Louis II De Bourbon, Prince Of Conde - Encyclopedia

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LOUIS II. DE BOURBON CONDE, PRINCE OF (1621-1686), called the Great Conde, was the son of Henry, prince of Conde, and Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency, and was born at Paris on the 8th of September 1621. As a boy, under his father's careful supervision, he studied diligently at the Jesuits' College at Bourges, and at seventeen, in the absence of his father, he governed Burgundy. The duc d'Enghien, as he was styled during his father's lifetime, took part with distinction in the campaigns of 1640 and 1641 in northern France while yet under twenty years of age.

During the youth of Enghien all power in France was in the hands of Richelieu; to him even the princes of the blood had to yield; and Henry of Conde sought with the rest to win the cardinal's favour. Enghien was forced to conform. He was already deeply in love with Mlle. Marthe du Vigean, who in return was passionately devoted to him, yet, to flatter the cardinal, he was compelled by his father, at the age of twenty, to give his hand to Richelieu's niece, Claire Clemence de MailleBreze, a child of thirteen. He was present with Richelieu during the dangerous plot of Cinq Mars, and afterwards fought in the siege of Perpignan (1642).

In 1643 Enghien was appointed to command against the Spaniards in northern France. He was opposed by experienced generals, and the veterans of the Spanish army were accounted the finest soldiers in Europe; on the other hand, the strength of the French army was placed at his command, and under him were the best generals of the service. The great battle of Rocroy (May 18) put an end to the supremacy of the Spanish army and inaugurated the long period of French military predominance. Enghien himself conceived and directed the decisive attack, and at the age of twenty-two won his place amongst the great captains of modern times. After a campaign of uninterrupted success, Enghien returned to Paris in triumph, and in gallantry and intrigues strove to forget his enforced and hateful marriage. In 1644 he was sent with reinforcements into Germany to the assistance of Turenne, who was hard pressed, and took command of the whole army. The battle of Freiburg (Aug.) was desperately contested, but in the end the French army won a great victory over the Bavarians and Imperialists commanded by Count Mercy. As after Rocroy, numerous fortresses opened their gates to the duke. The next winter Enghien spent, like every other winter during the war, amid the gaieties of Paris. The summer campaign of 1645 opened with the defeat of Turenne by Mercy, but this was retrieved in the brilliant victory of NOrdlingen, in which Mercy was killed, and Enghien himself received several serious wounds. The capture of Philipsburg was the most important of his other achievements during this campaign. In 1646 Enghien served under the duke of Orleans in Flanders, and when, after the capture of Mardyck, Orleans returned to Paris, Enghien, left in command, captured Dunkirk (October 11th).

It was in this year that the old prince of Conde died. The enormous power that fell into the hands of his successor was naturally looked upon with serious alarm by the regent and her minister. Conde's birth and military renown placed him at the head of the French nobility; but, added to that, the family of which he was chief was both enormously rich and master of no small portion of France. Conde himself held Burgundy, Berry and the marches of Lorraine, as well as other less important territory; his brother Conti held Champagne, his brother-in-law, Longueville, Normandy. The government, therefore, determined to permit no increase of his already overgrown authority, and Mazarin made an attempt, which for the moment proved successful, at once to find him employment and to tarnish his fame as a general. He was sent to lead the revolted Catalans. Illsupported, he was unable to achieve anything, and, being forced to raise the siege of Lerida, he returned home in bitter indignation. In 1648, however, he received the command in the important field of the Low Countries; and at Lens (Aug. 19th) a battle took place, which, beginning with a panic in his own regiment, was retrieved by Conde's coolness and bravery, and ended in a victory that fully restored his prestige.

In September of the same year Conde was recalled to court, for the regent Anne of Austria required his support. Influenced by the fact of his royal birth and by his arrogant scorn for the bourgeois, Conde lent himself to the court party, and finally, after much hesitation, he consented to lead the army which was to reduce Paris (Jan. 1649).

On his side, insufficient as were his forces, the war was carried on with vigour, and after several minor combats their substantial losses and a threatening of scarcity of food made the Parisians weary of the war. The political situation inclined both parties to peace, which was made at Rueil on the 10th of March (see Fronde, The). It was not long, however, before Conde became estranged from the court. His pride and ambition earned for him universal distrust and dislike, and the personal resentment of Anne in addition to motives of policy caused the sudden arrest of Conde, Conti and Longueville on the 18th of January 1650. But others, including Turenne and his brother the duke of Bouillon, made their escape. Vigorous attempts for the release of the princes began to be made. The women of the family were now its heroes. The dowager princess claimed from the parlement of Paris the fulfilment of the reformed law of arrest, which forbade imprisonment without trial. The duchess of Longueville entered into negotiations with Spain; and the young princess of Conde, having gathered an army around her, obtained entrance into Bordeaux and the support of the parlement of that town. She alone, among the nobles who took part in the folly of the Fronde, gains our respect and sympathy. Faithful to a faithless husband, she came forth from the retirement to which he had condemned her, and gathered an army to fight for him. But the delivery of the princes was brought about in the end by the junction of the old Fronde (the party of the parlement and of Cardinal de Retz) and the new Fronde (the party of the Condos); and Anne was at last, in February 1651, forced to liberate them from their prison at Havre. Soon afterwards, however, another shifting of parties left Conde and the new Fronde isolated. With the court and the old Fronde in alliance against him, Conde found no resource but that of making common cause with the Spaniards, who were at war with France. The confused civil war which followed this step (Sept. 1651) was memorable chiefly for the battle of the Faubourg St Antoine, in which Conde and Turenne, two of the foremost captains of the age, measured their strength (July 2, 1652), and the army of the prince was only saved by being admitted within the gates of Paris. La Grande Mademoiselle, daughter of the duke of Orleans, persuaded the Parisians to act thus, and turned the cannon of the Bastille on Turenne's army. Thus Conde, who as usual had fought with the most desperate bravery, was saved, and Paris underwent a new investment. This ended in the flight of Conde to the Spanish army (Sept. 1652), and thenceforward, up to the peace, he was in open arms against France, and held high command in the army of Spain. But his now fully developed genius as a commander found little scope in the cumbrous and antiquated system of war practised by the Spaniards, and though he gained a few successes, and manoeuvred with the highest possible skill against Turenne, his disastrous defeat at the Dunes near Dunkirk (14th of June 1658), in which an English contingent of Cromwell's veterans took part on the side of Turenne, led Spain to open negotiations for peace. After the peace of the Pyrenees in 1659, Conde obtained his pardon (January 1660) from Louis, who thought him less dangerous as a subject than as possessor of the independent sovereignty of Luxemburg, which had been offered him by Spain as a reward for his services.

Conde now realized that the period of agitation and party warfare was at an end, and he accepted, and loyally maintained henceforward, the position of a chief subordinate to a masterful sovereign. Even so, some years passed before he was recalled to active employment, and these years he spent on his estate at. Chantilly. Here he gathered round him a brilliant company, which included many men of genius - Moliere, Racine, Boileau,. La Fontaine, Nicole, Bourdaloue and Bossuet. About this time negotiations between the Poles, Conde and Louis were carried. on with a view to the election, at first of Conde's son Enghien, and afterwards of Conde himself, to the throne of Poland. These, after a long series of curious intrigues, were finally closed in 1674. by the veto of Louis XIV. and the election of John Sobieski.. The prince's retirement, which was only broken by the Polish question and by his personal intercession on behalf of Fouquet in 1664, ended in 1668. In that year he proposed to Louvois, the minister of war, a plan for seizing Franche-Comte, the execution of which was entrusted to him and successfully carried out. He was now completely re-established in the favour of Louis, and with Turenne was the principal French commander in the celebrated campaign of 1672 against the Dutch. At the forcing of the Rhine passage at Tollhuis (June 1 2) he received a severe wound, after which he commanded in Alsace against the Imperialists. In 1673 he was again engaged in the Low Countries, and in 1674 he fought his last great battle at Seneff against the prince of Orange (afterwards William III. of England). This battle, fought on the 11th of August, was one of the hardest of the century, and Conde, who displayed the reckless bravery of his youth, had three horses killed under him. His last campaign was that of 1675 on the Rhine, where the army had been deprived of its general by the death of Turenne; and where by his careful and methodical strategy he repelled the invasion of the Imperial army of Montecucculi. After this campaign, prematurely worn out by the toils and excesses of his life, and tortured by the gout, he returned to Chantilly, where he spent the eleven years that remained to him in quiet retirement. In the end of his life he specially sought the companionship of Bourdaloue, Nicole and Bossuet, and devoted himself to religious exercises. He died on the 11th of November 1686 at the age of sixty-five. Bourdaloue attended him at his death-bed, and Bossuet pronounced his 'loge.

The earlier political career of Conde was typical of the great French noble of his day. Success in love and war, predominant influence over his sovereign and universal homage to his own exaggerated pride, were the objects of his ambition. Even as an exile he asserted the precedence of the royal house of France over the princes of Spain and Austria, with whom he was allied for the moment. But the Conde of 1668 was no longer a politician and a marplot; to be first in war and in gallantry was still his aim, but for the rest he was a submissive, even a subservient, minister of the royal will. It is on his military character, however, that his fame rests. This changed but little. Unlike his great rival Turenne, Conde was equally brilliant in his first battle and in his last. The one failure of his generalship was in the Spanish Fronde, and in this everything united to thwart his genius; only on the battlefield itself was his personal leadership as conspicuous as ever. That he was capable of waging a methodical war of positions may be assumed from his campaigns against Turenne and Montecucculi, the greatest generals of the predominant school. But it was in his eagerness for battle, his quick decision in action, and the stern will which sent his regiments to face the heaviest loss, that Conde is distinguished above all the generals of his time. In private life he was harsh and unamiable, seeking only the gratification of his own pleasures and desires. His enforced and loveless marriage embittered his life, and it was only in his last years, when he had done with ambition, that the more humane side of his character appeared in his devotion to literature.

Conde's unhappy wife had some years before been banished to Chateauroux. An accident brought about her ruin. Her contemporaries, greedy as they were of scandal, refused to believe any evil of her, but the prince declared himself convinced of her unfaithfulness, placed her in confinement, and carried his resentment so far that his last letter to the king was to request him never to allow her to be released.


- See, besides the numerous Memoires of the time, Puget de la Serre, Les Sieges, les batailles, eec., de Mr. le prince de Conde (Paris, 1651); J. de la Brune, Histoire de la vie, &c., de Louis de Bourbon, prince de Conde (Cologne, 1694); P. Coste, Histoire de Louis de Bourbon, &c. (Hague, 1748); Desormeaux, Histoire de Louis de Bourbon, eec. (Paris, 1768); Turpin, Vie de Louis de Bourbon, eec. (Paris and Amsterdam, 1767); Eloge militaire de Louis de Bourbon (Dijon, 1772); Histoire du grand Conde, by A. Lemercier (Tours, 1862); J. J. E. Roy (Lille, 1859); L. de Voivreuil (Tours, 1846); Fitzpatrick, The Great Conde, and Lord Mahon, Life of Louis, prince of Conde (London, 1845). Works on the Conde family by the prince de Conde and de Sevilinges (Paris, 1820), the duc d'Aumale, and Guibout (Rouen, 1856), should also be consulted.

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