1902 Encyclopedia > Louis II de Bourbon, Prince de Condé

Louis II de Bourbon, Prince de Condé
French soldier

LOUIS DE BOURBON, PRINCE OF CONDÉ, (1621-1686), called during the lifetime of his father Duc d'Enghien, but usually known as Condé the Great, was a distinguished French general, and one of the leaders of the Fronde. He was the son of Henry, prince of Condé, and Charlotte de Montmorency, and was born at Paris on the 7th September 1621. As a boy, under the careful supervision of his father, he studied diligently and displayed much talent at the Jesuits' College at Bourges; at seventeen he was sent to govern Burgundy ; and while yet in his teens he had displayed his extraordinary courage in more than one campaign.
During the youth of Enghien all power in France was in the hands of Richelieu ; to him even the princes of the blood had to yield precedence ; and among the obsequious courtiers none more eagerly sought his favour than Henry, prince of Condé. Enghien, therefore, with all his exaggerated pride, was forced to bow and render homage. Once, having ventured to pass through Lyons without visiting the great minister's brother, he was forced to retrace his steps 200 leagues, in order to atone for the slight. But a far more momentous sacrifice was required of him. He was already deeply in love with Mlle, de Vigean, who in turn was passionately devoted to him, yet, to flatter the cardinal, he was compelled by his father, at the age of twenty, to give his hand to Richelieu's niece, Claire Clémence de Maillé Brézé, a child of thirteen years of age.
In 1643 Enghien was appointed to command against the Spaniards. He was opposed by experienced generals, De Mello and Fuentes, and the forces of the enemy were composed of veterans ; on the other hand, the strength of the French army was placed at his command, and with him served Gassion and other skilful leaders who had fought under Gustavus Adolphus. At Rocroy a great battle took place. At first defeat threatened the French, but, by the rapidity and boldness of his tactics, Enghien changed the event into a decided victory, and at the age of twenty-two made himself the most famous French general of his day. The achievement was well followed up, and, after several other successes, Thionville was forced to capitulate. Returning to Paris in triumph, Enghien gave himself up to pleasure, and in gallantry and intrigues strove to forget

his enforced and hateful marriage. In 1644 he was sent into Germany to the assistance of Turenne, who was hard pressed by the able Comte de Mercy. At Fribourg for several days there was continuous fighting, which cost dear to both sides, but especially to the French, whose lives were ruthlessly squandered by their general. The result, however, was equal to a great French victory ; for, alarmed at the stern discipline displayed by his army, the towns of the Rhine, including Mayence, opened their gates to the duke. The next winter Enghien spent, like every other winter during the war, amid the gaieties of Paris. The summer campaign of 1645 opened with the defeat of Turenne by Mercy, but there followed a series of brilliant victories won by Enghien, who fought in person with untiring energy and careless courage. In the battle of Nordlingen, in which Mercy was killed, his horse was twice shot under him, and he received several serious wounds. The capture of Philipsburg was the most important of his other achievements during this campaign. In 1646 the duke of Orleans took the command, and Enghien volunteered to serve under him; but after the capture of Mardyke Orleans returned to Paris, leaving Enghien to take Dunkirk.
It was in this year that the old prince of Conde" died. The enormous power that fell into the hands of his successor was naturally looked upon with serious alarm by the regent and her minister. Condi's birth and military renown placed him at the head of the French nobility; but, added to that, the family of which he was chief was both enormously rich and master of no small portion of France. Cond6 himself held Burgundy, Berry, and the marches of Lorraine, as well as other less important territory ; his brother Conti held Champagne, his brother-in-law Longueville Normandy. When, therefore, he sought the office of admiral of France, the Government, determined to permit no increase of his already overgrown authority, refused on various pretexts to comply. But Mazarin did not dare to use it, as he had intended, as a dowry for his niece; and compensation was made to the prince by the gift of the post of captain-general, with power to appoint every officer in the army. Still dissatisfied, Cond6 now sought permission to raise an army at his own expense, and conquer Franche-Comte" for himself. This could not be allowed ; and Mazarin made an attempt, which for the moment proved successful, at once to find him employment and to tarnish his fame as a general. He was sent to lead the revolted Catalans. Supported in the meanest way, he was unable to achieve anything, and, being forced to raise the siege of Lerida, he returned home in bitter indignation. In 1648, however, he received the command in the important field of the Low Countries ; and at Lens a battle took place, which, commencing with a panic in his own regiment, was retrieved by Cond6's cool-ness and bravery, and ended in a victory that fully restored' his prestige.
In September of the same year Conde" was recalled to court, for the regent required his support. She was then engaged in a determined struggle against the Parliament of Paris, which, led by the noble Matthieu Mole", the Pym of France, was, like the contemporary Long Parliament in England, fighting for popular freedom, but hampered, unlike the Long Parliament, both by its too tender reverence for the royal prerogative and by its alliance with De Retz and a section of the nobility, whose sole wish was to make of it a tool to gain the ends of their personal ambition. Influenced by the fact of his royal birth and by his arrogant scorn for the bourgeois, Conde" lent himself to the court party. With his usual insolence he bullied and swore in the Parliament; and finally, after much hesitation, he consented to lead the army which was to reduce Paris.
On his side, insufficient as were his forces, the war was carried on with vigour. When an opportunity offered at Charenton, he struck terror into the Parisians by putting 3000 of their picked forces to the sword. But such opportunities were seldom afforded him. The burgher soldiers had too tender a regard for their own safety to expose themselves outside the walls when his troops were in sight; their most warlike achievement was the sham-fight with the garrison of the Bastille, when both sides used blank cartridge, and the duchess de Longueville with her ladies, seated in the thickest of the fire, ate sweetmeats and smiled on their valour. The prince of Conti, who had been won over by De Retz to accept the office of commander-in-chief of the army of the Parliament, con-sidered that he sufficiently fulfilled the duties of his exalted position by riding at the head of his troops through the streets of Paris, and regularly quitting them as they passed out of the gates. Enthusiasm was kept up by the duchess de Longueville's brilliant and crowded receptions. But at length their substantial losses, and a threatening of scarcity of food, made the citizens weary of the war. The Parliament became timid as it watched the events of the contemporary revolution in England. The regent and Mazarin were still more alarmed by the same terrible warning, as well as by their fears of a Spanish invasion and a declaration in favour of Paris from Turenne, who was advancing thither with his army. A conference was accordingly held at Ruel, and with great difficulty Mazarin and Mole brought about peace.
Once more the court met at Paris, again given up to selfish ambition, vanity, and intrigues. Cond6, most ambitious and vain of all, too vain to stoop even to civility, quickly earned for himself universal dislike. With no other apparent reason than an arbitrary whim, he forced the queen to reinstate as captain of the guard a certain conceited marquis named Jarsay, who had tormented her with his presumptuous love addresses. He prevented the marriage of one of Mazarin's nieces with the duke of Mercceur, refused to meet the cardinal in the council, and treated him with vulgar rudeness. The other nobles he offended by his airs of unapproachable superiority ; he thwarted their attempts to attain the paltry ceremonial dignities—such as the high privilege of sitting at the royal receptions or assisting in the royal toilette—which were the dearest objects of their ambition ; he kept them waiting hours in his antechamber, and yawned in their faces when they were admitted into his presence. With the Fronde he was tricked into an open quarrel. By the contrivance of Mazarin shots were fired into his empty carriage, and he was per-suaded that they had been aimed at his life, and that De Retz and Beaufort, the noble patrons of the Fronde, were responsible for the deed. The prince at once accused them openly before the Parliament, nor would his pride allow him to own his mistake when the utter worthlessiiess of Mazarin's witnesses was conclusively proved. De Retz, an intriguer superior to Mazarin in boldness and scarcely inferior in duplicity, now secretly joined with the court. Yet, knowing as he did that he was surrounded by powerful enemies, Conde, secure in his own strength, ventured, by a fresh insult, to goad the resentment of the regent into an uncontrollable desire for vengeance. The young duke of Richelieu was engaged, with the sanction of the queen and of his aunt and guardian, the duchess of Aiguillon, to the profligate Mile, de Chevreuse, but was in love with a widow named Mme. de Pons. His alliance was of the highest value, for his uncle, the great minister, had left him several offices of importance, including the governorship of Havre de Grace. Wishing therefore to gain his friendship, Conde contrived his marriage with the lady he loved, and

haughtily informed the queen that his presence rendered it valid without her consent. Urged by her own passionate indignation at the prince's defiance, a ad by the bitter complaints of the duchess of Aiguillon and Mile, de Chevreuse, Anne no longer hesitated to resort to force.
Cond£, Conti, and Longueville were accordingly arrested. But Bouillon and Turenne, who were also to be seized, made their escape; aud Prince Marsillac (the Rochefoucauld of the Maximes) carried off his mistress, Cond6's sister, the duchess of Longueville. By stratagem the young princess of Condd also obtained refuge in her husband's strong castle of Montrond. Vigorous attempts for the release of the princes began to be made. The women of the family were now its heroes. The dowager princess, though too miserly to part with her money to help her children, claimed from the Parliament the fulfilment of the rerormed law of arrest, which forbad imprisonment without trial. The duchess of Longueville entered into negotiations with Spain. And the slighted young wife, with Lenet as adviser, having gathered an army around her, obtained entrance into Bordeaux and the support of the Parliament of that town. She alone, among the nobles who took part in the folly of the Fronde, gains our respect and sympathy. Faithful to a faithless husband, she came forth from the retirement to which he had condemned her, to fight for him with tact and bravery amid the rough bustle of war and politics, and to display an unselfishness and a sense of justice of which there is no other example among those who surrounded her, with their paltry aims and worthless lives. When the Parliament of Bordeaux patriotically refused to accept the assistance from Spain which the Frondeurs wished to force upon it, and the mob was stirred up by the duke of Bouillon to constrain it by violence, she risked her life to quiet the tumult.
The delivery of the princes was not, however, due to her efforts. Bordeaux was fortified, it is true, and resisted Mazarin for a time, but, after the defeat of Turenne by Du Plessis at Rethel, peace was made on account of the vintage. The discomfiture of Mazarin was caused by the junction of the old Fronde (the party of the Parliament and of De Retz) and the new Fronde (the party of the Condes). An angry comparison, that had been drawn by the cardinal between the popular leaders and those who in England had two years before overthrown the monarchy and brought their king to the scaffold, was made by the skill of De Retz to arouse in the Parliament a characteristic storm of indig-nation, from which Mazarin was glad to escape by flight. The regent prepared to follow him; but her intention became known. The night air resounded with the peals of bells from Notre Dame and all the lesser churches of Paris. The refuse of the city, mingled with respectable burghers and haughty nobles, poured into the streets. The news that the king was about to be carried away was spread everywhere by the emissaries of the coadjutor. The court of the palace was soon filled by the motley crowd. They passed up the staircase, and into the very room where the child-king lay, with precocious cunning feigning to be asleep. At the awful sight, and abashed by the queen's cool derision, the mob reverentially withdrew. But Anne was forced to order the release of the princes from their prison at Havre; and Mazarin, humbling himself, rode down thither, and, falling at Conde's feet, piteously begged his protection and friendship.
The regent at once employed every means to draw Cond6 from his alliance with the Fronde. She made him offers which, from their very extravagance, might have aroused his suspicion,—he and his family were to hold some-thing like the half of the kingdom; and Cond6, relying on these faithless promises, carried out his part of the bargain by breaking with De Retz, the intended marriage of whose mistress, Mile, de Chevreuse, with the duke of
Conti he refused in haughty terms to permit. Meanwhile the queen had secretly gained over the coadjutor. A rumour reached Condé that he was to be assassinated or arrested ; he fortified the Hôtel de Condé, and then retired from Paris, collected soldiers, and entered into negotiations with the archduke. He was consequently accused of high treason before the Parliament by order of the regent, and De Retz brought forward the charge. Condé appeared in person to meet it ; and the building was filled with two bands of armed soldiers in the pay of the two parties. It seemed that the very Parliament House was to be the scene of civil war. The prince and the coadjutor spoke with vehemence and passion. Condé's hand was on the hilt of his sword, and the soldiers were only waiting for the signal to commence a deadly conflict, when a solemn appeal from President Molé calmed the frenzied assembly, and prevailed upon the rival nobles to dismiss their troops. Condé at once retired to his fortress of Montrond, where, after con-ference with his brother and sister, as well as Nemours and La Rochefoucauld, he resolved on renewing the civil war.
But his party was far from being as strong as it had been in the previous rising. Two causes alienated many of his most important allies : the rebellion was no longer against a regent, for the king had just attained his majority ; and the rebel had sought and obtained aid from the foreign power of Spain. The Parliament of Paris declared him a traitor ; Longueville, Orleans, Turenne, and Bouillon went over to the court. Even the faithful city of Bordeaux became estranged, for the duchess of Longueville encouraged the mob in acts of outrage. Mazarin now ventured to cross the frontier with an army. But at once the Parliament proscribed him ; and the lieutenant-general, followed by Nemours and Beaufort, took, up arms against the court. Mademoiselle forced her way through a hole in the walls of Orleans, with one or two of her ladies, and frightened the magistrates into espousing the revolt. But Beaufort and Nemours did not agree, and their army was in danger of being destroyed by Turenne. Condé came to its help, having in disguise crossed the enemy's country and passed close by the royal troops. The very next night Hocquin-court's camp was burnt, and Condé, hurrying to Paris, formed an alliance with. Turenne, and sought to win over the Parliament. But Molé stripped off the veil of patriotism with which he sought to conceal his selfishness, and pointed out that he was allied with a foreign power, and that he was actually treating with the detested cardinal. The prince retaliated by stirring up the mob, and leaving the city to its savage caprice. At length he quitted Paris to save the rebel army which was hotly pressed by Turenne, and the magistrates persuaded the facile lieutenant-general to close the gates. At the gate St Antoine, on the 2d July 1652, Turenne and Condé met. Condé fought in person with marvellous energy ; he seemed, said Turenne, to be twelve men at once ; but, pressed by numbers as he was, it was apparent that he could hope for safety only by being admitted within the walls of Paris. Fortunately he had in the city as champion one of the most remarkable women of that strange time, Mademoiselle, the daughter of Gaston, duke of Orleans, and the author of the Mémoires, who hoped to succeed his sickly wife, or, better still, by his means to obtain the hand of the young king. She frightened and persuaded the provost of the merchants and L'Hôpital, the governor of Paris, into opening the gates, and turned the cannon of the Bastille on the army of Turenne. Keeping his ground so long as daylight lasted, at nightfall Condé entered the city. It was given up to pillage and murder. Fire was set to the building where the magistrates had met, and the magistrates themselves narrowly escaped with their lives. Famine began to be felt, and pestilence appeared. Deserted by

crowds of his followers, bitterly disappointed, and worn out, as was whispered at the time, by his excesses, Condé was seized with fever. Mazarin, going into exile, freed the court from the odium of his name ; and the Fronde melted away.
On his recovery (October 1652) Condé fled from Paris and joined the Spanish army. The swift, bold tactics which had gained him glory were now impossible ; he was constantly hampered by the ancient and ponderous methods of the Spaniards, by their inflexible etiquette, and their lordly laziness. He gained some successes, as the entry into Cambray, which was invested by Turenne, and the raising of the siege of Valenciennes ; but fortune was in general on the side of France. At length in 1659, after the disastrous battle of the Dunes, Spain, tired of the war, consented to the disadvantageous peace of the Pyrenees, and at the same time Condé obtained his pardon from Louis, who thought him less dangerous as a subject than as possessor of the independent sovereignty of Luxembourg, which had been offered him by Spain as a reward for his services.
Thenceforth he was excluded from court intrigues, and for several years he resided on his estate at Chantilly, where he gathered round him a brilliant company, which included many of the greatest men of genius that France has seen—Molière, Racine, Boileau, La Bruyère, La Fontaine, Nicole, Bourdaloue, and Bossuet. But the quarrel between Luvois the minister of war and Turenne again opened a field for his ambition. In 1668 he laid before the former a scheme for seizing Franche-Comté, the execution of which was intrusted to him, and successfully carried out. In the next year Condé was offered the crown of Poland, which, however, Louis would not allow him to accept. In 1672, he took part in the war with Holland, and forced the passage of the Pilline, at which engagement he was severely wounded in the wrist. In 1673, he met the Prince of Orange in the great but undecided battle of Seneffe. He served for the last time in 1675, as general of the army of the Khine, which had been left without commander by the death of Turenne. After this campaign, prematurely worn out by the toils and excesses of his life, and tortured by the gout, he returned to Chantilly, where he spent the eleven years that remained to him in quiet retirement. In the end of his life he specially sought the companionship of Bourdaloue, Nicole, and Bossuet, declared himself a convert, and devoted himself to the ordinances of religion. He died on the 11th December 1686, at the age of sixty-five. Bourdaloue attended him on his death-bed, and Bossuet pronounced a glowing funeral panegyric upon him.
Condé's character is a type of that of the French noble of his day. To be regarded as a brilliant conqueror in love and war, to hold the first place at court, swaying the councils of his sovereign at his will, and receiving universal homage—these were the selfish and only objects of his ambition. His vanity was such that he looked on no man as his equal ; Louis XIV. himself could not have shown an arrogance more insolent. He was said by one who knew him well to be the hardest-hearted man in France. Ruth-less and savage, he was also an intriguer not less unscrupulous, though incomparably less adroit, than his victorious enemy, the subtile Italian cardinal. Thus he had all the faults of the French noble on a colossal scale ; he had also his virtues in a more extraordinary degree. Where all were brave, he was conspicuous above all for a thoughtless courage which nothing could dismay, and to which, combined with the intense enthusiasm and rapidity of thought that inspired him on the field of battle, he owed the most brilliant of his victories. And the evening of his life, when, done with ambition, he gave himself to the de-lights of literature, reveals a new and finer side of a character that would otherwise appear all harsh and with-out beauty.
Condé's unhappy wife, Clémence de Maillé, some years before had been banished to Châteauroux. An accident, seized upon by her husband with unseemly eagerness, brought about her ruin. A servant had entered her private room, and after threatening her loudly, stabbed her, and made his escape. Her contemporaries, greedy as they were of scandal, refused to believe any evil of one so pure and noble ; but the prince declared himself convinced of her unfaithfulness, placed her in confinement, and carried his resentment so far that his last letter to the king was to request him never to allow her to be released.
See the numerous Mémoires of the time, especially those of Lenet,
Motteville, La Rochefoucauld, De Ketz, Grammont, Nemours,
Coligni, and Mademoiselle ; the Lettres de Mme. de Sévigné; the
lives of Condé, by Adrien Lemercier, Desormeaux, . "Voivreuil,
Mahon, and Louis Joseph, prince of Condé ; Fitzpatrick, The Great
Condé and the period of the Fronde ; Cousin, Histoire de Mlle, de
Longttevillc. (T. M. W.)

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