“History of France. Henri IV et Richelieu ”, by Jules Michelet,“ Le Monde ”collection, on sale at newsagents, € 10.
Every portrait is a story. The one that Jules Michelet (1798-1874) brushes from the XVIIe century, from the legacy of Henri IV in 1610 to France from Richelieu and Louis XIII, unfolds a Verdian drama whose acts are written in relief and hollow. Henri IV and Richelieu (published in 1857) reproduces the episodes as decisive as they are transitory of a History of France at the crossroads of his destiny.
From the sudden disappearance of Gabrielle d’Estrée at the siege of La Rochelle, Michelet presents a critical diagnosis of the State and of the upheavals of the “kingdom after” which settled down following the reign of “Good king”, suddenly rehabilitated. In relief: the facts indicating a geopolitics subject to the Spanish Catholic Empire. In hollow: the spirit of the purpose which underlies it. It is the absolutist beginning of the monarchy founded on the influence of a clergy who models and controls the conscience. It is, for the scrupulous archivist who draws from the sources – in the accounting data of demography and commerce, the correspondence of Henri IV, the Briefs by Sully and Richelieu – a XVIIe sterile century, constrained in a rivalry of interests which oppose France to the United Provinces and to England.
Also, dissecting one by one the myths of the Great Century, Michelet book of the society of the XVIIe century an implacable indictment, against the tide of romantic authors. Twelve of the twenty-four chapters of his story, devoted to Henry IV, highlight the potential openness and the failed reconciliation of France with the Huguenots, revealing the Catholic conservatism which replaced it. In a XIXe century heckled between monarchy and republic, braced on his memory of the Revolution, Michelet points to the origin of the rigidities and influences of an elitist society, of a dominant class consciousness, of a rigid social order that the liberals would like to immutable. He denounces the reactionary spirit which divides and segments the nation.
Therefore, making the XVIIe century an obscure period, his story is based on the suspicious death of Gabrielle d’Estrée before a possible union that could have allowed Henry IV to reconcile the monarchy and the nation.
For him, the Middle Ages will have given birth to the Revolution, the spirit of freedom inherent in Protestantism will have foreshadowed 1789 that the reign of Louis XIV will have nurtured. « Despotism gave birth to freedom ”, recalls Paule Petitier in her preface to the edition of World. Thus, from the death of a historic chance to a France “Turned over like a glove” by Richelieu, Michelet questions history itself. Visionary, would his analogy hold for the XXIe century?
Find the collection “” History of France “: the masterpiece of Jules Michelet” published by “Le Monde” on the site dedicated to it: Collection-michelet.fr