Richelieu, Armand Du Plessis

, a celebrated cardinal and minister of France, was the third son of Francis du Plessis, seigneur de Richelieu, knight of the king’s orders, and grand provost of France, and was born Sept. 5, | 1585, at Paris. He was admitted into the Sorbonne at the age of twenty-two, obtained a dispensation from pope Paul V. for the bishopric of Lucon, and was consecrated at Rome in 1607. On his return, he acquired considerable interest at court, and was appointed by Mary de Medicis, then regent, her grand almoner; and in 1616 was raised to the post of secretary of state. After the death of one of his friends, the marshal D’Ancre, in 1617, when Mary was banished to Blois, he followed her thither; but, the duke de Luynes becoming jealous of him, he was ordered to retire to Avignon, and there he wrote his “Method of Controversy,” on the principal points of faith.

In 1619 the king recalled Richelieu, and sent him into Angouleme, where he persuaded the queen to a reconciliation, which was concluded in 1620; and in consequence of this treaty, the duke de Luynes obtained a cardinal’s hat for him from pope Gregory XV. Richelieu, continuing his services after the duke’s decease, was admitted, in 1624, into the council, through the interest of the queen, and almost against the will of the king, who, devout and scrupulous, considered him as a knave, because he had been informed of his gallantries. It is even said that he was insolent enough to aspire to queen Anne of Austria, and that the railleries to which this subjected him were the cause of his subsequent aversion to her. Cardinal Richelieu was afterwards appointed prime minister, head of the councils, high steward, chief, and superintendant-generai of the French trade and navigation. He preserved the Isle of Rhe in 1627, and undertook the siege of Rochelle against the protestants the same year. He completed the conquest of Rochelle in October 1628, in spite of the king of Spain, who had withdrawn his forces, of the king of England, who could not relieve it, and of the French king, who grew daily more weary of the undertaking, by means of that famous mole, executed by his orders, but planned by Lewis Metezeau and John Tiriot. The capture of Rochelle proved a mortal blow to the protestants, but in France was reckoned the most glorious and beneficial circumstance of cardinal Richelieu’s administration. He also attended his majesty to the relief of the duke of Mantua in 1629, raised the siege of Casal, and, at his return, compelled the protestants to accept the treaty of peace which had been concluded at Alais, and completed | the ruin of their party. Six months after this, cardinal Richelieu, having procured himself to be appointed lieutenant-general of the army beyond the mountains, took Pignerol, relieved Casal a second time, which was besieged by the marquis Spinola, defeated general Doria, by means of the duke de Monttnorenci at Vegliana, July 10, 1630, and made himself master of all Savoy. Louis XIII. having returned to Lyons, in consequence of sickness, the queenmother, and most of the nobility, took advantage of this circumstance to form plots against Richelieu, and speak ill of his conduct to the king, which they did with so much success, that Louis promised the queen to discard him. The cardinal’s ruin now seemed inevitable, and he was actually preparing to set out for Havre-de Grace, which he had chosen for his retreat, when cardinal de la Valette, knowing that the queen had not followed her son to Versailles, advised him first to see his majesty. In this interview, he immediately cleared himself from all the accusations of his enemies, justified his conduct, displayed the advantages and necessity of his administration, and wrought so forcibly upon the king’s mind by his reasoning, that, instead of being discarded, he became from that moment more powerful than ever. He inflicted the same punishments upon his enemies which they had advised for him; and this day, so fortunate for Richelieu, was called “The Day of Dupes.” Those who had the misfortune to incur his displeasure, certainly did not all deserve the penalties to which he doomed them; but he knew how to make himself master of their fate, by appointing such judges to try them as were at his disposal. That abominable method of taking the accused from their lawful judges, had, in the preceding century, served as a means for the families of condemned persons to get their characters restored; after which the French had no reason to fear its revival; but Richelieu hesitated not to adopt it, though at the risque of general odium, as being favourable to his designs. By thus making himself master of the lives and fortunes of the mal-contents, he imposed silence even on their murmurs. This artful minister, being now secure of his lasting ascendancy over the king, and having already accomplished one of the two great objects which he had proposed to himself from the beginning of his administration, which were, the destruction of the protestants, and the humbling the too great power of the house of Austria, began now | to contrive means for executing this second undertaking. The principal and most efficacious method employed by the cardinal with that view, was a treaty he concluded, January 23, 1631, with Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden, for currying the war into the heart of Germany. He also formed a league with the duke of Bavaria, secured to himself Lorrain, raised part of the German princes against the emperor, treated with Holland to continue the war wirh Spain, favoured the Catalonians and Portuguese when they shook off the Spanish yoke, and, in short, made use of so many measures and stratagems, that he completely accomplished his design. Cardinal Richelieu was carrying on the war with success, and meditating on that glorious peace, which was not concluded till 1648, when h died in his palace at Paris, worn out by his long toils, December 4,“1642, aged fifty-eight. He was buried at the Sorbonne, where his mausoleum (the celebrated Girardon’s master-piece) may be seen. He is considered as one of the most complete statesmen, and ablest politicians, that France ever had. Amidst all the anxieties which the fear of his enemies must necessarily occasion, he formed the most extensive and complicated plans, and executed them with great superiority of genius. It was cardinal Richelieu who established the throne, while yet shaken by the protestant factions, and the power of the House of Austria, and made the royal authority completely absolute, and independent, by the extinction of the petty tyrants who wasted the kingdom. In the mean time he omitted nothing which could contribute to the glory of France. He promoted arts and sciences; founded the botanical garden at Paris called the king’s garden; also the French academy, and the royal printing-office; built the palace since called the Palais Royal, and gave it to his majesty; rebuilt the Sorbonne (of which he was provisor) in a style of kingly magnificence; and prepared for all the splendour of Louis the Fourteenth’s reign. His enemies, says the abbe L’Atocat, unable to deny his great talents, have reproached him with great faults; irregularity of conduct, unbounded ambition, universal despotism, from which even the king, his master, did not escape; for he left him, as they express it, only the power of curing the evil; a vanity and ostentation which exceeded the dignity of the throne itself, where all was simplicity and negligence, while the cardinal’s court exhibited nothing but pomp and | splendour; unexampled ingratitude to his benefactress, queen Mary de Medicis, whom he inhumanly compelled to end her da*ys in Germany, in obscurity and indigence; and, finally, his revengeful temper, which occasioned so many cruel executions; as those of Chalais, Grandier, the marechal de Marillac, M. de Montmorenci, Cinqmars, M. de Thou, &c. Even the queen, for having written to the duchess de Chevreuse, Richelieu’s enemy, and a fugitive, saw all her papers seized, and was examined before the chancellor Sequier. Mad. de la Fayette, mad. de Hautefort, and father Caussin, the king’s confessors, were all disgraced in consequence of having offended this despotic minister. But, says his apologist, there are many points to be considered with respect to these accusations: it appears certain, from a thousand passages in the life of this celebrated cardinal, that he was naturally very grateful, and never proceeded to punishment but when he thought state affairs required it; for which reason, when in his last sickness, his confessor asked” if he forgave his enemies?“he replied,I never had any but those of the state.“At the head of his” Political Testament“may be seen his justification of himself on the subject of these bloody executions, with which he has been so much reproached. It is equally certain, that he never oppressed the people by taxes or exorbitant subsidies, notwithstanding the long wars he had to carry on; and that, if he was severe in punishing crimes, he knew how to distinguish merit, and reward it generously. He bestowed the highest ecclesiastical dignities on such bishops and doctors as he knew to be men of virtue and learning; placed able and experienced generals at the head of the armies, and entrusted public business with wise, punctual, and intelligent men. It was this minister who established a navy. His vigilance extended through every part of the government; and, notwithstanding the cabals, plots, and factions, which were incessantly forming against him during the whole course of his administration (and which must have employed great part of his time) he left sufficient sums behind him to carry on the war with glory; and France was in a more powerful and flourishing state at the time of his decease than when Louis XIV. died. After stating these facts, Richelieu’s enemies areinvited to determine whether France would have derived more advantage from being governed by Mary de Medicis, Gaston of Orleans, &c. than by this cardinal | The estate of Richelieu was made a dukedom in his favour, in 1631, and he received other honours and preferments. Besides the” Method of Controversy“he wrote, 2.” The principal points of the Catholic Faith defended, against the writing addressed to the king by the ministers of Charenton.“3.” The most easy and certain Method of converting those who are separated from the Church.“These pieces are written with force and vivacity. He wrote also,A Catechism,“in which he lays down the doctrine of the church, in a clear and concise manner and a treatise of piety, called,” The Perfection of a Christian.“These are his theological works; and they have been often printed: but that which is most read, and most worthy of being read, is his” Political Testament," the authenticity of which has been doubted by some French writers, particularly Voltaire. The cardinal also had the ambition to be thought a dramatic poet; and, says lord Chesterfield, while he absolutely governed both his king and country, and was, in a great degree, the arbiter of the fate of all Europe, he was more jealous of the great reputation of Corneille, than of the power of Spain; and more flattered with being thought (what he was not) the best poet, than with being thought (what he certainly was) the greatest statesman in Europe; and affairs stood still, while he was concerting the criticism upon the Cid. 1


Dict. Hist. de L’Avocat. —Moreri. Hist, of France.