chapter  8
66 Pages

1626: ‘The Chief Cause of these Evils and Mischiefs’

Buckingham can hardly have been surprised by Louis’s refusal to become a member of the league of anti-Habsburg states which was created at the Hague in December 1625. Some months earlier, before leaving for Holland, he had told the Venetian ambassador of his belief that the Depots were now in the ascendant in France and had persuaded Louis to commit himself to the destruction of the Huguenots rather than the containment of Habsburg power. The evidence certainly seemed to confirm this pessimistic prognosis, for on 5 September a French naval squadron (which included English and Dutch elements) encountered the Huguenot fleet off the lie de Re, within sight of La Rochelle, and in a two-day battle virtually annihilated it. Soubise, with a handful of ships, fled to Falmouth, where he was given protection against his French pursuers. Meanwhile Louis’s army occupied Re and the neighbouring island of Oleron, and cleared the way for the blockade of La Rochelle itself. The destruction of Soubise’s fleet meant that La Rochelle was no longer at sea power in her own right and was now almost totally dependent upon England for the maintenance of her independence. The leading citizens of the town realised that they would have to make their peace with Louis, but they called on Charles to guarantee the terms of any settlement they might conclude and to promise his assistance in case Louis subsequently refused to implement them .1