The Three Musketeers HTML version
The Seige Of La Rochelle
The Siege of La Rochelle was one of the great political events of the reign of Louis XIII,
and one of the great military enterprises of the cardinal. It is, then, interesting and even
necessary that we should say a few words about it, particularly as many details of this
siege are connected in too important a manner with the story we have undertaken to relate
to allow us to pass it over in silence.
The political plans of the cardinal when he undertook this siege were extensive. Let us
unfold them first, and then pass on to the private plans which perhaps had not less
influence upon his Eminence than the others.
Of the important cities given up by Henry IV to the Huguenots as places of safety, there
only remained La Rochelle. It became necessary, therefore, to destroy this last bulwark of
Calvinism--a dangerous leaven with which the ferments of civil revolt and foreign war
were constantly mingling.
Spaniards, Englishmen, and Italian malcontents, adventurers of all nations, and soldiers
of fortune of every sect, flocked at the first summons under the standard of the
Protestants, and organized themselves like a vast association, whose branches diverged
freely over all parts of Europe.
La Rochelle, which had derived a new importance from the ruin of the other Calvinist
cities, was, then, the focus of dissensions and ambition. Moreover, its port was the last in
the kingdom of France open to the English, and by closing it against England, our eternal
enemy, the cardinal completed the work of Joan of Arc and the Duc de Guise.
Thus Bassompierre, who was at once Protestant and Catholic-- Protestant by conviction
and Catholic as commander of the order of the Holy Ghost; Bassompierre, who was a
German by birth and a Frenchman at heart--in short, Bassompierre, who had a
distinguished command at the siege of La Rochelle, said, in charging at the head of
several other Protestant nobles like himself, "You will see, gentlemen, that we shall be
fools enough to take La Rochelle."
And Bassompierre was right. The cannonade of the Isle of Re presaged to him the
dragonnades of the Cevennes; the taking of La Rochelle was the preface to the revocation
of the Edict of Nantes.
We have hinted that by the side of these views of the leveling and simplifying minister,
which belong to history, the chronicler is forced to recognize the lesser motives of the
amorous man and jealous rival.
Richelieu, as everyone knows, had loved the queen. Was this love a simple political
affair, or was it naturally one of those profound passions which Anne of Austria inspired
in those who approached her? That we are not able to say; but at all events, we have seen,