|Things were not always so beautiful here. Just a few years after Henri IV declared freedom of religion, he was assassinated and his son Louis XIII became king at the age of nine. The great lords of the realm saw the youth of the king as a chance to return to their own ways fierce independence -- feudalism, a system where each man's home is a veritable fortress and a law unto itself. Our own Wild West is but a milder version of what threatened this country. Louis XIII, encouraged by his minister Richelieu, saw the Protestant lords as the most dangerous incarnation of the threat. Since La Rochelle had long been the center of Protestant independence, he chose to crush it. Long experience had proved that direct assault on this fortress city was useless. He laid siege, closing the roads from inland and sinking numbers of old ships in the harbor. For months and months, the Protestants here resisted fiercely, sure that that their ancient friends, the English would soon break the blockade. Soon supplies were depleted. Bread went first, cats and dogs soon followed. The owner of the house whose pillar we see here is said to have sold it for a rat. He may have considered himself lucky to have such a dinner, but the siege eventually brought the city to its knees. In the eyes of many, it was the greatest victory ever of the French monarchy. Richelieu and Louis XIII would soon turn their attention to the Catholic lords who would also be reduced. It was the birth of true absolute monarchy -- it might also be seen as the first condition of a revolution that would occur some 150 years later.|
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This page last updated on 6/19/2001 8:18:33 PM.