He knew that he himself lacked the physical health and mental force needed to meet these challenges. Begotten in the forty-eighth year of a father perhaps weakened by sexual exuberance, he suffered from tuberculosis, intestinal inflammation, and an embarrassing impediment in his speech. Through long periods he was too weak to indulge in sports; he played and composed music, grew peas for the market, put up preserves, and helped in the kitchen. Heredity and disease left him no charms of figure or face; he was precariously thin, his head and nose were oversized, his pendulous underlip left his mouth always partly open; and his long, livid countenance harmonized with his deliberately drab costume. He suffered no more from nature than from his physicians, who in a single year bled him forty-seven times, gave him 215 enemas, and poured 212 drugs down his throat.16 He survived by engaging in sports when he could, hunting, joining his army, sleeping in the open air, and eating the soldiers’ simple food.
Beaten repeatedly by his teachers, he abominated education, and seems never to have read a book except for prayer. He read the canonical hours every day, accepted without question the faith taught him in his growing years, and always joined and accompanied to its end any procession that bore the consecrated Host. A neurotic tendency to occasional cruelty tarnished a disposition basically kind. He was shy, secretive, and morose, not much loving a life that had not loved him. His mother considered him feeble-minded, neglected him, and openly preferred his younger brother, Gaston; he responded by hating her and worshiping the memory of his father. He developed an aversion to women, and after some timid contemplation of Mlle. de Hautefort’s beauty he gave his affections to young men. Married politically to Anne of Austria, he had to be prodded into her bed. When she miscarried he left her intact for thirteen years. The court advised him to take a mistress, but he had other tastes. Then at thirty-seven, yielding to the demands of all France for a dauphin, he tried again, and grateful Anne gave the world Louis XIV (1638). Two years later she bore Philippe I of Orléans, who continued his father’s appreciation of male charms.
Louis was some inches a king. Suddenly, still a lad of sixteen, tired of Concini’s impudence and peculations, he gave secret orders for his assassination (1617); and when the Queen Mother protested against this termination of her favorite, he banished her to Blois and chose as his chief minister Charles d’Albert, who had suggested the stroke, and who was now made Duke of Luynes. Pressed by the Duke and Pope Paul V, Louis ordered the Huguenots to restore all property that they had appropriated from the Church. When Béarn ignored the decree, he marched into the province, compelled obedience, and brought Béarn and Navarre—once his father’s personal realm—under the direct rule of the king. The Huguenots made no immediate resistance; but in 1620 their General Assembly, meeting in their strongest city, La Rochelle, demanded the return of the restored property, as belonging to the people rather than to the Church; moreover, it apportioned France into eight “circles,” and appointed for each of them a chief administrator and a council to levy taxes and raise troops. Louis declared that France could not tolerate such a state within a state. In April 1621 he led one army, and his generals led three others, against the Protestant citadels. Several of these were taken, but Montauban, under Henri, Duke of Rohan, held out successfully. Incompetent generals allowed the war to drag on for a year and a half. The peace treaty of October 9, 1622, forbade Protestant assemblies, but left Montauban and La Rochelle in Huguenot hands. During these campaigns Luynes died (1621), and Richelieu climbed to power.