Saturday, January 28, 2012

Regarding English Aid to La Rochelle. Benjamin Rohan, Duc de Soubise (1583-1642)

by Shawn Lamb

Benjamin is the younger brother of Henri de Rohan, and inherited his title from his mother Catherine of Parthenay. The Rohan brothers divided France between them in forms of leadership. Naturally, as duke, Henri was considered the supreme commander of the Huguenots, but in many ways, Benjamin was more the zealot Reformer. In fact, he was considered a hothead by Marie de Medicis and involved in a number of hostile confrontations at Court. Being cousin to King Henry IV saved his life on several occasions.

Benjamin proved his military and naval leadership in 1621, when he defeated the royal fleet at the River Blavet. Before this, many looked upon his exploits as those of a brigand. Henri didn’t contain his brother’s activities since he need Benjamin’s leadership and help to institute reforms. At first Benjamin was at La Rochelle while Henri raised arms in the south. However, Benjamin’s lack of patience with the stubborn populous at La Rochelle to submit to his authority, prompted him to leave for England to solicit aid. More rightly, he was itching for a fight. This act was the final straw for the French Court in tolerating his rebellious behavior and he was declared lèse-majesté, guilty of treason.

In England, Benjamin’s exploits preceded him and he was warmly welcomed and given asylum by his kinsman, King Charles I. The Rohans were related to almost every royal family in Europe, which is why Richelieu treaded lightly in dealing with the family, they could call upon England, Spain and Austria for military assistance. To Benjamin’s pleasure, Charles was already predisposed to providing the aid he sought for La Rochelle; it was Buckingham who remained skeptical.

The duke’s longstanding personal feud with Louis and Richelieu were having a profound effect upon the royal family of England. Shortly before Benjamin’s arrival, Buckingham convinced Charles to dismiss all of Queen Henrietta’s French servants. His argument was valid - she was now Queen of England, she should speak English, employ English servants and engage the people of England. The Queen’s refusal led to swift action and her French servants were whisked away so fast she never got to say good-bye.

Louis sent Marshal Bassompierre to England to complain of the insult to his sister. Buckingham offered to go to France and soothe over the situation, but Richelieu refused to allow him to set foot in France. At this latest insult to the English Prime Minister from a mere cardinal, Buckingham was more willing to listen to Benjamin.

On July 17th, 1627, Buckingham set sail with a fleet to La Rochelle. Benjamin was aboard the duke’s ship and key in providing military intelligence concerning La Rochelle and islands of Re or Oleron. But this aid would be too little and too late.

In a surprising turn, the novice French fleet, commanded by Admiral Montmorency, would defeat the famed English navy. It wasn’t the defeat that crushed Benjamin’s spirit, but the ultimate surrender of La Rochelle, which resulted in the capture of his mother and sister. Henri would suffer exile and Benjamin swore never to set foot in France again. Even the Edict of Grace was not sufficient to persuade him to return. To the day of his death in London, Benjamin believed the failure of the English fleet to liberate La Rochelle was due to the commanders’ stubbornness not to listen to his advice.

See Shawn's article on Benjamin's brother, Henri de Rohan HERE.

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Shawn began her writing career in television, writing for Filmation Studio’s series BraveStarr. She won several screenwriting awards including a Certificate of Merit from the American Association of Screenwriters. Recently she became a winner in The Authors Show contest 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading for 2011. Shawn lives in Nashville with her husband Rob and their daughter, Briana.


  1. Wonderful background information. Adds another layer to the Huguenot Sword. Thanks for sharing! :)

  2. That was very fascinating, Shawn! That poor disillusioned man to see all his efforts come to naught.

    I am in the middle of reading your book now and have met Benjamin's brother and Buckingham. Loving it!

    Thanks for the post!

  3. Ah Tessy. Loved this. Fascinating and very entertaining. So much research must take tons of time and effort. The history lesson is invaluable. Thank you so much. *smooches*


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