The Day of Dupes

The Day of Dupes exposed the intrigue of the French chief minister Cardinal de Richelieu against his enemies, ended France’s medieval trappings, and allowed France to emerge as an absolute monarchy at the forefront of European nations.

Summary of Event

After King Henry IV’s Henry IV (king of France)[Henry 04 (king of France)] assassination in 1610, his nine-year-old son succeeded him as Louis XIII. Louis XIII[Louis 13] Marie de Médicis Marie de Médicis , widow of Henry IV and mother of Louis, became regent. She was a distant relative of Catherine de Médicis, who had been regent a generation earlier, and both were descended from the great Medici family of Florence. French statesman Maximilien de Béthune, the duke de Sully Sully, duke de and minister to the late Henry IV, was on poor terms with the regent and retired early in 1611. Left without a reliable minister, Marie depended for advice mainly upon the papal nuncio and the Spanish ambassador. Such reliance on foreign advice increased Marie’s unpopularity because she was herself a foreigner. [kw]Day of Dupes, The (Nov. 10, 1630)
[kw]Dupes, The Day of (Nov. 10, 1630)
Government and politics;Nov. 10, 1630: The Day of Dupes[1120]
Dupes, Day of (1630)
Anne of Austria
Sully, Duke de
Concini, Concino
Condé, Third Prince of
Louis XIII
Marillac, Louis de
Marillac, Michel de
Médicis, Marie de
Orléans, Gaston d’
Richelieu, Cardinal de

During the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIII, the government of France consisted of a national elective body called the Estates-General. The Estates-General included the first state, the clergy; the second state, the nobility; and the third state, the middle-class commoners.

In 1614, at the demand of Protestant nobleman Henry II de Bourbon, third prince of Condé, Condé, third prince of the Estates-General met to consider various grievances against the government and one another. The nobles and the clergy demanded suppression of the paulette, a practice begun by Sully, which allowed middle-class officeholders to treat their offices as private property if they paid an annual tax on them. The third state, composed almost exclusively of officeholders, then demanded the abolition of all government pensions to the nobility and drew up a declaration denying the pope’s right to intervene in French affairs.

In January, 1615 (in a move foreshadowing the event that began the French Revolution of 1789), the queen locked the third state out of its meeting place and dissolved the Estates-General. That same year, however, Henry II announced his support of the popular grievances, including opposition to foreigners and to Marie’s supposed pro-papal sentiments. Henry II took to the field with armed forces, so that a royal army was needed to protect the king when he journeyed to Bordeaux to marry Anne of Austria Anne of Austria in 1615. Peace was made in 1616, but Marie had Henry II imprisoned in the Bastille shortly afterward.

Marie’s most trusted adviser at the time was the Italian statesman Concino Concini Concini, Concino , the marquis d’Ancre, whom she had made a marshal of France in 1613. Although Concini was the husband of Marie’s best friend, Leonora Galigai, Galigai, Leonora he behaved arrogantly toward everyone, including Louis XIII. Early in 1617, Louis plotted with several noblemen to overthrow Concini, and in April, Louis ordered the marshal’s arrest; when Concini resisted, he was shot to death.

The assassination of Concini marked the turning point of Louis XIII’s reign. The new royal favorite and chief adviser in this period was Louis’s falconer, Charles d’Albert, duke de Luynes Luynes, duke de , who had played a key role in the plot against Concini. In 1617, Louis exiled Marie to Blois, effectively ending her regency. When she allied with some powerful noblemen, she threatened civil war. Yet, the duke de Richelieu, then bishop of Luçon and a member of Marie’s own entourage who had played an important role in the meeting of the Estates-General in 1614, arranged a truce.

In 1621, the French Protestant leaders met to divide France into eight “circles” for purposes of fund-raising and military defense. Alarmed at what seemed an attempt to establish a state within the state, Louis seized all but two of the armed cities that had been guaranteed to the Protestants (the Huguenots) by the Edict of Nantes Nantes, Edict of (1598) in 1598. Authorized by Henry IV, the Edict of Nantes allowed French Protestants to hold government office and provided special courts to adjudicate disputes between the faiths.

The duke de Luynes died in 1621, creating another gap in the circle of royal advisers. Richelieu Richelieu, Cardinal de;Louis XIII and had been made a cardinal in 1622 through Marie’s influence, but despite his obvious political ability, Louis distrusted him. Louis declined to make Richelieu his minister until 1624, when a crisis in foreign affairs demanded his presence. Until his death in 1642, Richelieu dominated both the king and his government. A diplomat of rare skill in both foreign and domestic affairs, Cardinal de Richelieu maintained his position at court despite his enemies, who included some of the most powerful men in the kingdom. Factions and intrigues abounded. The king’s own brother, Gaston d’Orléans Orléans, Gaston d’ , plotted against Louis and Richelieu on a number of occasions.

Between 1627 and 1628, Richelieu engineered the fall of the last two Huguenot Huguenots strongholds, the most important of which, La Rochelle, La Rochelle, Siege of (1627-1628) fell on October 28, 1628. Thereafter, the Huguenots ceased to be an independent force within France. Until 1630, France fought Germany and Spain over border territories, to France’s detriment. Moreover, resentful at Richelieu’s duplicity in leaving her service and entering that of the king, Marie de Médicis championed her younger son Gaston.

In September, 1630, Louis became violently ill, and for almost a month he was barely conscious; at one point, he seemed near death. Marie hoped for the childless Louis’s death so that his younger brother, Gaston, might succeed him. Louis revived, however, and made a slow recovery. Undismayed, Marie reconciled herself to Louis. She argued incessantly against Richelieu, blaming him for all the evils that France suffered while at the same time preventing Richelieu from seeing the king. Louis’s wife, Anne of Austria, who also resented the cardinal’s influence over the king, joined Marie in her insidious campaign.

In mid-October came news from Germany that the French ambassadors, alarmed by Louis’s expected death, had made peace with the Holy Roman Emperor on unfavorable terms. Richelieu repudiated the treaty and warned Louis that it was the equivalent of surrender. Because of strong popular desires for peace, however, Marie and Anne pressed Louis to accept it. The recovering King Louis spent most of his time in Paris with his mother and his wife, and he refused to grant Richelieu an audience. By early November, the cardinal’s fall seemed certain. On November 10, 1630, Louis was in conference with Marie, having left strict orders that no one was to disturb them. Richelieu, however, entered their chamber through an unused door, the only one left unlocked. Falling on his knees before the king, he begged forgiveness for any offense he might have given. Marie screamed with rage until the king, angry with both of them, stalked out of the room.

Louis went to his hunting lodge at Versailles and, later in the day, summoned Richelieu. The cardinal offered to resign, but Louis insisted that he valued Richelieu’s services highly and that Marie had interfered with affairs of state. That evening, Louis met with members of his council and stated that for a year the conspiracy against the cardinal had disrupted state business. He ordered Michel de Marillac Marillac, Michel de , Richelieu’s chief opponent, to resign, and had him conducted to a distant fortress, where he died several years later. Then Louis summoned Michel’s brother, Louis de Marillac Marillac, Louis de , a marshal commanding the French forces fighting in Germany, to be brought to Paris under armed guard. After charging Louis de Marillac, probably unjustly, with corruption, Louis beheaded him in May, 1632.

The court of the influential French minister Cardinal de Richelieu, who was a dominant figure during the reign of Louis XIII and whose politics led to years of factions and intrigue.

(Francis R. Niglutsch)

Outraged and dismayed at the unexpected turn of events, Marie remained away from the king and raged against the cardinal. One of her courtiers remarked, “This is the day of dupes.” Subsequently, the phrase came to be accepted as an apt description of the king’s sudden change of heart.

Upon hearing of the sudden revival of Richelieu’s power, Gaston d’Orléans went to the king and renounced his allegiance to Marie, promising instead complete loyalty to Louis and to Richelieu. A short time later, however, he fled to Orléans and threatened rebellion unless Richelieu was dismissed. Louis still supported his minister and, fearful of his mother, took her with him when his court moved from Versailles to Comprègne. She was supposed to have said, “If I had not forgotten one lock that day in Paris, the cardinal would have been lost.” Although the king planned to imprison her at Moulins, Marie pled illness and remained at Comprègne for several months. On July 18, 1631, she fled secretly, hoping to capture a town from which she could negotiate with the king. Her allies deserted her, however, and she crossed over into the Spanish Netherlands instead. For eleven years, she wandered among the courts of Europe, friendless and unhonored, dying at Cologne in 1642. Louis, who was in the last year of his own life, showed no grief at her passing.

Meanwhile, Richelieu had marched against Gaston, who also fled the country. In 1632, Gaston invaded France and was defeated. His leading followers were put to death, but he was reconciled with his brother. Gaston continued to intrigue against the Crown even after Louis’s death and late in life was pardoned by Louis’s son, King Louis XIV.


The Day of Dupes and its aftermath left Cardinal de Richelieu for the first time entirely free to pursue the foreign policy that was his greatest achievement and to engineer the emergence of France as the greatest nation of Europe.

Further Reading

  • Bergin, Joseph. Cardinal Richelieu: Power and the Pursuit of Wealth. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1985. A good portrait of the political Richelieu.
  • Bergin, Joseph. The Rise of Richelieu. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1991. Bergin discusses Richelieu’s success based on his being both an ecclesiastical figure and a figure in the royal court.
  • Boulenger, Jacques. The Seventeenth Century in France. New York: Capricorn Books, 1963. A good history of life and politics in seventeenth century France.
  • Burckhardt, Carl J. Richelieu: His Rise to Power. Translated and abridged by Edwin and Willa Muir. London: Allen & Unwin, 1940. An excellent overview of Richelieu’s spheres of influence.
  • Church, William. Richelieu and Reason of State. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972. A good overview of the government of France under Richelieu.
  • Knecht, Robert. Richelieu. New York: Longman, 1991. Knecht’s work is not a complete biography, but instead is a reassessment of Richelieu that focuses on the major features, achievements, and failures of his career.
  • Levi, Anthony. Cardinal Richelieu and the Making of France. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2000. Levi argues that Richelieu sought to create a French national unity as much through cultural symbolism as through political means.
  • Lough, John. An Introduction to Seventeenth Century France. New York: David McKay, 1954. A useful general survey that places Richelieu’s career in the context of seventeenth century French politics.
  • Tapié, Victor Lucien. France in the Age of Louis XII and Richelieu. Edited and translated by D. Lockie. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984. Translation of a monumental study, recounting the two men’s policies and how their actions affected the French people and the nation’s culture.

Reign of Louis XIII

Revolt of the Huguenots

Edict of Restitution

Absolute Monarchy Emerges in France

Louis XIV Revokes the Edict of Nantes

Related articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Seventeenth Century</i><br />

Anne of Austria; Charles I; The Great Condé; Gustavus II Adolphus; Cornelius Otto Jansen; Louis XIII; Louis XIV; Marie de Médicis; Jules Mazarin; Axel Oxenstierna; Cardinal de Richelieu; Urban VIII. Dupes, Day of (1630)