LE CARDINAL DE RICHELIEU (1585-1642) | AU CŒUR DE L’HISTOIRE | EUROPE 1
Cardinal Armand Jean du Plessis, Duke of Richelieu and Fronsac (French pronunciation: [aʁmɑ̃ ʒɑ̃ dy plɛsi]; 9 September 1585 – 4 December 1642), commonly referred to
as Cardinal Richelieu (French: Cardinal de Richelieu [kaʁdinal d(ə) ʁiʃ(ə)ljø]), was a French clergyman, nobleman, and statesman. He was consecrated as a bishop in 1607 and was appointed Foreign Secretary in 1616. Richelieu soon rose in both the Catholic Church and the French government, becoming a cardinal in 1622, and King Louis XIII's chief minister in 1624. He remained
in office until his death in 1642; he was succeeded by Cardinal Mazarin, whose career he had fostered.
Cardinal de Richelieu was often known by
the title of the king's "Chief Minister" or "First Minister". He sought to consolidate royal power and crush domestic factions. By restraining the power of the nobility, he transformed France into a strong, centralized
state. His chief foreign policy objective was to check the power of the Austro-Spanish Habsburg
dynasty, and to ensure French dominance in the Thirty Years' War that engulfed Europe. Although he was a cardinal, he did not hesitate to make alliances
with Protestant rulers in attempting to achieve his goals. While a powerful political figure, events like the Day
of the Dupes (Jour des Dupes) show that in fact he very much depended on the king's confidence to keep this power.
As alumnus of the University
of Paris and headmaster of the College of Sorbonne,
he renovated and extended the institution. Richelieu was also famous for his patronage of the arts; most notably, he founded the Académie
française, the learned society responsible for matters pertaining to the French
language. Richelieu is also known by the sobriquet l'Éminence rouge ("the Red Eminence"), from the red shade of a cardinal's clerical dress and the style "eminence" as a cardinal. As an advocate for Samuel
de Champlain and of the retention of New France, he founded the Compagnie
des Cent-Associés and saw the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Layereturn Quebec
City to French rule under Champlain, after the settlement had been taken by the Kirkes in 1629. This in part allowed the colony to eventually develop into the heartland
of Francophone culture in North America.
He is also a leading character in The
Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and its numerous