The topics of this blog are Armand-Jean du Plessis, Cardinal Duke of Richelieu, and the IDEAL CITY built on his command next to his magnificent CHÂTEAU on the borders of Touraine, Anjou and Poitou, in France.

Monday, 28 May 2007

The Cardinal liked cats - in 1642 he had fourteen!









Here are some of the names of the fourteen favourite felines: Racan (poet and Academician), Gazette (indiscrete), Rubis sur l'Ongle (scratchy), Pyrame & Thysbe (lovers who slept with paws entwined), Serpolet (loved sunning himself), Felimare (tiger-striped), Soumise (submissive, R's favourite), Lucifer (jet black), Ludovic le Cruel (rat-killer), Ludoviska (rat-catcher's Polish mistress), Mimi-Paillon ('straw' angora), Mounard le Fougueux ('ardent', quarellsome,capricious,worldy), Perruque (fell from Racan's wig), and Gavroche (gastro-angora).
There was a museum dedicated to the cat at 15 Grande Rue accommodated in one of the 28 matching hotêls particuliers (individual mansions) that flank the High Street. It was a good opportunity to see the interior of one of these grand houses. Sadly Madame Leroy (sic!) closed the museum in July 2007 and moved away.
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9 comments:

silverwhistle said...

Utterly charming! Thank you for posting this! The illustrations are adorable!

silverwhistle said...

Please could you tell me what is the source for the names and characters of the cats?

henri proust said...

Frankly I can't remember, as this post is already three years old; probably I found it somewhere on the web with Google. Unfortunately the town of Richelieu's 'Musée du chat' has now closed as the years crept up on the owner, Madame Le Roy (sic!), so the real expertise is now dissipated. I know that you can't trust everything you read on the web, but who could have invented those names. I think it has been accepted as untrue that R left money for his cats in his will......

silverwhistle said...

Thanks!
There are 15 cats in your list!
'Mimi-Paillon' is suspiciously like "ma mie Piaillon", Mademoiselle de Gournay's cat, to whom Armand is said to have given an allowance as part of his apology to her (in Tallement des Réaux's Historiettes, c. 1659, not published till later): I wonder if this name is a cross-over from that story, or if Armand inherited the cat (or one of its kittens) after the old lady died?

His reputation as a cat-lover seems to have been well-established by the 18C: Jean-Henri Marchand, Testament politique de M. de Voltaire (1771); Moutonnet de Clairfons, La Galéide, ou, Le chat de la nature (1798). Nothing, however, in Moncrif's Les Chats, which only mentions Colbert's cats in passing.

Given Armand's physical suffering (I've been helping a friend prepare a seminar on his health – the poor man was terribly ill for years, which makes his achievements all the more astonishing), I'm sure he found them a comfort and consolation.

silverwhistle said...

Another interesting note: Elizabeth Wirth Marwick, The Young Richelieu (Chicago, 1983), says she has been unable to find contemporary documentation on cats, but that he had canaries and warblers, and also 12 small dogs were boarded at Rueil. She wonders if lap-dogs have been turned into cats in the telling. (p. 242, n. 124) But that would be a bizarre change to make.

Telanu said...

Reposting my question to fix my directional fail in the first attempt...

Wonderful post in a wonderful blog! Thanks so much for sharing these. Any idea who the young woman is sitting with Richelieu in the bottom left image? I'm assuming it's the Duchesse d'Aiguillon, but I could be wrong.

RaeMarie said...

I have a question and I know it's kind of stupid but people say Richelieu was an evil, terrible cardinal. I don't know the history of this period from a hole in the ground so I thought this would be a good place to ask, is it true?

Abbé Henri Proust said...

Dear RaeMarie,
Opinions are divided. The celebrated 19th century author, Dumas, painted him as very Machiavellian in 'The Three Musketeers', but this literary version was a distortion of the historical reality. Richelieu's period of being First Minister to the king (1625-40) followed a very violent time in French history, when any political leader would be obliged to do many harsh things. But he was faithful to his King, Louis XIII, until his early death, and is today considered the 'father' of the France we know today; the French call it the 'Hexagon' after the shape of the frontiers established by the Cardinal's successful politics with Spain and others.

Anonymous said...

I always did think this was true, but now it's looking more and more likely to me that Richelieu never had cats. I can't find a source anywhere for all this oft-repeated "information" on the web; people just seem to be copying one another. The earlier comment about the 1938 biographer who was unable to find contemporary documentation is significant. Katharine Macdonogh, in her 1999 book "Reigning Cats and Dogs, A History of Pets at Court Since the Renaissance", states on page 124 that the story is a myth, and that it was invented by Paradis de Moncrief, a "toady" at the court of Louis XV.

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