Beaufort, Francois De Vendome
BEAUFORT, FRANCOIS DE VENDOME, Duc de (1616-1669), a picturesque figure in French history of the 17th century, was the second son of César de Vendôme, and grandson of Henry IV., by Gabrielle d'Estrées. He began his career in the army and served in the first campaigns of the Thirty Years' War, but his ambitions and unscrupulous character soon found a more congenial field in the intrigues of the court. In 1642 he joined in the conspiracy of Cinq Mars against Richelieu, and upon its failure was obliged to live in exile in England until Richelieu's death. Returning to France, he became the centre of a group, known as the "Importants," in which court ladies predominated, especially the duchess of Chevreuse and the duchess of Montbazon. For an instant after the king's death, this group seemed likely to prevail, and Beaufort to be the head of the new government. But Mazarin gained the office, and Beaufort, accused of a plot to murder Mazarin, was imprisoned in Vincennes, in September 1643. He escaped on the 31st of May 1648, just in time to join the Fronde, which began in August 1648. He was then with the parlement and the princes, against Mazarin. His personal appearance, his affectation of popular manners, his quality of grandson (legitimized), of Henry IV., rendered him a favourite of the Parisians, who acclaimed him everywhere. He was known as the Roi des Halles ("king of the markets"), and popular subscriptions were opened to pay his debts. He had hopes of becoming prime minister. But among the members of the parlement and the other leaders of the Fronde, he was regarded as merely a tool. His intelligence was but mediocre, and he showed no talent during the war. Mazarin, on his return to Paris, exiled him in October 1652; and he was only allowed to return in 1654, when the cardinal had no longer any reason to fear him. Henceforth Beaufort no longer intrigued. In 1658 he was named general superintendent of navigation, or chief of the naval army, and faithfully served the king in naval wars from that on. In 1664 he directed the expedition against the pirates of Algiers. In 1669 he led the French troops defending Candia against the Turks, and was killed in a night sortie, on the 15th of June 1669. His body was brought back to France with great pomp, and official honours rendered it.
See the memoirs of the time, notably those of La Rochefoucauld, the Cardinal de Retz, and Madame de Motteville. Also D'Avenel, Richelieu et la monarchic absolue (1884); Cheruel, La France sous le ministère Mazarin (1879); and La France sous la minorité de Louis XIV (1882).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)