Search This Blog

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Cardinal Richelieu


Armand du Plessis was born in Paris on September 9, 1585, the fourth of five children.

Armand's father, François du Plessis, seigneur de Richelieu, was a soldier and courtier who served as the Grand Provost of France and his mother, Susanne de La Porte, was the daughter of a famous jurist.

Armand was delicate from childhood, and suffered frequent bouts of ill-health throughout his life.

François du Plessis died fighting in the French Wars of Religion, leaving his wife and children in debt; with the aid of royal grants, however, the family was able to avoid financial difficulties.

At the age of nine, young Armand's was sent to the College of Navarre in Paris to study philosophy. Thereafter, he began to train for a military career.


Cardinal Richelieu's powerful, analytical intellect was characterized by a reliance on reason, strong will, the ability to govern others and the of use political power effectively. Richelieu adhered to the maxim that "the ends justify the means."

Cardinal de Richelieu by Philippe de Champaigne (1642)

King Henry III had rewarded Richelieu's father for his participation in the Wars of Religion by granting his family the bishopric of Luçon. In order to keep the diocese of Luçon, Armand Jean needed to become a monk. For that purpose he joined the Grande Chartreuse, the main monastery of the Carthusian order.

Richelieu was consecrated as a bishop in 1607. For this he needed a dispensation of the pope, as at age of 21, he was too young to become a bishop.

Richelieu later entered politics and became France's Secretary of State for foreign affairs in 1616.

After the death of the King's favourite, the duc de Luynes, in 1621, Richelieu began to rise to power quickly. The year after, the king nominated Richelieu for a cardinalate, which Pope Gregory XV accordingly granted on April 19, 1622.

He became King Louis XIII's chief minister on August 13, 1624. Cardinal de Richelieu was often known by the title of the King's "Chief Minister". As a result, he is sometimes said to be the world's first Prime Minister.

Richelieu set out to secure the authority of the crown through force and political repression. He played havoc with France's Protestant church and in 1627, the cardinal ordered the army to besiege the Huguenot stronghold of La Rochelle; Richelieu personally commanded the besieging troops. The city remained firm for over a year before capitulating in 1628.

Henri Motte's depiction of Cardinal Richelieu at the Siege of La Rochelle.

After putting down the Huguenot political uprising, Richelieu still allowed the French Protestants some religious freedom.

By 1631 Richelieu had plotted against the king, and replaced his enemies in the government. By restraining the power of the nobility, he transformed France into a strongly centralized state.

His chief foreign policy objective was to check the power of the Austro-Spanish Habsburg dynasty; although a Roman Catholic cardinal, Richelieu did not hesitate to make alliances with Protestant rulers.

Cardinal Richelieu remained in office until his death in 1642; then Jules Cardinal Mazarin became chief minister.


Even before becoming Prime Minister, Richelieu's political views were well-defined. He believed everyone in society played a specific role in the system, making their unique contributions: the nobility with arms under the control of the king, and the common people through obedience.

Richelieu believed in the divine right of the king, and the mission of the Roman Church, although he contended that the church's job was merely a spiritual one, in which they should not get involved in the affairs of the state. The clergy's role, he believed, was to pray, whilst the king and those who govern were above everything.


Cardinal Richelieu was so fond of cats that he shared his home with 14 of them. Specially appointed attendants cared for the moggies.

Upon his death, the Cardinal left all his worldly wealth to his feline companions. They included:

Félimare, who was striped like a tiger.
Gazette, who was described as "indiscreet."
Lucifer, a jet black angora.
Ludovic le Cruel who was a savage rat-killer
Perruque, named thus because as a kitten, she fell at Richelieu's feet from the wig ("perruque") of an academic named Racan
Pyrame and Thisbe who were named after the mythological lovers because they slept together w/ paws intertwined
Rubis sur l'Ongle who was especially fond of milk.
Serpolet, who was fond of sunning himself in the window.
Soumise, Cardinal Richelieu's favorite.


For many years Richelieu had suffered from recurrent fevers (possibly malaria), intestinal tuberculosis with fistula, and migraines. By late 1642 his right arm was suppurating with tubercular osteitis, and he was coughing blood. Richlieu's doctors continued to bleed him frequently, further weakening him.

Painting by Philippe de Champaigne showing Cardinal Richelieu on his deathbed

Cardinal Richelieu died on December 4, 1642, aged 57. His body was embalmed and interred at the church of the Sorbonne.

Sources All-Art, Compton's Encyclopedia

No comments:

Post a Comment