Louis II de Bourbon

Louis II de Bourbon

(1621-1686)

Louis II of the House of Bourbon was born in Paris. He became the leader of his family, a junior branch of the royal house of Bourbon. The Conde (the title means “prince”) was educated by Jesuit teachers, and he married Mademoiselle de Maille-Breze in 1641; she was a niece of Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII.

Due to his family standing and marriage, the Conde was given command of the royal army of France in 1643. In that critical year, late in the Thirty Years’ War, he won an over¬ whelming victory against the Spanish at the Battle of Rocroi.

Louis combined the use of cavalry and musketeers to defeat the famed Spanish tercios, who had been nearly unbeat¬ en on the battlefield since the early 16th cen¬ tury. In one day of fighting, the Conde ended Spanish power in northern Europe and elevat¬ ed France to the rank of first power in Europe.

Following the deaths of both King Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu, the Conde served King Louis XIV and Cardinal Jules Mazarin. He led a brilliant campaign in the Netherlands in 1646 and won a great victory at Lens in 1648.

The Conde took the side of the aristocratic rebels during the Fronde of the Princes (1651-1632). This rebellion collapsed in 1652, and he fled the country to join the forces of King Philip IV of Spain in the Netherlands. Condemned as a traitor and sen¬ tenced to death in his absence, the Conde fought with the Spanish until the Treaty of the Pyrenees ended the Franco-Spanish War in 1659.

Remarkably, the Conde was restored to his lands, states and titles, and the condemnation and sentence were removed. King Louis XIV was reluctant to entrust a great command to the former rebel, but in 1668, the Conde led a campaign into the area of Franche-Comte.Louis II de Bourbon, the Great Conde His performance was good enough to earn him a promotion.

In 1672, the Conde led the French army in its famous crossing of the Rhine at the start of the French-Dutch War (1672—1676). He was wounded in the crossing, and his battle actions caused him to lose the confidence of the king. The Conde was more cautious than in his early years; he missed a chance to defeat the Dutch at the Battle of Seneffe (1674).

His last days in battle were spent in a cam¬ paign to defend the province of Alsace from attack (1675).The great commander then retired to his estate at Chantilly and lived the life of a country gentleman. He died at Fountain- bleau, after having sent a letter to King Louis XIV asking the monarch to forgive his actions during the period of the Fronde.