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.

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).

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