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Colbert and the Nièvre

Act VI The end of the journey

4 November 2021

At the end of October 1660, Colbert was about to complete his second voyage to the Duchy of Nevers. Faced with the magnitude of the task he still had to accomplish, Colbert warned his mentor that he would be forced to return to the Duchy the following year to carry out his mission: “And I know the advantage very well.  I receive to not move away from Your Eminence, I do not fail to tell her that if she loves this duchy, it is necessary to work, as of this winter, for the reestablishment of the peerage and that it banishes me from near her the months of August and September of next year. ”


The letter sent by Colbert on November 1, 1660 from the town of Donzy marks the end of the correspondence between the two men in Nivernais. Colbert announces in particular his forthcoming return to Paris where he will be able to “tell him in detail all that happened in [his] travel and all that it is possible to do for the reestablishment of this great land. ”


Colbert will no longer return to the duchy on behalf of Mazarin because the latter died on March 9, 1661, bequeathing his immense fortune to his nephews and nieces. Most of the inheritance goes to the Marquis de La Meilleraye, Duke of Mazarin since his marriage to Hortense Mancini. As for the Duchy of Nevers, it falls to Philippe Mancini. Colbert continued his career and became intendant of finances on March 8, 1661. He then convinced Louis XIV of the strategic importance of wood resources and of the need to put the forests of the royal domain in order to increase income. From October 15, 1661, a decision of the council ordered the general reform of the forests. The Ordinance of Louis XIV on Water and Forests, drafted at the instigation of Colbert, was promulgated a few years later, on August 13, 1669, and established rules for the exploitation and conservation of Crown forests with precision while subjecting the exploitation and administration of the woods of the laity and ecclesiastics to close control by the King’s officers.


Visuals: Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Colbert by Philippe de Champaigne and extract from Cassini’s map.

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