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.

Tuesday 18 December 2007

A wily RED bird - The Cardinal

"a wily old rascal"; shrewd, clever, sharp, sharp-witted, astute, canny, smart; crafty, cunning, artful, sly, scheming, calculating, devious; informal clueful, tricky, foxy; archaic subtle. (antonym naive).

wily |ˌwʌɪli|
adjective ( wilier , wiliest )
skilled at gaining an advantage, esp. deceitfully : his wily opponents.

Thursday 13 December 2007

Joyeux Fêtes - Merry Christmas

Antoine Rossignol and his son Bonaventure were the chief code-masters for the two Louis' XIII and XIV. They first de-crypted Hugenot ciphers at the seige of Réalmont in 1626.  They worked at the two King's sides for many years. Together they were responsible for 'Le Grand Chiffre de Louis XIV', or the Grand Cipher of Louis XIV, a cipher so difficult to de-crypt that it remained unbroken until finally solved in 1890 by Etienne Bazeries of the French Army's cryptographic department.

But concerning our Christmas and New Year 2008 Greeting -

This year we are sending our secret 2007 greeting enciphered, using a virtual 'Enigma' cipher machine.

1. Open this web site:
this will supply an Enigma machine for you to decode the secret message or 'ciphertext'.
2. Have a look at the image of the machine where you will see a virtual Enigma machine like the one above (this new one actually works!).
3. Then click on the 'settings' button.
4. Make the following 'Day' settings:
Wheel (or rotor) order - 123
Ring settings - 111
Stecker (or plug) pairs - AB CD
Indicator settings - AAA
(don't forget to 'set' your settings!)
5. Click on the 'machine' button.
6. Enter the first six 'ciphertext' letters of the message below by clicking sequentially on the keyboard.
7. Our three-letter 'Message' code should appear as two identical sequences of three letters on the lampboard and the digital readout.
8. Now click on the letters on the three rotor windows, one after the other (from left to right), until they together display the three-letter 'Message' code.
9. Enter the rest of the 'ciphertext' letters below, starting from letter 7. Read off our Xmas Message in 'plaintext'.

The 'ciphertext' message is:


(disregard the spaces; the messages are always grouped in fives!)


If you use Macs rather than PCs, here is an even better 'Enigma' emulator program to play with:
.............HAVE FUN

Monday 3 December 2007

La Ville de Richelieu is 'Hippodamian'........uh??!!

Hippodamus of Miletus

Hippodamus of Miletus (sometimes also called Hippodamos, Greek: Ἱππόδαμος), was a Greek town planner of the 5th century BC. He created plans of Hellenic colony cities that featured order and regularity, in contrast to the more common intricacy and confusion common to cities such as Athens, and he is seen as the originator of the idea that a town plan might formally embody and clarify a rational social order. According to Aristotle (in Politics), he originated the art of Town Planning, and devised an ideal city to be inhabited by 10,000 citizens, divided into three classess (soldiers, artisans and 'husbandmen'), with the land also divided into three (sacred, public and private). He also evidently had a reputation as a lover of attention. According to Aristotle's description in Politics, "Some people thought he carried things too far, indeed, with his long hair, expensive ornaments, and the same cheap warm clothing worn winter and summer."
For Pericles he planned the arrangement of the harbour-town Piraeus at Athens in the middle of the fifth century BC. When the Athenians founded Thurii in Italy in 443 BC he accompanied the colony as architect - although he was not actually an architect in the sense of a building designer. He is credited with, in 408 BC, the building of the new city of Rhodes, however as he was involved in 479 BC with helping the reconstruction of Miletus he would have been very old when this project took place.
His grid plans consisted of series of broad, straight streets, cutting one another at forty-five and one hundred thirty-five degree angles. 
(See the post below about the quincunx-planned 'Hippodamian' Henrichemont in Berry. And the cadastral plan of La Ville de Richelieu.)

Pierre Corneille on Armand-Jean du Plessis, Cardinal Duke of Richelieu

When one from Amboise* and youself, by an admirable success
Severally make our peoples rejoice,
Allow me to compare to your unprecedented deeds
Those of this great prelate**, without you incomparable.

He wore like youself the venerable purple 
Of which the holy radiance our eyes bedazzle,
He, like you, kept watch with a care indefatigable,
He thus became like you the heart of a King LOUIS.

He like you travelled the mountains in arméd might.
He knew as well as you how to transform to smoke 
The pride of enemies and to return their blows.

A single aspect of you two formed a difference.
It is that he was formerly to France the Pope’s legate,
While France had wished to make an envoy of Rome of you.***

 - written after 1662 -

* Maréchal Antoine d'Amboise 1605-1650.
** Cardinal Jules Mazarin 1602-1662, Richelieu's successor.
*** Pope Urban VII had refused to make R Papal Legate to France
Celebration at the Peace of the Pyrenees 1659
when the 'hexagon' of modern France was established.

Monseigneur le Cardinal de

Puis qu'un d'Amboise & vous d'un succès admirable
Rendez également nos peuples réjouis, 
Souffrez que je compare à vos faites inouis,
Ceux de ce grand Prélat, sans vous incomparable.

Il porta comme vous la pourpre vénérable, 
De qui le saint éclat rend nous yeux éblouis;
Il veilla comme vous d'un soin indefatigable;
Il fut ainsi que vous le coeur d'un Roi Louis.

Il passa comme vous les monts à main armée,
Il sçut ainsi que vous convertir en fumée
L'orgeuil des ennemis & rabattre leur coups:

Un seul point de vous deux forme la différence.
C'est qu'il fut autrefois Légat du Pape en France
Et la France en voudroit un envoyé de vous.

Qu'on parle mal ou bien du fameux Cardinal,
Ma prose ni mes verses n'en diront jamais rien;
Il m'a fait trop de bien pour en dire du mal,
Il ma fait trop de mal pour en dire du bien.

As to whether one speaks well or badly of the famous Cardinal,
Neither my prose nor my verse ever speak anything of him;
He has done me too much good to speak of him badly,
He has done me too much harm to speak of him well.

Pierre Corneille (b. Rouen, 6 June 1606 - d. Paris, 1 October 1684) is a 17th century French dramatic author. His most famous plays are Le Cid, Cinna, Polyeucte and Horace. The wealth and diversity of his works reflect the the values and cultural questions of his day.

Friday 30 November 2007

Original owners of the Mansions on the Grande Rue, Richelieu, in 1640.

The list included in the following Scribd file below tells of the owners of the 28 matching mansions (hotêls particuliers) in the Grande Rue of the ideal town of Richelieu. They were constructed to a standard design specification determined by Cardinal Richelieu for the sum of 10,000 Livres Tournois (Tour Pounds) each; at the time a princely sum. They were to be ordered by the 'Creatures' of the Cardinal who compised his court; generally those who were endebted to him for their advancement to public office in some way. Had the Cardinal lived beyond his untimely death in 1642 at the age of 57, these houses would have provided his newly constructed Château with a court; company for his later years in retirement. Click on the various buttons of the Scribd file to enlarge, print or download the file.

Tuesday 20 November 2007

Art et Meubles de France - RICHELIEU

Located on the town's industrial estate is the large furniture factory of the company Art et Meubles de France, Richelieu. The company manufactures high quality historic furniture, mainly in accurate reproduction of famous French classical styles. The main production is of the Louis XV and XVI and Directoire styles of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but other earlier periods (including Louis XIII) are made too. The image above for example is a table à gibier, a hunting 'game' table, in the style of the 17th century.

They also make all sorts of architectural fitments and flooring parquet panels, all cabinet-maker produced at very high quality.

Although the firm has reduced in staff size in recent years, it employs many people from the locality in this very specialised craft.

While the 'Richelieu' brand is still made entirely in France, they have now started a second brand, 'Vauban', that is part manufactured in Romania to take advantage of the lower labour costs that can be found in the East.

Each year the company has a 'factory' sale when big reductions on the recommended list prices are offered - sometimes as much as 40%. The most recent took place on 12 November 2007.

Friday 26 October 2007

François Girardon and the tomb of Richelieu in the Sorbonne Chapel.

François Girardon (March 17, 1628 - September 1, 1715) was a French sculptor.
He was born at Troyes. As a boy he had for master a joiner and wood-carver of his native town, named Baudesson, under whom he is said to have worked at the chateau of Liebault, where he attracted the notice of Chancellor Séguier. By the chancellor's influence Girardon was first removed to Paris and placed in the studio of François Anguier, and afterwards sent to Rome.
In 1652 he was back in France, and seems at once to have addressed himself with something like ignoble subserviency to the task of conciliating the court painter Charles Le Brun. Girardon is reported to have declared himself incapable of composing a group, whether with truth or from motives of policy it is impossible to say. This much is certain, that a very large proportion of his work was carried out from designs by Le Brun, and shows the merits and defects of Le Brun's manner--a great command of ceremonial pomp in presenting his subject, coupled with a large treatment of forms which if it were more expressive might be imposing.
The court which Girardon paid to the "premier peintre du roi" was rewarded. An immense quantity of work at Versailles was entrusted to him, and in recognition of the successful execution of four figures for the Bains d'Apollon, Le Brun induced the king to present his protege personally with a purse of 300 louis, as a distinguishing mark of royal favour. In 1650 Girardon was made member of the Académie française, in 1659 professor, in 1674 "adjoint au recteur," and finally in 1695 chancellor. Five years before (1690), on the death of Le Brun, he had also been appointed "inspecteur general des ouvrages de sculpture"--a place of power and profit.
In 1699 he completed the bronze equestrian statue of Louis XIV, erected by the town of Paris on the Place Louis le Grand. This statue was melted down during the Revolution, and is known to us only by a small bronze model (Louvre) finished by Girardon himself. His Tomb of Richelieu (church of the Sorbonne) was saved from destruction by Alexandre Lenoir, who received a bayonet thrust in protecting the head of the cardinal from mutilation. It is a capital example of Girardon's work, and the theatrical pomp of its style is typical of the funeral sculpture of the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV; but amongst other important specimens yet remaining may also be cited the Tomb of Louvois (St Eustache), that of Bignon, the king's librarian, executed in 1656 (St Nicolas du Chardonneret), and decorative sculptures in the Galerie d'Apollon and Chambre du roi in the Louvre.
Mention should not be omitted of the group, signed and dated 1699, "The Rape of Proserpine" at Versailles, which also contains the "Bull of Apollo." Although chiefly occupied at Paris Girardon never forgot his native Troyes, the museum of which town contains some of his best works, including the marble busts of Louis XIV and Maria Theresa. In the hôtel de ville is still shown a medallion of Louis XIV, and in the church of St Remy a bronze crucifix of some importance--both works by his hand. He died in Paris in 1715.

Thursday 25 October 2007

The NW corner tower of the town's walls

The town is surrounded by a girdle wall and moat. For each corner the King's architects, Jacques Lemercier and his brothers, designed a corner pavilion to act as symbolic guard towers to the New Town contained within. Today the most conspicuous pavilions are on the SW and NW corners, as they can be seen from the main road as it passes the town. While the SW pavilion is in good condition - it is now a house accessed from a street just within the walls - the NW pavilion is in a isolated, stranded location and in bad condition. It is isolated by being in the extreme NW corner of the part of the town that was originally the site of the Cardinal's nun's convent. This is also explains why the moat beyond the wall in this direction is open ground, rather than being infilled with garden encroachments from the houses constructed against the town's walls, as elsewhere on the perimeter. If the building's problem of access could be resolved, this corner pavilion that forms such a prominent part of the visitor's first impression of the town could easily be restored and put to use. It certainly is a pretty little building and completely original to the inception of the town in the 1630s.

Monday 8 October 2007

The Cellars and Orangery of the Cardinal's Château

Can any French architectural style surpass the measured masculine elegance of the time of the Mousquetaires? I THINK NOT. These photos of remaining parts of the Château of Cardinal Richelieu - especially the marvellous original carpentry - show that particular balance of Classical elegance, practicality and finessse that is so characteristic of the Louis XIII 'style', before the great Colbert of Louis XIV got all of Versailles' craftsmen progressively 'design co-ordinated' and effeminised.

Friday 5 October 2007

The genealogy of the eight Dukes of Richelieu 1629-1952.

The title of Duke of Richelieu, Peer of France, was created the 26 November 1629 for Armand-Jean du Plessis,  Cardinal of Richelieu by King Louis XIII of France.

The du Plessis family and thus the Cardinal of Richelieu’s coat of arms were :

A silver ground, with three chevrons of crimson.

Being an ecclesiastic and therefore a celibate, the Cardinal clearly could not transmit his titles to direct descendants, but got permission from the King that they should be passed to his elder grand-nephew, Armand Jean de Vignerot, grandson of his elder sister Francoise (1577-1615), who had married Rene de Vignerot, Lord of Pont-Courlay († 1625).
This young (then 3yrs) Armand Jean de Vignerot finally (at 18yrs) added to his name the family name of the Cardinal (du Plessis), adopted the Cardinal's coat of arms (silver with three chevrons of crimson “without the mixing of any others”), and accepted the title of Duke of Richelieu and Peer of France by letters patent from King Louis XIV in 1657.

Apart from direct successions, two other reversions of the ducal title took place; one in in 1822 and the other in 1879.
Armand Emmanuel of Plessis, 5th Duke of Richelieu, died in 1822 without heir, but had got permission that the title of Duke of Richelieu be passed to the son of his half-sister Simplicie and Antoine-Pierre de la Chapelle de Saint-Jean de Jumihac, with reversion in descent to his younger brother in the case where he died without male heir, which did indeed occur in 1879. The title then passing to his nephew. The title became finally extinct in 1952.

First Duke
1629-1642: Armand Jean du Plessis (1585-1642), Cardinal, 1st Duke of Richelieu, principal Minister of State under Louis XIII.

Second Duke
1657-1715: Armand Jean de Vignerot du Plessis (1639-1715), 2nd Duke of Richelieu, grand-nephew of the precedent.

Third Duke
1715-1788: Louis François Armand de Vignerot du Plessis (1696-1788), 3rd Duke of Richelieu, Marshall of France, son of the precedent.
A famous soldier, seducer and lothario. He is the inspiration for the Vicomte de Valmont in the 1782 epistolatory novel 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses' by Laclos, and for Mr. Lovelace in the earlier 1748 novel 'Clarissa' by Richardson.

Fourth Duke
1788-1791: Louis Antoine Sophie de Vignerot of Plessis, Duke of Richelieu, son of the precedent.

Fifth Duke
1791-1822: Armand Emmanuel de Vignerot of Plessis (1766-1822), 5th Duke of Richelieu, president of the Council and minister of Foreign Affairs, then Prime Minister of France, son of the precedent.  
The Château is returned to the 5th Duke and the du Plessis family in 1805 in a damaged state after the Revolution. The 5th Duke had fled the guillotine to St. Petersburg, where he was delegated to found the new city of Odessa on the Black Sea for Catherine the Great, before returning finally to France to a major political career following the eventual defeat of Napoleon I.

Sixth Duke
1822-1879: Armand François Odet de la Chapelle de Saint-Jean de Jumilhac (1804-1879), 6th Duke of Richelieu, great-nephew of the precedent.  
In 1832 the Château de Richelieu is demolished and sold off for building materials by a trader called Boutron, and the domaine falls into disrepair.

Seventh Duke
1879-1880: Marie Odet Richard Armand de la Chapelle de Saint-Jean de Jumilhac (1847-1880), 7th Duke of Richelieu, nephew of the precedent. 
He is married to heiress Alice Heine of New Orleans USA.
Michael Heine, father of Alice, has restored what remained of the Château and Domaine for his now-enobled daughter and her short-lived first husband, the 7th Duke.  Later Alice marries into the royal family of Monaco and becomes the Princess of Monaco (preceding compatriot Grace Kelly in this rôle!).

Eigth Duke
1880-1952: Marie Odet Jean Armand de la chapelle de Saint-Jean de Jumilhac (1875-1952), 8th and last Duke of Richelieu, son of the precedent.  Married Elinor Douglas Wise of Baltimore USA. No issue. In 1930 he donates the Château Park to the Universities of Paris and the  Sorbonne in memory of their foundation by the first Duke.

NB. : The name of Vignerot, original brother-in-law of Cardinal Richelieu, and of his
descendants, can also be spelt Vignerod.

Thursday 4 October 2007

Minister Sully's New Town at Henrichemont

Maximilien de Béthune, duke of Sully (December 13, 1560 – December 22, 1641) was the doughty soldier, French minister, staunch Protestant and faithful right-hand man who enabled Henry IV of France (father of Louis XIII) to accomplish so much.
In 1610 Sully created the Ideal Town of Henrichemont on his estates, named in honour of his king. The architect instructed was Salomon de Brosse. The estates were located in Berry, a hundred kilometres to the east of Richelieu, so the town's concept and design must have been precendental in the mind of the Cardinal in the aspiration to create his own idealised new town.
Today in Henrichement most of the original houses have been over-built in later styles, although one or two de Brosse houses remain, with their characteristic brick pilasters. The 'Union Jack' layout with a central main square dominates the town. The original town design was for a 'quincunx' plan with five squares on all, encircled with a wall with four entry gates with draw-bridges. This layout can be seen on the little concept plan. The four outer squares and the original external girdle wall have been largely over-built as well, although their 'shadows' remain in the town's street layout. The central square has recently been renovated and planted with plane trees, but unfortunately functions mainly as a generous traffic round-about. The fine square has largely been lost to cars and parking.

Tuesday 2 October 2007

The tabac on the Place du Marché

A panorama of the new place du Marché layout, photographed while sipping a one euro espresso outside the recently re-opened café/tabac.

Monday 1 October 2007

Fragments of the Cardinal's Château 're-used'

When Cardinal Richelieu's castle was demolished in the 1820s, the building fabric was sold on, as we would say now, to 'architectural salvage'.  Thus over a large area at the range of an ox-waggon from the Cité Idéale, fragments of the castle were incorporated into all sorts of buildings.  Cut stone-work would no doubt be found in many a farmhouse; a mantle from a fireplace in a country house; some fragments, for example a complete grand doorcase, are on show today in the town's museum. It is thought that these keystones, incorporated into one of the town's grander houses built at the time of demolition, were taken from the château.  
Le Magnifique Chasteau de Richelieu was encrusted with every sort of sculpture, a particular passion of the classically-obsessed Cardinal, and these re-used keystone blocks portray Classical or French heros of ancient times.

Sunday 30 September 2007

Another Grande Rue mansion is restored - progress at September 2007

The restoration work continues at 14 Grande Rue.  The entire structure has been stripped back and the new restoration is well under way.  One can see from these site pictures that the financing of such a large project can require some degree of creativity as they stand beyond the scale of the resources of individuals but below the subsidy provisions of major independant historic buildings.

Thursday 27 September 2007

TVT - Trains à Vapeur de Touraine - Steam Trains of Touraine

This group of enthusiasts are trying to keep open the pretty 10-mile long branch railway line from Richelieu Terminus, through the land of Rabelais' Gargantua, across the Vienne river to mediaeval Chinon. The line, which was opened in 1880 and worked well until the second World War, carried everybody to and fro to connect with the SNCF at Chinon station. And then on to Tours, Paris, Berlin, London, Venice, Istanbul ...... the World. The population did not have cars or planes then, and public transport changed the life of country people; furthermore Richelieu was quite a centre of the livestock trade, supplying Paris with their veal escalopes. But after 1945 the traffic dropped and smaller diesel rail-cars replaced the older steam locomotives with their expensive labour and overhead costs - 12 hours to steam up!
TVT has amassed quite a collection of listed historic locomotives and railway wagons - several unique examples of their class. But 10-year pressure testing for the steam boilers means that much financial support is required on a continuing basis. Furthermore insects have now attacked the railway line sleepers themselves and they now require substantial renovation or replacement. There are also engineering problems of alignment for the tracks after new roadworks have carelessly encroached on railway off-sets.

A case has been made to the Departmental authorities of Indre-et-Loire (37) including a business plan that includes use of the line for film work as well as simple tourist traffic. Many film directors have found that the line and station is ideal for their projects, and it often appears in films representing the 'Old France' of the earlier 20th century period. The director Bernard Tavernier is just one example.

Nonetheless the charm and potential of a full restoration is clear. and the enthusiasts keep this possibility alive with active events. There have been no moving trains since 26 December 2004, when the last steamer made the half-trip to neighbouring Champigny-sur-Veude.

Come on! all you toy train fans! - keep this Big-Boy Toy operating! It is hard to imagine a more suitably compact, beautiful, unspoiled line to restore.

The web log of the TVT with many videos.