November 1648 - The Interview at Strasbourg
Louis de Nogaret de La Valette, Lieutenant-General of the armies of France and Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church appeared before Cardinal Mazarin in the great hall of the rectory of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg. La Valette was the third son of Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette who was a staunch Catholic, a soldier and very much an influential man in French royal politics for many years.
Louis de Nogaret de La Valette
Giulio Raimondo Mazzarino (aka Jules Raymond Mazarin), Cardinal-Duke of Rethel, Mayenne and Nevers, entered French service in 1631 as an assistant to Cardinal Richelieu. When the 'Grey Eminence' died in 1642, Mazarin took his place as first minister, essentially ruling France as co-regent with the Queen Mother, Anne of Austria, her son Louis (the future Louis XIV) being only five years old at the time.
Mazarin was known as a more amiable, less vindictive version of his mentor, but he worked no less diligently for the interests of France. And, more importantly, he was a man who was used to having his orders followed.
La Valette and his other generals had scarcely entered the hall when Mazarin walked rapidly towards them, talking and gesturing as he came.
"Can you tell me, my dear general, why you attacked at Worms and again at Mainz when I specifically forbade you to do so? You have cost France the lives of many soldiers! And good soldiers do not come cheap these days, La Valette!"
"Minister, it was good of you to come all the way from Paris to visit the armies of France and her loyal generals," said La Valette as he and his generals bowed in unison. "We greet you here in the King of France's newest city, Strasbourg, captured by those same armies and those same loyal generals."
"And that is all well and good since it was done in accordance with your instructions!" responded Mazarin.
"And perhaps you traveled through the cities of Nancy, Breisach and Trier to reach us, Minister?"
Mazarin paused and smiled, slightly. "No, I did not have time to visit those cities, scenes of your earlier victories, general." He turned and paced towards the great windows of the hall, where the late-autumn sunlight streamed through onto the flagstone floors. "But all of those victories could have been lost if your army had been destroyed at Worms or Mainz! The dictates of politics must direct the actions of a nation at war towards achievable goals, La Valette, and there was little to be achieved for France at Worms and Mainz. Those are Swedish-held cities, so let the Swedes look to their defense!"
"A nation is more than its politics, Minister, and an army is not simply a tool to be employed for political ends. Politics has its dictates, yes, but so, too, does an army. A nation's army is only as great and as powerful as its history, its victories and most of all, its honor. We have fought honorably besides the Swedes for over a decade now, and they have been faithful allies and brave soldiers, chief among them the Swedish King. I know that this war is coming to a close and that France, by the grace of God and by the valor of its soldiers, has made great gains. But a thousand cities such as Strasbourg would not make up for the loss of honor that the armies of France would have suffered if we had not answered the call of our allies for assistance, assistance that it was in our power to give. Even now, especially now, at the end, after years of toil, suffering and combat, we, as soldiers of France, had to answer that call. The soldiers that I have led for all these years and the generals arrayed behind me who have served so faithfully with me, deserved to have their honor maintained. So that is why we fought with the Swedes, our allies, at Worms in victory, and then again at Mainz, in defeat. We fought for the honor of this army, and the honor of France." La Valette drew his sword and, bowing, offered it to the Cardinal. "I am ready to lay down this command, Minister, for in this matter as in all else, I have served you, this army and France, faithfully."
There was silence in the hall for a moment. Tears streamed down more than one eye of those gathered there. But not Mazarin's. He was a bit of a cold fish, the cardinal was. Still, the Minister knew a good speech when he heard one, and a good man when he found one. He sighed, threw up his hands and spoke: "Well this honor of yours is quite expensive, La Valette, but I suppose you have earned it. Oh, and put your sword away - you generals are so dramatic!"
"Thank you, Minister," replied La Valette, sheathing his sword.
"And bring a good bottle of wine tonight when you come dine with me, better bring more than one, eh? Now, if you will excuse me the leading citizens are asking for an audience to complain about pillaging soldiers in the area. They wouldn't be any of yours, would they, La Valette?"
"It must be the Spanish again, Minister. They send foraging parties over the Rhine most every night."
"Hmm, yes, well, perhaps you should look into putting a stop to it, won't you?"
"Of course, Minister."
And so the interview ended not at all how it might have. La Valette continued to serve France faithfully until his death, his name largely forgotten, an obscure footnote to history. But one man who had witnessed that interview, a man who remembered what La Valette had said and sought to serve faithfully and honorably is not forgotten. Henri de La Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne, known as 'The Great Turenne' and one of the six 'Marshal Generals of France' was one of La Valette's subordinates during the long campaign along the Rhine. Turenne was one of the finest generals France ever produced, a man who was loved by his soldiers and respected by his foes, who fought with distinction, genius and above all honor for almost forty years. And as fate would have it the great general died in battle, in the service of France, just across the river from Strasbourg on the banks of Salzbach stream in July of 1675. The opposing general at that battle, when told of Turenne's death, reportedly said, "Today died a man who did honor to Man." The same could have been about Louis de Nogaret de La Valette.
Henri de La Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne
(Truth is my sword, honor my shield.)
(This is a fictional vignette, based upon historical characters and the events of my TYW campaign game...in case anyone needed to be reminded!)
Last edited by Ripster8
on Thu Oct 13, 2016 4:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"The Hanged Man is a representative of humanity who is found between two kingdoms - that of this world and that of heaven."