Maximilien de Béthune

Castle of Sully-sur-Loire

A Man with Multiple Responsibilities

Maximilien de Béthune and Henri of Navarre
Maximilien de Béthune, Marquis of Rosny, Duke of Sully, was a close associate of Henri of Navarre from an early age. His father introduced him to Henri of Navarre in July 1572. He was a protestant and, on 24th August 1572, he escaped the St Bartholomew’s night massacre. In February 1576, Henri of Navarre, later Henri IV, retained at court since 1572, fled Paris during a hunt. Maximilien, who joined him, became an ordinary soldier in the protestant army.
A man of war
In 1580, to thank him for his courage, Henri of Navarre made Maximilien de Béthune a State Counselor of Navarre when Maximilien was only twenty years old. Many wars followed during which he demonstrated his military talents, particularly in the artillery. During the great battle of Ivry in March 1590, his courage and that of his co-religionists enabled Henri IV to triumph. More than 6,000 Catholics died on that day, enabling the King’s army to march towards Paris. Maximilien, gravely wounded, barely escaped death. Acknowledging his bravery, Henri IV appointed him a Knight of the Accolade, like a medieval hero.
Superintendent of Finances (1598)
Having demonstrated his military prowess, Maximilien de Béthune placed his talent for organization and devotion at the service of the kingdom and in 1598 became superintendent of finances. When he arrived, the kingdom’s finances were in a catastrophic state. The emergency technical measures he suggested to the King were radical and aimed at a rapid reform of the accounts: bankruptcy, loans, sales of offices, debt negotiations with foreign countries. In the medium term, by March 1600, direct tax was reorganized on the basis of a centralized tax administration.  In 1603, he proposed one of his pilot measures, the “Paulette” which enshrined the heredity of charges imposing the payment of a specific tax. From the economic point of view, he encouraged increased trade and agriculture too. His measures and organizational changes enabled France to achieve a budget surplus by 1604 and Maximilien became an indispensable minister.
Grand Voyer of France (1599)
This new post was designed to centralize public works missions linked to the reconstruction of the kingdom. He organized an efficient system and undertook or completed many building projects in Paris and in the provinces: the Pont Neuf, the Place Royale, the Place Dauphine and the Briare Canal.
Superintendent of Fortifications (1599)
As Maximilien was a fine strategist, it was natural for Henri IV to ask him to fortify the country’s frontiers, creating or modernizing its fortresses. He thus directed projects in Langres and Metz, but also in Antibes, Toulon and Marseille.
Grand Master of the Artillery (late 1599)
As an artillery specialist, Maximilien was entrusted with supplying the army with cannons, cannon balls and gunpowder. This prestigious task placed him in an important position, just below that of the Connétable, the minister in charge of the army. His organizational abilities enabled him to rationalize the supply corps and the production of equipment. His official quarters in the Paris Arsenal became one of the nerve centers of power.
Governor of the Bastille and Superintendent of the King's Buildings (1602)
<b>Governor of the Bastille and Superintendent of the King's Building (January 1602)</b> Alongside the Arsenal, the royal prison was a strategic location where influential people were held. As a trusted associate of the King, Maximilien’s task was to snuff out plots and schemes there.   <b>Superintendent of the King’s Buildings (February 1602).</b>                                          In addition to his post of Grand Voyer, Maximilien directed the building operations in the King’s chateaux in and around Paris. Major construction work was done at the Louvre and the Tuileries under his management.  
Marshal of France (1634)
A year after the death of Henri IV, Sully resigned from his post as Superintendent of Finance, embarked on his memoirs and devoted himself to developing and managing his personal fortune. Over the following years, he gave up all his public responsibilities, one by one. In 1634, Louis XIII awarded him one last distinction, appointing him a Marshal of France.
Credits: Story

Departmental Council of Loiret
Director of the Château de Sully-sur-Loire – Benjamin FENDLER
Texts: Thierry FRANZ
Photographs: Adeline GAFFEZ
Virtual exhibition designed by Adeline GAFFEZ

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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