ORLEANS Gaston d' - Autograph Letter Signed 1645 from Louis XIII's brother to Cardinal Pamphilio
Gaston d’ORLEANS (1608-1660)Autograph Letter Signed (“Your affectionate cousin Gaston”) to “Mon Cousin” [identified on the address leaf as Cardinal Pamphilio], a diplomatically worded letter expressing his concurrence with, and reasons for, the royal family’s friendship towards the late Pope.
1 page 4to in French with integral address leaf bearing two red wax seals with remnants of silk ties, Paris, 18 November 1645.
Trans: “Being of the same sentiments as His Majesty regarding His Holiness and what you have written to me of him I concur with the reply which the Chancellor has made on behalf of His Majesty on the same subjects . . . and what I particularly wish to say that the favourable treatment which His Majesty has resolved to my cousin Cardinal Barberin[i] and to all of their house being a mark of their gratitude towards the memory of the late Very Holy Father, Pope Urban the Eighth for the many marks he showed, during his pontificate, of his true affection for the welfare of this crown, I am certain that this action by His Majesty so full of goodness and gratitude will prompt you to consider its merit . . . this is what I give you . . . and that you may consider me always as I desire.”
The translation may give an idea of the rather convoluted language of the French used in this letter. The machinations behind this complicated diplomatic missive are equally complicated.
Pope Urban VIII, born Maffeo Barberini, had been a devoted Francophile, having lived in France whilst Papal Nuncio. At a time when the Thirty Years War, generally associated with matters in the Holy Roman Empire, had developed into a conflict between the Austrian and Spanish Habsburgs and the French House of Bourbon, this bias gained increasing significance.
However, Pope Urban VIII died in 1644, and was succeeded by Pope Innocent X, a membtoer of the Pamphili family. Unlike Pope Urban VIII, the new Pope favoured Spain. Louis XIII’s new chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin, had gone so far as to attempt to have his election blocked, but did not succeed.
In contrast to Pope Urban, who had been extravagant in his expenditure whether in embellishments to St. Peter’s or in distributing advantageous positions to his family, Pope Innocent was rather less so and he commenced an investigation into the use of public funds under his predecessor. Members of the Barberini family took refuge in France where they were offered protection by Cardinal Mazarin.
The references to “His Majesty” can be taken as a formality, as Gaston’s brother, Louis XIII,, had died two years earlier and his successor, Louis XIV was all of seven years old at the time. Power was in the hands of the young king’s mother, Anne of Austria, supported by her chief minister and advisor, Cardinal Mazarin. The situation created something of a stand-off between France and the Pope which was, fortunately, soon calmed. The rather emollient tone used by Gaston in this letter was no doubt part of the attempt to calm the situation.
Despite his more austere attitude, Innocent X did create his 23-year-old nephew Camillo (recipient of this letter), Cardinal Deacon. Camillo, who appears to have been rather dilatory in regard to his duties, resigned as Cardinal a little over two years later and married.
For his part, Gaston d’Orleans proved to be a troublesome member of the royal family, conspiring against his brother and his minister, Cardinal Richelieu, and after Louis XIII’s death against Louis’ widow Anne of Austria and her minister, Cardinal Mazarin. He later joined the Fronde, one of the most dangerous revolts France had known against royal authority. Gaston did, however, fight successfully against the Habsburgs in the Spanish Netherlands. He spent the last eight years of his life at his chateau at Blois, where he had been exiled by Mazarin.
Remains of guard at left margin, and one or two brown stains on the recto, but the letter is otherwise in very good condition.
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