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Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Early Modern through the 18th Century

A Family Discussion Between the King and the Queen Regent, His Mother, Concerning Current Affairs, an electronic edition. Edited with an introduction by Amy Enright

by Anonymous

source publisher:

Table of Contents

Introduction to A Family Discussion

Enright, Amy

The Process of Edition and Translation

The hermeneutical disadvantage inherent in the edition and particularly in the translation of historical texts is the inevitable camouflaging of the differences between the culture of the author and that of the reader. The opening pages of this edition seek to redress that disadvantage by means of visual metaphor. On the cover page, the image of the original title page, creased and blurred, exhibits the age of this document. Moreover, the image fades into the blackness of the border, just as its context and contents are fading into the darkness of lost history. This is the true state of this document: aged, discarded, fading. The following page demonstrates the artificial transformation achieved by the processes of translation and edition. Suddenly, the text is in English, the fonts regular, and the borders straight. Here, the encroaching blackness of history is absent; the text is, to all appearances, accessible to the modern reader. Nevertheless, the cultural leap between early modern Paris and twentieth century America remains immense.

It is of vital importance to keep in mind that this document, now presented in the context of things academic and abstract, was written, printed, sold, and read by people gripped with the urgency of their situation. The aim of this translation is to acknowledge the disparity between the culture of the reader and that of the author and, paradoxically, to attempt to bridge that gap which is larger than years or miles can measure. It seeks to investigate the opinions and assumptions of the author, examining them as a means by which early modem views of female rulership can be better understood.

The camouflaging of cultural difference can be partially remedied by editorial manipulation. To this end, the seventeenth century French text has been included with the English translation. Its presence will afford francophone readers the opportunity to explore the original style of the prose while reminding readers of English that they are handling a foreign text. In an additional effort to create a translation faithful to the spirit of the original, the historical and literary notes have been placed on the pages opposing the terms they describe. It is hoped that this placement will facilitate their accessibility without interrupting the fluid banter of the pamphlet, as footnotes doubtlessly would have done. Finally, as few alterations as possible have been made to the French text, though u/i/y have been modernized to v/j/i in most cases. The English translation closely follows the literary style and grammatical construction of the French; antecedents and direct objects have been added in brackets only in those cases where their absence might cause confusion.

In a fnal note, the author is pleased to acknowledge her debt to Professor William Beik of Emory University. His kind offer to review the translated portion of the text and his subsequent suggestions did much to bring the project to fruition.

'My good mother...': Regency and Revolt in mid- seventeenth-century France

History records her as Anne 'of Austria,' but, in fact, Anne's life was shaped by the erratic relationship between the kingdoms of Spain and France during the seventeenth century. She was raised as a Spanish princess, the first child of Philip III of Spain and Margaret of Austria, and married at age fourteen to Louis XIII of France with the hopes that under her influence Louis would prove more of a friend to the powerful Spanish monarchy than his father, the bellicose Henry IV, had been. Henry IV had feared that an alliance with the powerful Hapsburg empire which surrounded France -- to the north in the Netherlands and to the South in Spain and Italy -- would reduce his newly-won kingdom to the level of a client-state. After Henry's assassination in 1610, his widow, Marie de Medici, reversed French foreign policy by pursuing a marriage alliance between her eldest son and Princess Anne, an act of union which would wed the two most powerful Catholic nations in Europe.

Hopes that Anne would grow so close to Louis as to sway him towards pro-Spanish policy grew quickly dim. Louis was not an overly intimate person and those few favorites he did have did not include his wife. Married as adolescents, the couple led separate lives punctuated by formal meetings and unpleasant quarrels prompted by Louis' periodic dismissal of the Spanish members of Anne's household. When pressed to explain his neglect of his wife, Louis claimed that though Anne might begin to look French as she acclimated to Gallic styles of dress and comportment, she remained Spanish at heart. For this reason, he distrusted and avoided her.1 Even after 1620, when their marriage improved to the point where Louis lived with her as husband, Anne's status with him remained low, for she did not conceive often nor was she able to bring a child to term and thus fulfill her role as queen. Rather than playing the dutiful wife, Anne's interests centered on her religious life, especially on Val-de-Grâce, the convent she founded, and on her friendships, friendships that often allied her with those of whom Louis disapproved.

Anne's life with Louis reached its nadir in a succession of scandals that implicated her in behavior treacherous to both the King and to France. In 1625, rumor broke out that the seductive Duke of Buckingham, sent from England on a diplomatic mission, had made amorous advances to her. Three years later, Cardinal Richelieu, a protégé of Marie de Medici who had grown in power to become Louis' principal advisor and foremost policy-maker, suspected Anne of involvement in a plot to induce England to invade France. The plan had been hatched by Anne's close friend, Madame de Chevreuse, but the Cardinal could find no evidence of the Queen's complicity. A decade later in 1637, Richelieu, who monitored Anne's correspondence as a matter of course, found the "proof" needed to disgrace her. He brought to Louis' attention letters written by Anne to her family in Spain, to the Spanish ambassador, and to exiled friends. Though the letters contained nothing of a political nature, they were addressed to enemies of France and Anne's king and husband forced her to sign a full confession of her "traitorous" associations. As Richelieu's policies regarding the Thirty Year's war turned toward active involvement against the Catholic Hapsburg threat, Anne's position at court grew increasingly unstable and she feared that Louis would repudiate her and send her back to Spain.

Anne's split loyalties between Spain and France were resolved, at least in her own mind, by her successful production of a son and heir in her twenty-third year of marriage. Louis XIV was born in September 1638, an event Anne attributed to the miraculous mercy of God. She genuinely loved her long-awaited son, as much for maternal reasons as for the fact that she was now queen in deed as well as name. Anne interested herself in the raising of her son and rejoiced at the birth of a second child, Philip, three years later. In spite of the birth of their sons, Anne and Louis' marriage had not improved; when Richelieu died in December of 1642 there was little likelihood that Louis' loss would result in a closer relationship with his wife.

The dislike and distrust that had existed for decades between Anne and Louis was brought to center stage as it became clear, during the winter and spring of 1643, that Louis, though only in his early forties, would shortly follow Richelieu to the grave. The establishment of a regency government during Louis XIV's minority plagued the King for two reasons. In the first case, royal power generally tended to suffer reverses during regencies because the young king did not enjoy full legislative power. Until age thirteen and his coronation, a French king could not hold the special ceremony of the "lit de justice" whereby he attended the Parlement of Paris in order to declare significant or innovative laws. Legislative power such as this could not be transferred to a regent or a council -- as long as the king was a minor, the monarchy was unable to function fully.

A recent example of this sort of legislative vacuum had occurred at the death of Louis' own father, Henry IV. His assassination in Louis' ninth year had resulted in a struggle between the monarchy and the Parlement of Paris as to whether it had been the irregular lit de justice of a king in his minority or the writ of the Parlement which had legally declared Louis' mother regent.2 In 1643, Louis' solution to this potential threat to royal power was to make a Regency Declaration rather than risk the Parlement of Paris taking the initiative after his death and attempting to appoint the regent.

The second cause of Louis' concern was the choice of regent, for precedent, including his own mother's example, demanded that the Queen serve alone. Yet his reservations concerning Anne's loyalty to France suggested that he appoint a regency council, composed of ministers and princes of the royal family as well as the Queen, in order to minimize her power. Louis went so far as to re-instate his brother Gaston, whom he had good reason to distrust, as a potential regent in his effort to create alternatives to Anne's rule. In the end, Louis decided to establish the regency council, a direct slap in the face to Anne but one that she, who had never involved herself with political affairs previously, managed to counter.

As the health of Richelieu and Louis declined, Anne had naturally gained a great many long-sighted 'friends' at court who imagined that, should Louis die, she would serve as regent until Louis XIV reached his majority. Most notable among her new supporters were a group of malcontents headed by the Duke of Beaufort,3 a grandson of Henry IV through the illegitimate line of Vendôme, who had been imprisoned under Louis XIII. Referred to as Les Importants because of their confidant expectation to gain access to the reins of power during the coming regency, this faction included all those who had opposed and therefore suffered under Richelieu -- a characteristic shared, of course, by Anne. In April of 1643, as Louis' decision to establish a regency council became common knowledge, Anne opened communications with each of the various factions at court -with the Importants; with Gaston of Orleans4 , Louis XIII's royal brother; with the twenty-two- year-old Louis II, Prince of Condé,5 Louis XIV's royal cousin and most successful military general; and with the Parlement of Paris -- in an effort to enlist their aid in disbanding the humiliating council. Anne shrewdly played each faction off of one another, implying to each that they would enjoy greater power under her solitary rule than under a council.

Evidently Anne was convincing, for within days of the King's death, the Parlement of Paris participated in yet another minority lit de justice, led by a five-year old Louis XIV, which removed all of the limitations established by Louis on Anne's power as regent. The Parlement of Paris' permission of full legislative power to a juvenile king put a powerful tool in the hands of the monarchy by reinforcing the absolutist argument that kingship was dynastic, passed through the blood from father to son, rather than conferred by law. The 1643 lit de justice set the stage for Parlementary debates over the validity of later minority lit de justice ceremonies and over Parlement's precise role in the placing and displacing of regents. But, for the moment, Anne had triumphed; the Spanish princess had become the French regent.

The Importants viewed Anne's regency as an opportunity to remove all traces of Richelieu's influence from French government and expected her to summarily dismiss all those who had served with the Cardinal, appointing in their stead members of their own faction. In fact, Anne accepted the power that the Importants had helped to bestow upon her and chose her own course of action. It was during the negotiations preceding the death of the King that Anne had first benefited from the counsel of Cardinal Jules Mazarin. Mazarin was an Italian papal legate brought by Cardinal Richelieu into French service where his industry had earned him the positions of prime minister (upon the death of his mentor) and god-father to Louis XIV. In 1643, when Anne, as Queen Regent, created a royal council of her own making, she chose Mazarin, Richelieu's protégé, to remain as a minister of state and, moreover, to head the council in the absence of the royal princes Gaston of Orleans and Louis II of Condé.

Mazarin's value to Anne lay in his ideological defense of absolute monarchy (thus preserving the throne for her son in the face of royal princes ambitious to regain influence over French policy), in his willingness to provide her with a crash course in statecraft, and in his personal charm. The majority of the court, as well as the Parlement of Paris, were stunned at Mazarin's rise to power during the regency and at the perpetuation of Richelieu's policies, which included war with Spain. Rumors flew that Anne was in love with Mazarin, bewitched by her own overwhelming passions or by his supernatural seductions into a state of blind obedience.

The seeds of disillusionment sown in 1643 among the Importants and other factions did not bear fruit until five years later when, goaded by mounting economic pressure, the Parlement of Paris joined with treasury of ficials to call for administrative reform. The growing economic distress of the officials was attributed to the leadership of Richelieu and Mazarin as it related to their domestic and foreign policies. With regard to foreign policy, the entrance of France into the Thirty Year's War in 1635 had drained tax money from the pockets of the lower classes and the parlementary officials on an unprecedented scale for over ten years. In the case of domestic policy, the administrative innovations implemented by Richelieu, whereby a second body of civil officials, the intendants, was created, diminished the authority and ultimately the salary of the traditional parlementary and financial officials.

That the interests of the Parlement of Paris and the regency government were on a collision course is demonstrated by the January 1648 lit dejustice which declared an edict calling for the creation of additional offices as a fund-raising measure for the regency war effort. The Parlement did not approve of additional offices which would serve to undermine their own function and so questioned the constitutional legitimacy of this legislative procedure performed by a juvenile king. Encouraged by those court figures discontent with Anne and Mazarin's administration, the Parlement of Paris convened the Chamber of St. Louis, a congregation of thirty-two delegates from the various Parisian bureaucratic courts, in June of 1648. The aim of the Chamber of St. Louis was to protest and reform the policies of the regency government. It called for the decrease of taxes, the regulation of tax-farmers,6 and the abolition of the both the intendants and the lettres de cachet.7 The declaration emanating from the Chamber of St. Louis also directly challenged royal authority by stating that all financial edicts not registered with Parlement (i.e. carried out by lit dejustice prerogative of the king) would be revoked.8

Anne was outraged by the presumption of the Parlement of Paris' attempt to dictate governmental policy, for they had no constitutional right to question royal authority. She advocated immediate punitive measures, but was forestalled by Mazarin who sent Gaston of Orleans, the King's royal uncle, to negotiate with the reformers. The monarchy implemented minor reforms throughout the negotiations, and in the lit de justice of July 31, 1648, it capitulated to the majority of the demands drawn up by the Chamber of St. Louis in an effort to appease the Parlement. Nevertheless, that body continued in its efforts to shape policy and, despite Mazarin's advice for caution, Anne and the council decided to arrest three of the most outspoken members of the Parlement: Charton. Broussel, and Blancmesnil.

The Parlementary officers were to be seized as they exited the Cathedral of Notre Dame after the Te Deum, or thanksgiving mass, sung for Condé's recent victory against the Spanish at Lens. The arrests, two of which were successful, were counter-productive to the cause of repression, for they succeeded in alarming the citizens of Paris, who flooded into the streets in protest, building barricades to keep the royal troops at bay. The regency was unable to control the crowds and the uproar faded only after the prisoners were released and the Parlement of Paris quieted the people. Supported by popular feeling, the Parlement of Paris began to debate the nature of regency and investigate the possibility of replacing Anne as regent with Gaston of Orleans, Louis XIV's uncle.9 At this point, Mazarin advised Anne to take the royal family out of Paris while negotiations with Parlement continued and so it was at the palace of St. Germain-en-Laye in late October that she signed the Declaration prepared by the Parlement, which re-confirmed the reforms of the Chamber de St. Louis and, in return, promised an end to Parlementary interference in political policy. At the end of the month, the royal family returned to its recalcitrant capital. The first round of the Fronde10 was soundly won by the Parlement.

As the year 1648 wore away, it became clear that the events of the summer had resolved nothing: The regency continued its demands for money and the Parlement persisted in its political debate. Finally, Mazarin joined Anne in thinking that the time for governmental repression had come. The aid of Gaston of Orleans and the Prince of Condé was enlisted, troops were maneuvered into position around Paris, and, during the night of January 5, 1649 -- the eve of Twelfth Night -- the royal family was secreted out of the capital to St. Germain. It was then clear to Mazarin (and to the Parlement and citizens of Paris) that the way was open for the blockade and subjugation of the city. Each camp gathered its military resources: The royal army under the Prince of Condé squared off against the Parisian militia, supported by the Duke of Beaufort, as well as the Prince of Conti11 and Duke of Longueville.12 These last were members of Condé's own family who were disenchanted with the regency government. Plagued by food rationing and a flooding Seine, Paris nonetheless maintained high morale until the beginning of February when the Parlementary forces failed to halt Condé's capture of Charenton, a small town outside of Paris, whose defeat completed the encirclement of Paris.

If the situation looked bleak for the Parisians and their noble supporters, it was becoming equally desperate for the regency. Paris had not fallen quickly, as hoped, and Condé and his troops were needed back at the Northern border to begin another year's fighting against the Spanish. Demands to settle the domestic rebellion before facing the foreign challenge and the late-breaking news that General Turenne had joined the side of the frondeurs encouraged Mazarin to advocate a quick settlement with Parlement, devoid of debilitating conditions or severe punishments. For its part, the Parlement, witness to the enemy invasion of France and capture of the city of Laon, began to comprehend Mazarin's argument that Spain was the true enemy of French freedom and they, too, signed the Treaty of Rueil on March 11, 1649.

Unfortunately for Anne, a second test of her regency was yet to come as the Prince of Condé, once the defender of royal power, joined the disaffected nobles protesting the policies and exalted position of her first minister, Mazarin. Condé's rebellion and the Frondeur agitation occurring in the provinces continued for the next three years, during which time political pressure induced her to ask for Mazarin's resignation twice. On both occasions, Mazarin went into voluntary exile, though his influence did not disappear from France. Anne depended on the counsel contained in his letters in order to perform her most important duty as Queen Regent: to protect the throne of France for her son.

Anne's dubious reputation as queen was ameliorated only after the ascension of her son, Louis XIV, to the throne and his subsequent marriage to the Spanish princess, Maria Teresa. Though noble and parlementary sentiment against the absolute power of the monarchy never disappeared, Condé's supporters, prompted by the fear of anarchy, melted away to the royalist cause. In October of 1652, Louis XIV entered Paris in triumph and, in June of 1654 he was crowned King of France at Reims. The previous February, Mazarin had quietly returned to the King's side from exile. In contradiction to Louis XIII's spurious accusations of treachery, Anne had shown herself thoroughly French at heart. All of her actions as regent, particularly the pursuit of war against Spain, were motivated by the desire to maintain the strength and authority of the French throne for her son. How great her pleasure, then, when Mazarin successfully negotiated peace with Spain in 1660 and sealed the alliance with Louis XIV's marriage. Having seen her son grow in power and assurance, Anne enjoyed the rest of her life. Five years after Mazarin's death in 1661, she died of cancer, beloved by her son, the King, and, finally, by the French people.

As regent during the Fronde, however, Anne had certainly not possessed the goodwill of the Parlement or the people. Printed political commentary and propaganda have a long history in early modern France and the Fronde produced ample fodder for the presses.13 Within the five years of the rebellion, approximately five thousand anti-regency tracts, called Mazarinades, were printed; an outpouring of invective so great that one Mazarinade styled itself as a note of gratitude from the printers of Paris to the Italian minister of state, whose unpopular policies and person created such dependable business for them. The Mazarinades attacked the corruption and favoritism allegedly rampant throughout the regency government and, in so doing, employed a wide range of literary styles. Formal argument, satire, rhyming burlesque, witty anagrams of the names of political actors, letters of advice: Political discourse was created to engage people of every level of education and, as they were usually read out loud in public places, they were available for a wide audience, regardless of literacy.

During the parlementary Fronde, the Mazarinades were employed as a method of maintaining the alliance between the Parlementary supporters and the Parisian people that had been forged in August of 1648 during the popular protest to the arrest of Broussel and Blancmesnil.14 Though political propaganda in the seventeenth century had often been controlled by the court factions, Orest Ranum suggests in his analysis of the Fronde that the pamphlets appearing during the beginning of the blockade of Paris, in the winter and spring of 1649, were "an authentic expression of the variegated, deeply-engaged political culture."15 These political pamphlets, which appeared in Paris at a rate of approximately ten per day and were usually sold on the Pont-Neuf, debated the nature of monarchy.16 Though they came to diverse conclusions as to who was to blame in the current situation and who was capable of restoring just government, one theme was echoed again and again: If the evil councilors -- whoever they might be (though Mazarin was undoubtedly the target of choice) -- could be disposed of, the King would naturally champion the well-being of his people.

That The Family Discussion between the King and the Queen Regent his mother concerning current affairs was written during the winter of 1649 is very likely for several reasons. First, the pamphlet professes to have been presented on Ash Wednesday, 1649, which occurs in early February. It was written at least after February eighth, 1649, because it refers to Condé's capture of Charenton, which was achieved on that date. In addition, the general theme of the pamphlet -- that all would be well if the king returned to Paris without his councilors or the Queen Regent, -- the current events described, and the bias displayed suggest an author or authors who are sympathetic to the cause of the Parlement of Paris and concerned for the safety of the people within a besieged Paris.

While concerned with a specific crisis during the Fronde, The Family Discussion... shares the general literary characteristics of Mazarinades produced throughout the rebellion. The pamphlet implicates Anne of Austria in the tyranny of her regency government by "recording" an intimate conversation between mother and son on the state of French affairs. It was popular in contemporary pamphlet literature to create hypothetical tableaux whereby the views of the characters within could be either advanced or mocked. Frequently, the characters evoked were the political actors of the day. For example, one Mazarinade described the ghost of Louis XIII returning to chastise Anne for her political and supposedly sexual association with Mazarin.17 The format of A Family Discussion..., a series of questions and responses, lends itself to satirical humor. As Ranum asserts, the Mazarinades of the Fronde did much to raise sarcasm and criticism to the level of a literary art.18

At first glance, A Family Discussion... appears no different from other Mazarinades in that it is a rather cleverly conceived harangue against the regency government, written in reaction to current events and evincing a particular factional bias. Yet A Family Discussion... is exceptional, for it holds Anne, rather than Mazarin, responsible for the greatest share of the damage done to France. Because of this unusual focus on the Queen Regent, an examination of the nature of the accusations and insults directed at Anne of Austria in A Family Discussion... will provide rare insight into the challenges faced by an early modern French female regent as a result of her gender.

The author stages a two-pronged attack on the regency government. The first indictment cites the evils of the present system and the second identifies the Queen Regent's role in bringing them about. The accusations leveled at the government are common to the whole corpus of Mazarinades: The regency government is riddled with favoritism, nepotism and corruption. The charge of tyrannical rule stands out as a particularly timely issue, as demonstrated by the complaints concerning the harsh repression of opposing viewpoints and by the examples given of arbitrary government. Three incidents -- the replacement of Louis' guards, the protection by Mazarin of certain of his clients in spite of their military failures, and the imprisonment of the Marshall de la Mote Hodancour -- are put forth as particularly acute cases of Anne and Mazarin's growing despotism.

For the most part, the instances of tyranny cited only provide counterpoint to the major theme which describes the power of the Queen Regent to affect the well-being of the kingdom. Anne's self-denunciation begins with her disobedience to Louis XIII and her seizure of royal power by disbanding the regency council. She admits to choosing Mazarin on the basis of love and to ousting the major figures of the Importants -- Beaufort, Beauvais, and Vendôme. She brings Mazarin to live within the Palais-Royal and assigns guards to protect him as if she is the powerful seductress and Mazarin the sexual slave - a picture at odds with the usual descriptions of their relationship in the popular press. As the events of the summer of 1648 are related, Anne admits to imprisoning the members of Parliament and to persecuting all those unwilling to serve her and her Cardinal. At the end of the text, the author attributes the downfall of Paris and of the kingdom to her bloodthirsty rule.

While it is certain that the author is intimating that Anne is primarily responsible for the policies of the regency government, this hypothesis falters occasionally throughout the text. Anne's admissions clearly suggest that it is she who holds the reigns of power and yet the author also demonstrates her dependence on Mazarin and, to a lesser degree, on Gaston of Orleans and the Prince of Condé. Anne obeys Mazarin when he demands that she receive council only from himself or his cronies; she attends mass at his request so that she appear religious; and she defers to all three men during the events of the Fronde. The conflicting images of Anne created by the author must be attributed to the fact that, rather than creating a human characterization, he is assembling in his representation of Anne a mouthpiece for his own views.

As a mouthpiece, it is natural, then, that she should at times present the expected response of a tyrannical ruler (Louis XIV: 'Why did you send away Monsieur de Châteauneuf?' /Queen Anne: 'Because he angered me by saying that Parlement had the power to revoke my powers as Regent.') and in other instances play the 'straight-man' by airing the opinions of the author (Louis XIV: 'Why did some of the nobility join the Parlementary revolt?'/Queen Anne: 'Because they are good Frenchmen who do not accept bribes.'). This last response was certainly not an opinion held by Anne of Austria, who had nothing but disdain for the Parlement of Paris. Those few times when Anne is portrayed as dependent and weak, it is not clear which point the author is making: That Anne was, in reality, ruled by Mazarin (and others) or that the author blames Mazarin (and others) for a particular situation and is saying so through Anne.

The most significant effect of the Regent's power is demonstrated within the form as well as the content of the pamphlet. By transcribing a supposed conversation between Anne and her son, the author wishes to demonstrate that the primary danger of the Queen Regent toward France lies in her familial relationship to the King. As his mother, she has constant access to the young ruler; she forms his opinions about current affairs and influences his choice of companions and ministers. The author underscores the poignancy of this situation through Louis' innocence of the criticisms of Anne's regency which lie embedded in his childish questions. Although slightly confused by his mother where her logic fails her, Louis naturally trusts her -- as is seen in his final decision to conform his own will to hers even if it means leaving a devastated France behind them as they move to Spain.

Though Louis is represented as willing to follow Anne anywhere, mature consideration is attributed to his eight-year-old brother. At the close of the pamphlet, the author directly advises the King through the words of young Philip of Anjou, who cautions his brother against placing trust in any of the adults around them. Philip urges Louis, who as king is his 'papa' as well as his brother, to return to Paris to save it from the devastation of the Queen's wrath and to enjoy the support of the people. In order to rule well, the king and his brother must separate themselves from the Queen Regent. The irony of Louis' trust in Anne is indicated by the sarcastic repetition of the formal address 'my good mother' preceding each of the insulting questions, which suggest that the Queen Regent is anything but a righteous and caring nurturer.

Having portrayed Anne as an incompetent mother to her royal sons, the author intimates that Anne's deficiencies as a ruler, so devastating to France, are also the result of her inability to serve as a 'good mother.' Salic law forbade women the French throne because of their indecent love of domination and their perpetual weakness in the face of their own desires. Women ruled in France only by virtue of their position as mother -- as regents warming the thrones for their sons. Ideally, the regent was merely a conduit for power between her husband and his heir. Were she to attempt to rule in her own right, she would be betraying her role as mother. A Family Discussion... begins with Anne's declaration to her son that she has seized his power. The author attributes the oppression and corruption characterizing the regency government to the inevitable failure of female rulership.

That Anne is entirely caught up with the satisfaction of her own desires is demonstrated first in her tendency to appoint ministers based on their willingness to appease her and second in her violent reaction against those who oppose her will. The author expressly defines Anne's pursuit of vengeance against the Parlement of Paris as a characteristic of female rulers. Instead of ruling her emotions and serving her subjects -the definition of a virtuous ruler -- Anne is dominated by her passions and neglectful of the people of France. When the Parlement, claiming to speak for the people, rebukes her, her former carelessness turns to vindictive action.

The author refers to a succession of heroic kings, such as St. Louis, King David of Israel, and Henry IV, contrasting Anne's shameful leadership with their own. Rather than following the godly examples of these figures, or holding them up as models for her son, Anne associates herself with the cruelty of King Herod of Judah. Herod's murder of thousands of Jews in an effort to kill Jesus Christ is invoked as an analogy of the evil and depravity inherent in Anne's willingness to starve the French people. In A Family Discussion. . . Anne's frequent attendance at mass and her involvement in the Catholic revival appear calculated and hypocritical. Conforming to the nature of all female rulers, she is incapable of either competently or sincerely caring for the nation and the people she leads.

The composite nature of her literary characterization makes it difficult to ascertain to what degree the author wished to implicate Anne in the creation of specific grievances; but it is clear that, as a reigning Queen Regent, she is considered capable of bringing about the ruin of France. As a failed mother she is dangerous to her sons and to the kingdom that she rules in their stead. This theme is echoed in another Mazarinade which argues that, because of Anne's disloyalty to France, she is an unnatural mother to Louis -who no longer belongs under her tutelage. Instead, the French people should serve as the parent and protector of the King.19 It is ironic that the critics of Anne of Austria would declare her, who suffered so much to preserve a strong France for Louis XIV, to be an unfit mother to her son and his people.

Timeline for A Family Discussion

Anne of Austria


1. Ruth Kleinman. Anne of Austria (Columbus, OH, 1985), p.39.

2. Sarah Hanley. The Lit de Justice of the Kings of France. (Princeton, 1983), p.246.

3. See Appendix A.

4. See Appendix A.

5. See Appendix A.

6. Tax-farmers were wealthy men who bought the right from the monarchy to collect the taxes owed to the king in a specific region of France. The system allowed the government to raise large amounts of money quickly and resulted in huge private fortunes for the tax-farmers who generally managed to make a profit by collecting more than the amount due.

7. Lettres de Cachet were royal warrants of arrest which allowed the king to arrest and imprison an individual indefinitely, without recourse to trial.

8. Hanley, p.317

9. Kleinman, p. 208.

10. In late 1648, the rebellion of the Parliament against the policies and powers of the regency began to be referred to as the fronde, a term denoting the slingshot used by insubordinate street urchins.

11. See Appendix A.

12. See Appendix A.

13. Jeffrey K. Sawyer. Printed Poison: Pamphlet Propaganda, Faction politics, and the Public Sphere in Early Seventeenth Century France. (Berkeley, 1990), see introduction.

14. Orest Ranum. The Fronde: A French Revolution 1648-1652. (New York, 1993), pp. 177-176.

15. Ranum, p. 201.

16. Robert Darnton. The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France. (New York, 1995), p. 206 offers the statistic that ten pamphlets were produced per day in paris during January-March of 1649.

17. Jeffrey Merrick. "The Cardinal and the Queen: Sexual and Political Disorders in the Mazarinades," in French historical Studies vol. 18, no. 3 (Spring 1994), p. 687.

18. Ranum, p. 202.

19. Merrick, p. 689.

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