King. Luynes was seen as not as competent as Henry IV's ministers, who had surrounded Marie de' Medici, and who were now dying off.

The Thirty Years' War broke out in 1618. The French Court was initially unsure what 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. On the other hand, Louis XIII had had a strict religious Catholic upbringing, and his natural inclination was therefore to support the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand II.

The French nobles were further antagonized 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 was allowed to act as her chief adviser, serving as a go-between to Marie and the King.

French nobles launched a rebellion in 1620, but their forces were easily routed by royal forces at Les Ponts-de-Cémarker 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 in Béarn. However, the Béarn expedition drove Huguenots in other provinces into a rebellion led by Henri, duc de Rohan.

In 1621, Louis XIII was formally reconciled with his mother. Luynes was created Constable of France and Louis and Luynes set out to quell the Huguenot rebellion. The siege at the Huguenot stronghold of Montaubanmarker 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.

Rule by Council, 1622—1624

A young Louis XIII.
Following the death of Luynes, Louis determined that he would rule by council. His mother returned from exile and, in 1622, entered this council where Henry II de Bourbon, prince de Condé recommended violent suppression of the Huguenots. The 1622 campaign, however, followed the pattern of the previous year: Royal forces won some early victories, but were unable to complete a siege, this time at the fortress of Montpelliermarker.

The rebellion was ended by the Treaty of Montpellier, signed by Louis XIII and Henri, duc de Rohan in October 1622. The treaty confirmed the tenets of the Edict of Nantes: several Huguenot fortresses were to be razed, but the Huguenots retained control of Montaubanmarker and La Rochellemarker.

Louis ultimately dismissed Noël Brûlart de Sillery and Pierre Brulart, vicomte de Puisieux in 1624 because of his displeasure with how they handled the diplomatic situation over the Valtellinamarker with Spainmarker. Valtellina was an area with Catholic inhabitants under the suzerainty of the Protestant Grisonsmarker. It served as an important route to Italy for France. Spain was constantly interfering in the Valtellina, which angered Louis.

Ministry of Cardinal Richelieu, 1624—1643

Cardinal Richelieu played a major role in Louis XIII's administration from 1624, decisively shaping the destiny of France for the next eighteen years. As a result of Richelieu's work, Louis XIII became one of the first examples of an absolute monarch. Under Louis and Richelieu, the crown successfully intervened in the Thirty Years' War against the Habsburgs, managed to keep the French nobility in line, and retracted the political and military privileges granted to the Huguenots by Henry IV (while maintaining their religious freedoms). In addition, Louis had the port of Le Havremarker modernized, and he built a powerful navy.

Unfortunately, time and circumstances never permitted the King and the Cardinal to attend to the administrative reforms (particularly of France's tax system) which were urgently needed.

Louis also worked to reverse the trend of promising French artists leaving for Italy to work and study. He commissioned the painters Nicolas Poussin and Philippe de Champaigne to decorate the Louvremarker. In foreign matters, Louis organized the development and administration of New France, expanding its settlements westward along the Saint Lawrence Rivermarker from Quebec Citymarker to Montrealmarker.

Relationships and issue

Duke of Orléans

On two occasions the King's younger brother, Gaston, Duke of Orléans had to leave France for conspiring against the King's government, and for attempting to undermine the influence of both his mother and of Cardinal Richelieu. After waging an unsuccessful war in Languedoc, he took refuge in Flanders. In 1643, on the death of Louis XIII, Gaston became lieutenant-general of the kingdom, and fought against Spainmarker on the northern frontiers of France.


On 24 November 1615, Louis XIII married Anne of Austria, daughter of Philip III of Spain. This marriage followed a tradition of cementing military and political alliances between the Catholic powers of France and Spain with Royal marriages. The tradition went back to the marriage of Philip II of Spain with the French Princess, Elisabeth of Valois. The marriage was only briefly happy, and the King's duties often kept them apart. After twenty-three years of marriage and four miscarriages, Anne finally gave birth to a son in 1638, the future Louis XIV.

Many regarded this birth as a divine miracle and, in show of gratitude to God for the long-awaited birth of an heir, his parents named him Louis-Dieudonné (“God-given”). As another sign of gratitude, according to several interpretations, seven months before his birth, France was dedicated by Louis XIII to the Virgin Mary, who, many believed, had interceded for the perceived miracle. However, the text of the dedication does not mention the royal pregnancy and birth as one of its reasons. Also, Louis XIII himself is said to have expressed his skepticism with regards to the miracle after his son's birth.


The couple had the following children:

Name Lifespan Notes
stillborn child December 1619
stillborn child 14 March 1622
stillborn child 1626
stillborn child April 1631
Louis de France, King of France 5 September 1638 – 1 September 1715 Married Maria Theresa of Austria (1638-1683) in 1660. Had issue.
Philippe de France, Duke of Orléans 21 September 1640 – 8 June 1701 married (1) Princess Henrietta Anne of England (1644-1670) in 1661. Had issue. Married (2) Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate (1652-1722) in 1671. Had issue.


There is no evidence that Louis had mistresses (consequently earning the title of 'Louis the Chaste'), but persistent rumours insinuated that he may have been homosexual or at least bisexual. Tallemant des Réaux, drawing from rumors told to him by a critic of the king (the marquise de Rambouillet), explicitly speculated in his Historiettes what happened in the King's bed. A liaison with an equerry, François de Baradas, ended when the latter lost favour fighting a duel after duelling had been forbidden by royal decree. He was also allegedly captivated by Marquis de 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."

Louis XIII in fiction and film

Louis XIII as painted by Justus van Egmont in the 1670s.
  • Louis XIII, his wife Anne, and Cardinal Richelieu all became central figures in Alexandre Dumas, père's novel, The Three Musketeers and subsequent film adaptations. The book depicts Louis as a man willing to have Richelieu as a powerful advisor but aware of his scheming; he is depicted as a bored and sour man, dwarfed by Richelieu's intellect. Films such as the 1948 version or the 1973 version tend to treat Louis XIII as a comical character by depicting him as bumbling and incompetent.
  • Louis XIII, his wife Anne, Cardinal Richelieu, Cardinal Mazarin and members of the Royal family are mentioned throughout the course of the 1632 Series.
  • Louis XIII also appears in novels of Robert Merle's Fortune de France series.
  • Ken Russell directed the film The Devils, in which Louis XIII is a significant character, albeit one with no resemblance to the real man. Louis XIII is portrayed as an effeminate homosexual who amuses himself by shooting Protestants dressed up as birds. The film was based on Aldous Huxley's book The Devils of Loudun.
  • Louis XIII also appears in the Doctor Who audio drama The Church and the Crown.
  • In the opening of the comic adaptation of the movie, "GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra", Louis XIII is referenced. Destro's ancestor is forced to wear an iron mask for the crime of selling arms to both Louis XIII and his enemies. The year given for this event is 1641.


See also


  • Bremond, Henri, La Provence mystique au XVIIe siècle, Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1908.
  • Cromption, Louis, Homosexuality and Civilization, London, 1991.
  • Dulong, Claude, Anne d’Autriche. Paris: Hachette, 1980.
  • Herbert of Cherbury, Edward, The Life of Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, Whittaker, Treacher, and Arnot:London, 1830.
  • James,Ralph N., Painters and Their Works , University of Michigan, 1897.

Further reading

  • Howell, James "Louis XIII" English historiographer Royal 1661-1666
  • Huxley, Aldous. "The Devils of Loudun". The 1952 book tells the story of the trial of Urbain Grandier, priest of the town who was tortured and burned at the stake in 1634.
  • Knecht, Robert, Renaissance France, genealogies, Baumgartner, genealogical tables.
  • Moote, A. Lloyd. Louis XIII, the Just. Berkeley; Los Angeles; London: University of California Press, 1991, (paperback), ISBN 0-520-07546-3).
  • Willis, Daniel A. (comp). The Descendants of Louis XIII. Clearfield, 1999.

External links



  1. Our Lady of Graces and the birth of Louis XIV The website of the Sanctuary of Our Lady at Cotignac, Provence. Retrieved on 2008-01-24
  2. Henri Bremond, La Provence mystique au XVIIe siècle, Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1908. p. 381. "Sans l'assurance d'avoir un fils, Louis XIII n'aurait pas fait le voeu de 1638." Translation: "Without the assurance of having a son, Louis XIII would not have made the vow of 1638."
  3. Dulong, Claude, Anne d’Autriche. Paris: Hachette, 1980. "Irrité de voir tant de courtisans parler de "miracle", Louis XIII aurait répliqué que "ce n'était point là si grand miracle qu'un mari couchât avec sa femme et lui fasse un enfant." Translation: "Irritated to see so many courtiers speak of a “miracle”, Louis XIII is said to have replied: “it was not such a great miracle that a husband slept with his wife and made her a child.”"
  4. Cromption, Louis, Homosexuality and Civilization, London, 1991. The grandson of Henry III, Saint-Luc, penned the irreverent rhyme: 'Become a bugger, Baradas / if you are not already one / like Maugiron my grandfather / and La Valette'.
  5. Cromption, Louis, Homosexuality and Civilization, London, 1991.

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