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.

Thursday 31 May 2007

The gates of the Richelieu mansions

Most of the mansions or 'Hôtels Particuliers' in the town are graced with similar carriage gates. Over the 350 years since the construction of the town, each of these stylish Louis XIII paired oak gates have been replaced as required. A few of the originals remain. A new pair has just been installed in 2007 on the Place Religieuses. Note the intriging interior construction.

The Château de Coussay

In 1617, when Bishop of Luçon and in service as almoner to Louis XIII's mother, Marie de Medicis, the Cardinal based himself at the Priory of Coussay, located a few kilometers south of his ancestral home in Richelieu. The Château still exists today, graced by a moat and with the Church located behind.

Urbain Grandier and the Devils of Loudun

The city of Loudun, the location of the trial and burning of the Pastor Urban Grandier on 18 August 1634, lies 20 km to the west of the CITÉ IDEALE of Richelieu. The famous events and trial are recounted in the book 'The Devils' by Aldous Huxley (1952) and in the film of the same name directed Ken Russell (1971) starring Oliver Reed as Urban Grandier. Richelieu seems to have acquiesced to the trial and subsequent burning as a political device to calm a national hysteria at this pivotal point at the end of clerical mediaevalism, when witchcraft and witchfinding were not unusual.

Italian, Spanish and German translations........

In the LINKS list ( below right) you will now find translation facilities for this blog into Italian, Spanish and German. At present we think that the French reader will be best served by the other francophone sites, whose particular LINKS are in the same list. The translation facilities are automated and the transations may be, for all we know pretty crazy, even 'pidgin', but we feel that these amazing facilities may expand the access to the blog of l'Éminence Rouge by others than solely the anglophone. Keep on Klikking!

Wednesday 30 May 2007

the other bloke; l'Eminence Grise

François Leclerc du Tremblay (1577–1638), also known as Père Joseph, was a French Capuchin friar, confidant and agent of Cardinal Richelieu. He was the eldest son of Jean Leclerc du Tremblay, president of the chamber of requests of the parlement of Paris, and of Marie Motier de Lafayette. As a boy he received a careful classical training, and in 1595 made an extended journey through Italy, returning to take up the career of arms. He served at the Siege of Amiens in 1597, and then accompanied a special embassy to London.
In 1599 Baron de Mafflier (by which name he was known at court) renounced the world and entered the Capuchin priory of Orleans. He embraced the religious life with great ardour, and became a notable preacher and reformer. In 1606 he aided Antoinette d'Orleans, a nun of Fontevrault, to found the reformed order of the Filles du Calvaire, and wrote a manual of devotion for the nuns. His proselytizing zeal led him to send missionaries throughout the Huguenot centre.
He entered politics at the Conferences of Loudun, when, as the confidant of the Queen and the Papal Envoy, he opposed the Gallican claims advanced by the parlement, which the Princes were upholding, and succeeded in convincing them of the schismatic tendency of Gallicanism. In 1612 he began those personal relations with Richelieu which have indissolubly joined in history and legend the great Cardinal and the original Éminence Grise, relations which research has not altogether made clear. He was so nicknamed for the Greyfriar's cloak that he wore over his habit, and because Éminence is a title conferred upon high churchmen.
In 1627 the friar assisted at the siege of La Rochelle. A purely religious reason also made him Richelieu's ally against the Habsburgs. He had a dream of arousing Europe to another crusade against the Turks, and believed that the house of Austria was the obstacle to that Universal European Peace which would make this possible. As Richelieu's agent, therefore, this modern Peter the Hermit maneuvered at the Diet of Regensburg (1630) to thwart the aggression of the Holy Roman Emperor, and then advised the intervention of the Swede Gustavus Adolphus, reconciling himself to the use of Protestant armies by the theory that one poison would counteract another.
Thus the friar became a war minister, and, though maintaining a personal austerity of life, gave himself up to diplomacy and politics. He died in 1638, just as the Cardinalate was to be conferred upon him. The story that Richelieu visited him when on his deathbed and roused the dying man by the words, "Courage, Father Joseph, we have won Breisach," seems to be apocryphal.

The 28 mansions or Hotels Particuliers on the Grande Rue

.......The Cardinal donates the plots but imposes a strict plan, as Henri IV had done for the Place Dauphine and for the Place Royale (now the Place Vendome, Paris). Richelieu-townplanner fixes a restricting design specification. The house must look out both onto the street and a courtyard, with a façade width onto the street of ten toises (about 20 metres) and a depth of 8.5 metres. The dimensions of the entry arch were also given; the carriageway must be 6 pieds wide (2 metres); on one side there should open a good room with a chimneypiece. The entire disposition of the building is in this way determined, with the location of the stair, that of the stable, that of the privy (of which even the dimensions are fixed, 12 pieds deep (that is to say 4 metres), with 2 metres under the key stone of the vault). The hôtel included a piano nobile above which an attic shelters the domestic staff. The specification of materials is composed of the same precise detail. The candidate clients for the construction have hardly any choice in the enterprise either; they must go to one of the masons that Cardinal Richelieu had appointed for the job and who charge a price of 10,000 livres per house.

Rolls-Royce and Bentley on Bastille Day 2007

The Mayor is looking for owners of either celebrated marque to come to Richelieu across the Bastille Day weekend, 13-14-15 July 2007, to celebrate with the burghers of the CITÉ IDEALE the opening of the renovated Place du Marché. On Sunday 15th July 2007 the RR & B day will include a wine-tasting visit to the local Château de Vrillaye, a Civic Reception, a luncheon picnic in the Château de Richelieu domainal park, a guided tour of the town and the new digital reconstruction of the Cardinal's Château, a tour of the 2007 Richelieu Wine Fair, and in the evening a play presented in a Grande Rue mansion especially for RR & B drivers and their parties.

Contact M le Maire at

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Tuesday 29 May 2007

The Mayor of the town of Richelieu

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The current Mayor of Richleieu is Maître Pierre Gravel, the town's Notary Public. While being the town's principal administrator and in addition to everyday mayoral duties, MAYOR GRAVEL is driving forward the so-called 'Projèt Ville' policy which seeks to re-inspire the town and make more of its exceptional patrimony and cultural history.

Politicos, various.....

The Député for our part of the Département of Indre-et-Loire (37) at the Assemblé Nationale is M Hervé Novelli, who runs a firm making advanced artificial limbs on the Richelieu industrial estate. He is a member of President Sarkozy's (and formerly President Chirac's) centre-right party, the UMP. The new President Sarko has already had some contact with our little town. Will he follow the example of the great Cardinal? SARKOVILLE? SARKOPOLIS? simlpy SARKOZY? or even NOUVELLENOVELLI-sur-MABLE?

Monday 28 May 2007

Vincent de Paul 1581 - 1660

Vincent de Paul, Roman Catholic saint, canonised in 1737 by Pope Clement XII, was appointed by Cardinal Richelieu to be the caretaker of the souls of the faithful his new town of Richelieu. De Paul took this appointment very seriously in the early years of the town's foundation, and several Charities were organised from the Church. Societies of Vincent de Paul exist today all around the world, and he remains a very active inspiration to many world-wide.

M. l'Abbé Henry-Armand Proust, 1817-1897

Curé at Chaveignes, then Braye-sous-Faye, then Saint-Benoît, and finally Richelieu.
The avatar of your blog-master!

Inserting new oak primary beams

Sometimes restoration needs new oak beams to be inserted into the old houses. A drammatic and slow event to be done carefully. Each beam a sqaured-off tree.

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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Sunday 27 May 2007

Three reminiscences of the Cardinal Richelieu by contemporary friends and opponents.

Richelieu seen by the orator Bishop Ésprit Fléchier (1632 - 1710)

Now, for the honour of his lineage and even more for that of France, there entered into the administration of affairs someone larger by his spirit and virtues than by his dignity or his good chance; always employed and always beyond his employ; capable of controlling the present and anticipating the future, to assure good events and correct bad ones; immense in his designs; penetrating in his advice; just in his choices; blessed in his enterprises; and to say all in a few words, filled with those excellent gifts that God gives to certain souls that he has created to be master over others, and to make occur the opportunities that His providence uses to raise up or reduce, using His eternal decrees, the fortunes of Kings and Kingdoms.

Funeral address for Marie-Madelaine de Vignerot, Duchesse de l'Aiguillon (1604-1675) favourite niece and inheritor of the celibate Cardinal Richelieu.

Cardinal de Retz (1614 - 1679), Mémoires. A Portrait of Cardinal Richelieu

Cardinal Richelieu was of good birth. His youth showed sparks of his merit; he distinguished himself at the Sorbonne, and at a very early stage one could notice that he had a energetic and vivacious spirit. He based his courses of action very well on common sense. He was a man of of his word where a big issue did not oblige him to the contrary; and in such a case he never forgot anything to save the appearances of good faith. He was not generous, but he gave more than he promised, and he scattered his kindnesses admirably. He liked GLORY much more than normal moralising would permit, but one must admit that here he only erred in the exemption that he had taken on this point of excess ambition, in proportion to his merit. He had neither the spirit nor the heart to be beyond dangers; neither one nor the other predominated; and one could say that he anticipated dangers to advantage by his wisdom to which he allied his confidence. He was a good friend; he had the same wish to be liked by the public; but, although he had the civility, the appearance and many other qualities required for this effect, he never possessed the ‘I know not what’ that is still, in this matter, more required than any other. He overwhelmed the personal majesty of the King by his power and by by his regal splendour, but he filled the functions of Royalty with such dignity that one must not be simple-minded and confuse the bad and good things that this achieved. He could distinguish more judiciously than a man of the world between the good and the worse, the good and the better, and this is an important quality in a Minister. He was too easily irritated by the small things that precede larger matters, but this fault, which came from the sublimity of his spirit, was compensated by his additional insight. He had enough religion for this world. He went for the Good either by inclination or by good sense, every time that his interest did not carry him to the Bad, which when it did, he perfectly understood. He only considered the life of the State, but never has a minister worked harder to make us believe that in doing so he had controlled the future. Finally one must confess that all his vices were amongst those which Great Fortune makes notorious, because they are those that only those of great virtue can use as instruments.

François, Duke of Rochefoucauld (1613 - 1680), already a tax rebel before the ‘Fronde’ tax revolt, and little inclined to like Richelieu, remembers his death and speaks thus:

“Such joy which must have been received by his enemies to see themselves relieved from so many persecutions, was followed by the realisation that this loss was very prejudicial to the State, and that, as he had dared to change it’s form in so many ways, he alone could usefully sustained it, if only his administration, and his life, had been of a longer duration. Up till then, only he had known all the powers of the kingdom, and he alone had known how to put it all back together in the hands of the King. The severity of his Ministry had spilled much blood, the ancient nobles of the Kingdom had been chastened, taxes had been imposed on the people; but the capture of La Rochelle, the ruin of the Huguenot party, the submission of the House of Austria, such a grandeur in his policies, such a capacity to carry them out; these factors must smother any individual resentment, and give such praises to his memory that it had justly deserved.”

La Rochefoucauld, Mémoires (1664).

..and serve with a good bottle of Chinon. (1)

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« brune confiture de cochon »

Beloved by author Francois Rabelais in the fifteenth century, this is famous around the Loire district of France and sold everywhere in charcuteries – sometimes in thick chunks from a large terrine or packed into little pots.
Serves 8 as a first course or light lunch

a 2 lb 8 oz (1.15 kg) piece of lean belly pork, trimmed (trimmed weight 2 lb/900 g)
8 oz (225 g) back pork fat
1 dessertspoon chopped fresh thyme
½ teaspoon ground mace
1 heaped teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
10 black peppercorns
10 juniper berries
4 fl oz (120 ml) dry white wine
salt and freshly milled black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C).

You will also need a 2 pint (1.2 litre) terrine or 2 lb (900 g) loaf tin, and some kitchen foil.

With your sharpest knife, cut the pork lengthwise into long strips about 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide, then cut each strip again into smaller strips so you end up with pieces that are approximately ½ x ¾ inch (1 x 2 cm), and place these in a bowl. Cut the fat into small pieces too, and mix these in (the excess fat will help to keep the pork properly moist during the cooking process).

Now add the thyme, mace, salt and garlic, along with the peppercorns and juniper berries (the last 2 both crushed in a pestle and mortar or with the back of a tablespoon), and mix everything together. Transfer the whole lot to the terrine or loaf tin and pour in the wine.

Mix everything around to distribute the flavours, cover the terrine or loaf tin with foil and place it in the centre of the oven and leave it there for 4 hours. After that, taste a piece of pork and add more salt (and pepper), if necessary. Now empty everything into a large sieve standing over a bowl and let all the fat drip through (press the meat gently to extract the fat). Leave the drained fat to cool and then transfer to the fridge for 20-30 minutes so that the jelly and fat separate.
Next, take a couple of forks and pull the strips of meat into shreds (sometimes it is pounded instead, but personally, I think it’s worth persevering with the fork method). Then pack the rillettes lightly into the terrine or loaf tin (wash and dry it thoroughly first), and leave to get cold.

After that, remove the jelly from the bowl of fat, melt it gently and pour it over the rillettes. Then spread a layer of fat over the top to keep the meat moist. Keep the rillettes in the fridge (covered with foil or clingfilm) till needed; it will take about 2 hours to set. Serve with hot toast, crusty bread or crisp baked croutons.

Cape and Rapier Festival 2006

Click the button with the forward arrow to see a movie of the procession moving through the Chatellerault Gate at the height of the festival.

Festival of Locomotion

Each year there is a Festival of heavy and commercial vehicles organised by the Mayor. This is the poster from September 2004.

Moncornet's engraving of the Cardinal


Cardinal, Duke of Richelieu and Fronsac, Peer of France, Commander of the Order of the Holy Spirit, Governor and Lieutenant-General for the King in Brittany, Grand Master and Superintendant of Navigation and Commerce of France, First Minister of State under King Louis XIII whose glory and power was carried to such a high point that he gave the law to all of Europe, and surpassed all sovereign powers while the Monarch was served by this famous political counsel. The Holy Roman Empire, Spain and Italy are irreprocable witnesses to this truth. And when these three states were very close to submission to our monarch, Death took the Cardinal from our sight in Paris, where he had been born, on 4 December 1642, aged 57 years, and he was buried in the Church of the Sorbonne, which he had himself had built. He was the son of François du Plessis, fourth of the title Seigneur de Richelieu, knight of the Order of the King, King’s privy councillor, Capitain of the Guards of His Majesty, and Susane de la Porte and Vezins, his wife.

This engraving seems to be from a collection of engravings of famous figures by Balthasar MONCORNET(1600-1668) Nicolas de LARMESSIN (1640-1725) & alii, Portraits des princes, seigneurs et personnes illustres “recueil de 242 portraits des rois, reines, princes du sang, ducs et pairs, generaux d’armée magistrats &c., la plupart gravés par Larmessin, Montcornet, etc...” sans lieu ni date [gravures des années 1650 & 1660].
There is a similar portrait, with precisely the same format and edge framing complete with expanatory text beneath, of Cesar de Vendome, signed B.Moncornet exc.[udit] avec priv.[ilège] 1667, size 17.8 x 20 cms (24 cms including text beneath the image). The absence of a signature on this print may indicate that this print was a subsequant un-credited edition.

Driving the length of the Grande Rue

This short movie shows the prospect from a Lotus Elise S1 driving southwards down the Grande Rue between the mansions created for the créatures (or court) of cardinal duc de Richelieu, towards the château park.

Friday 25 May 2007

A biography of Jacques Lemercier, First Architect to the King, Louis XIII

(b. Pontoise, about 1585 ; el. 1654)
In 1607 Le Mercier went to Rome to complete his studies. And while there he gave the
plans, Sauvai says, for the Church of Saint Louis - des - Francais, and began its
construction. Immediately on his return to France he was employed on the Louvre, with
700 livres salary. In 1613 he rebuilt the Hotel de Bouillon or de la Rochefoucauld, Rue
de Seine. Four years later, as architecte du roi, he began the old buildings at Versailles
of the Cour d'Honneur—now known as the Cour de Marbre—the nucleus round which
the whole. of the magnificent palace was to grow up in the next reign.
In 1624 one of his greatest works was begun. For in this year Richelieu ordered him to
draw up plans for the. completion of the Louvre. Le Mercier adopted Métezeau's old
plan. He proposed to add a central pavilion to the West and South wings, which were
already built. Beyond these pavilions the wings were to be repeated. And on the North
and East sides they were to be reproduced ; thus forming a vast court. This has
eventually been done : but with many modifications, of which I must speak in the next.
chapter. Le Mercier began his work by pulling down the North wing and the old Tour de
la Librairie. He built the pavillon de l'Horloge, keeping closely to the dispositions of
Lescot's work—for which he had a deep respect—in the rez de chaussez, first floor, and
attic. Above the attic he placed another storey with lofty round-headed bays, and
adorned by four groups of cariatides by Jacques Sarazin. This storey he finished with
three concentric pediments ; and crowned the whole by a lofty Dome. He then
completed the further buildings of the West side, closely copying Lescot's wing, to the
angle of the court (now Galleries of French Sculpture). And in 1640 began the North
side. He was, however, only able to finish the rez de chaussez, as far as the central
While this work on the Louvre was going on, Le Mercier was largely employed in other
directions by Richelieu. In 1629 he began the Palais Cardinal, finished in 1636. This is
now the Palais Royal. And nothing remains of Le Mercier's Palace but the gallery des
Proues, facing the inner fountain court. In the same year Le Mercier furnished plans for
the Cardinal's Church of the Sorbonne, and super-intended the works until his death. In
1631 he undertook the building of the magnificent Chateau de Richelieu,) finished in
1637. And then gave plans for the Church.
He began the Church of Saint Roch in 1633, building the choir and part of the nave. In
the same year he succeeded François Mansart at the Church of Val-du-Grace, then only
10 feet above the soil. He carried it up to the cornice of the great order of pilasters. And
in 1651 built the Chapel of the Saint Sacrement. About 1635 he was appointed
architect in ordinary and first architect to the King, with a salary of 3000 livres.
The first Theatre of the Palais Royal, the Hotels Colbert, de Liancourt, and de
Longueville, engraved by Marot, etc., were Le Mercier's work. Outside Paris he built the
Chateau and Church of Rueil for Richelieu. And at Fontainebleau carried on the buildings
of the Chapel de la Ste. Trinité ; decorated the Chambre du Roi ; and replaced Gilles le
Breton's beautiful stairway in the Cour du Cheval Blanc by the existing one. As an
engineer, Richelieu made him draw up plans for a great canal round Paris, which should
contribute to its defence. But the canal was never made.
Besides his buildings, Le Mercier published Le Magnifique Chateau de Richelieu.
A noble portrait by Philippe de Champaigne, engraved by Edelinck, shows us what
manner of man was the favourite architect of the great Cardinal.

A Short History of the town

At the beginning of the 17th century, in the location of the present park at Richelieu, stood a small fortified house that had been constructed in the 12th century by the forebears of the Armand-Jean du Plessis, Cardinal Duke of Richelieu, in a place that was then called 'Richeloc'. Very attached to the family home where he had passed a part of his childhood, the Cardinal decided in about 1625 to make some improvements. Armand-Jean, then the Bishop of Luçon was promoted to Cardinal in 1622. Then in 1624 he entered the service of the King, Louis XIII, as his 'First Minister'. The modest home of his ancestors did not now suit his situation, and his political advancement pushed him towards an ambitious construction project that was worthy of comparison with the most beatiful houses of his epoc. Furthermore, he undertook to construct an adjacent town on a more or less virgin site.

The Cardinal wanted to found an 'ideal city', grandiose and unique, that would carry on his name.

If the castle has now been largely destroyed, the town remains mostly intact, much as it presented itself in the 17th century. In contrast to other French 'ideal' new towns, such as Charleville or Henrichemont, which had been founded within pre-dating urban constructions, the town of Richelieu constitutes a unique and unconstrained example of the urban design of that era. Furthermore, the town of Richelieu and its castle, united in the same concept and born of the same ambition of the Cardinal, show instructive parallels with both earlier and contemporary models of design.

Armand-Jean du Plessis, cardinal and duke of Richelieu gave his name to this town created in 1631 as an 'ideal city'. The project of the town, conceived partly as a property development, very innovative in its time, was entrusted to the brothers Jacques, Pierre and Nicholas Lemercier, architects to the King, Louis XIII 'le juste'. The development plots were given to to their future purchasers who contracted, under certain tax concessions, to build within a two year period a 'pavillon' or house of which the plans were to be to a co-ordinated design and specification. The finance was arranged by Alphonse de Lopez. Monseigneur de Sourdis, Archbishop of Bordeaux, organised the works. The entrepreneur-developers of the town were Jean Thiriot, Jean and Denis Barbet, Nicholas Durand, Jean Lamoureux and Gilles Barthélémy.

Trompes de chasse at Azay-le-Rideau

What style, what dash, what VIBRATISSIMO!

Was the Cardinal a petrolhead?

The town is often visited by car clubs looking for a beautiful lunch desination. In this particular case the cars were on a rally called '9ieme Grand Prix d'Auto Retro' from Le Puy Notre Dame, a town just south of Saumur.

Thursday 24 May 2007

Major renovation projects - April 2007

Two major houses have being restored and are reaching completion. The Pavilion de la Fontaine is on the main market square and the other renovation on the Place Louis XIII, the former cattle market square. These renovated buildings, both found at important locations in the town's grid layout, have a thrilling impact on vistas around the historic 17th century walled and moated 'cité'. Two further 'hôtels particuliers' or individual mansions are under restoration on the Grande Rue.