Richelieu, Armand-Jean du Plessis, Cardinal

(1585-1642)
   prelate, statesman
   Armand-Jean du Plessis, Cardinal Richelieu, who more than anyone else promoted absolutism in France, was born in Paris and was destined for a military career. The need to keep the bishopric of Luçon in the family caused him to change to theological studies, and in 1607, he was consecrated a bishop. He zealously administered his diocese and, in 1614, was named a clerical delegate to the estates general. He soon won the favor of the queen mother, marie de' medici, and in 1616, became secretary of state, but the following year he was banished with the queen from court. During his exile at his priory at Coussay, he wrote Défense des principaux points de la foi catholique and an Instruction pour les chrétiens. His role in the reconciliation of the queen with her son louis x III brought him a cardinal's hat (1622), and in 1624 he became the king's chief minister. More a pragmatic statesman than a reformer, Richelieu remained in power for the rest of his life, pursuing a twofold policy: the restoration of royal power and the preponderance of France in Europe. in domestic affairs, he fought against all who would have inhibited royal authority, opposing even Marie de' Medici, who never ceased to plot against him. He executed many aristocratic opponents of the king. At the same time, he fought against Protestant power in France, besieging La Rochelle and ending huguenot political and military strength, although assuring them religious freedom. Royal authority was strengthened through centralization and a general reorganization of the state bureaucracy. Legislation and the Royal Council were reformed, the right of remonstrance of the parlements was reduced, and intendants were installed. The state also became involved in religious affairs, fighting against the rise of jansenism, while Richelieu came into conflict with the Holy see by imposing a tax on the clergy's properties. in 1637 and 1639, Richelieu also undertook several financial reforms throughout the country, while encouraging the creation of a navy, the development of trade, and the growth of a colonial empire. He intervened, too, in the world of the arts, with the founding of the Académie Française (1635). He enlarged the sorbonne and built the Palais-Cardinal, later the Palais-Royal. Richelieu's foreign policy rested on his alliances with the Protestant princes against the Hapsburgs. As an alliance was being concluded in 1625 by the marriage of Henrietta marie of France with Charles i of England, France invaded the valteline passes through the Alps, cutting off all communication among Austria, Spain, and Italy. He sent military expeditions to Italy (1629-30), while the invasion of duchy of Savoy brought the acquisition of Pig-nerol for France and the duchy of Mantua for the House of Nevers, which supported France. After having subsidized Gustavus Adolfus II of sweden and the Protestant princes, France entered into the thirty years' war (1635). The conquest of Alsace from the Holy Roman Empire and Artois and Catalonia from spain assured France a preponderant place in Europe and confirmed again the success of the cardinal's foreign policy. Richelieu left a Testament politique, and a collection of his letters has been edited.

France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present . 1884.

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