Matthieu de Morgues

DC 123 .A2M67 1637 Proper Title Page.jpg

Matthieu de Morgues (1582 – 1670) was the Chaplain (aumônier) of Marie de Médicis and her staunch defender. Although he initially started out as a Jesuit, he left the order. Apart from the Queen Mother, de Morgues was the most bitter and hated rival of Cardinal Richelieu, who hired writers such as Jean Sirmond and Paul Hay du Chastelet to sully his reputation and credibility.

He entered the French court around the same time as his rival, Cardinal Richelieu, in the 1610s. Additionally, Cardinal du Perron acted as a benefactor to them both and ushered Matthieu into the entourage of Marie de Médicis. De Morgues wrote and published many lampoons on behalf of Marie, including La Restauration de l’Estat  in 1617 followed by Le Manifeste de la royne mère in 1618. Whereas Cardinal Richelieu had no choice but to follow the Queen Mother into exile soon after, Matthieu de Morgues went with her willingly. 

A dévôt, Matthieu de Morgues was part of a Catholic resistance to Protestants in France and served the interests of the Habsburg dynasty. This group staunchly opposed the notion of an absolute monarchy to rule France. They suffered on the Day of the Dupes, but remained persuasive and powerful, particularly in the eyes of Anne of Austria. Additionally, Matthieu was an ardent lampoonist (pamphlétaire) who wrote lampoons--insulting materials--relating to Cardinal Richelieu in which he attacked and ridiculed the Chief Minister. 

In addition to Diuerses pieces pour la defense de la royne mere du roy tres-chrestien Louys XIII (1637), his other published works included Consolation aux bons Français (1618), and Advis d’un theologien sans passion (1626). 

DC 123 .A2M67 1637 a3.jpg

Diuerses pieces pour la defense de la royne mere du roy tres-chrestien Louys XIII

Published in Antwerp (Anvers), Belgium in 1637, Matthieu de Morgues had no choice but to print his chef d'oeuvre outside of France to escape the watchful eyes of Cardinal Richelieu and his cabal of censors. On page 215 in particular, Morgues uses what would have been considered vicious language against the Cardinal at the time, calling him a monster and a demon. 

Through my research, although I discovered de Morgues's extensive career as a lampoonist, I was surprised not to discover any satirical pamphlets or similar documents as another form of rebellion against the Cardinal. 

The book contains dedications to King Louis XIII (AV ROY), who would have been approaching the end of his reign near 1637. De Morgues complains in this dedication that several people instructed him to leave his country, France, because it was risking danger for him to stay. They told him to leave all of his possessions behind and to try to start anew somewhere else, a decision that de Morgues evidently found difficult. 

In spite of having to publish in Belgium, de Morgues pleads with King Louis XIII to allow the Parlement of Paris to examine his book, and asks what will happen if copies of the book burn, which implies that he shipped them to France with the hopes that a friend or family member could smuggle this contraband into the country and sell it without persecution. De Morgues emphasizes throughout his dedication that he would like a reputation for defending the king, telling King Louis XIII that he hopes to see the monarch emulate the greatness of Henri IV (Henry le Grand). Unsurprisingly, he calls Sultan Soliman a tyrant (ce tyran) while endlessly showering praise on Louis XIII. It is worth noting that de Morgues vehemently opposed the idea of an absolute monarchy, while Louis XIII was for it. 

He asks the king to be more Christian and to show him kindness and mercy. As well, he attacks what a certain Montagues, identified here only as an enemy of the king, has said about Louis XIII as well as the Queen Mother. As well, he takes the opportunity to call Cardinal Richelieu the red dragon (dragon roux) of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation in the Bible. And yet, he reminds the king that a monarch should not be all-powerful (la puissance absolue du Roy).  

The next dedication is directed to the wise reader (AV SAGE LECTEUR), with whom he pleads to consider this book and to not judge him harshly for his reputation as a lampoonist. He also makes reference to another book he published, “Diurſes pieces pour ſeruir à l’Hiſtoire du temps” (Diverse pieces to serve the history of the time). He also begs the reader not to assume that he published this text out of vanity or selfishness. However, he also tells the reader, while asking them to forgive his printing errors, that they are right to condemn him, but that he hopes to one day publish his work in Paris. He also hopes they will not judge him for his previous works of 1631 and 1636. 


DC 123 .A2M67 1637 pg. 513.jpg

In the section titled “Charitable Remonstrance de Caton Chrestien a Monseigneur l’eminentissime Cardinal de Richelieu : sur ses actions, & quatre libelles déffamatoires, faits par lui ou ses ecrivains,” de Morgues calls Richelieu a greedy sinner, a monster, a hypocrite, and someone who is ruining France. De Morgues criticizes the Cardinal's involvement in the battle of La Rochelle battle, accuses him of mocking God, calls him “abominable” (p. 235) for his actions against Marie de Médicis, and focuses much of this section on criticizing the Cardinal for spreading lies about the Queen Mother. He tells the Cardinal to “leave us alone”, meaning himself and the Queen Mother (who, by this point, was far from France). He continues his assault against the Cardinal, accusing him of not having the king's best interests at heart, and calling Richelieu and his créatures as menaces against the Queen Mother. It is worth noting that in this era, the term créatures did not have the modern meaning of animal or beast, but rather it indicated the closest associates to a person, in this case referring to the Cardinal and his associates. Some even used the term as an endearment in that time. 

Finally, de Morgues explicitly attacks the writers that Cardinal Richelieu employs and says “your helpers are soulless creatures.” De Morgues also makes mention of the Cardinal lying about a king who poisoned his third wife, but it was unclear to me what was meant by this reference. 

In the section "Le genie desmasqué," (the genius unmasked) de Morgues breaks down the "crimes" of Cardinal Richelieu, particularly of disguising his sermons and using them as propaganda. Another of de Morgues's targets in this book is the Prince of Balsac, but he explains the latter's actions by reasoning that he was given bad advice.

He uses another section past the middle of the book to launch a sarcastic and bitter tirade against Cardinal Richelieu, accusing him of enjoying the torment of people in exile, but also sharing his low opinion of the Parlement of Paris and the justice system in France in general, ironic considering that he spends the dedication to the king begging for his book to one day be considered for approval by the very same people he is attacking. 

DC 123 .A2M67 1637 pg. 608-609.jpg

As noted in the page of this exhibit that focuses on Cardinal Richelieu, Paul Hay du Chastelet was one of Richelieu's favourite writers and one of whom was brought on specifically to discredit de Morgues and ruin his reputation. In another section closer to the end of the book, de Morgues mentions how he and Marie de Médicis chose not to use lawyers to sue the Cardinal for his trangressions against them, and adds that he has never met another person more evil than Richelieu. 

One of de Morgues's favourite titles for the Cardinal was "père de mensonges" (father of lies), additionally calling him ambitious and tyrannical while adding that it made him so sad to see someone so evil in power. He also attacked the Académie Française, which launched Richelieu’s Gazette, the first newspaper in France, accusing the Cardinal of using this publication as a means to control public opinion about the monarchy. 

The book also contains a letter that Marie de Médicis wrote to Louis XIII. De Morgues follows this by talking towards the end of the book about Seneca and other philosophers. In addition, de Morgues mentions Jean Sirmond, who he hid behind the name Sabin ("caché sous le nom de Sabin"). Sirmond was yet another of the writers Richelieu hired to slander de Morgues as much as possible. Unfortunately, I did not uncover any clues as to reception history of the work of de Morgues. This would have been useful to gain more insights into his work and the reception thereof. What we can conclude, however, is that in spite of his tempestutous career and his rivalry with Cardinal Richelieu, de Morgues remained true to his convinctions until the end of his life. He was someone who used the printed word as a weapon to spread his counter-messages to the Cardinal's.   

Matthieu de Morgues