THE 8th & LAST DUKE OF RICHELIEU by Swami Nikhilananda
"The Duke of Richelieu, a Marshal of France and scion of the French nobility, died on May 30, 1952, at the age of seventy-six. The eigth Duke was the last to bear this illustrious title.
The full name of the 8th Duke was Marie Odet Jean Armand de Chapelle de Jumilhac, Duc de Richelieu. The title was first conferred upon Cardinal Armand Jean du Plessis by Louis XIII. Before the Cardinal died he obtained permission to bequeath the title to his grand nephew, Jean de Vignerot, first Duke of Richelieu, an ancestor of the Marshal. Another of the Duke's ancestors served in the Russian army under Empress Catherine and founded the city of Odessa in the early nineteenth century, subsequently returning to France to serve as Premier under Louis XVIII.
The Duke of Richelieu, born in Paris, was the son of the second Duc Armand de Richelieu and the former Marie Alice Heine, who, after her first husband's death, married Prince Albert of Monaco. He studied at a Jesuit school in France and graduated from the University of Aix-en-Provence. In 1913, he married miss Elinor Douglas Wise, of Baltimore. The ceremony was performed by the late Cardinal Gibbons, who gave the opening benediction at the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893. The Duchess, who studied voice in France with Mme Emma Eames, the noted American singer, gave many concerts for the benefit of tubercular French soldiers.
In 1930, the Duke presented his chateau and its park of more than one thousand acres, which originally belonged to Cardinal Richelieu, to the university of Paris as a place of rest for French professors and a guest-house for visiting foreign professors.
The Duke travelled extensively in Europe and America and was regarded as an authority on eighteenth century English literature. He could speak fluently in several European languages and was brilliant in conversation. Even in casual talk he was able to draw striking comparisons not only between modern writing and that of the past, but between historical developments of today and yesterday. The Duke was a keen student of politics. I spent many hours with him in political and cultural discussions and thoroughly enjoyed his penetrating wit. He never indulged in small or cheap talk.
I first met the Duke in 1934 when I was crossing over to France. Immediately after the ship had left the pier in New York, I was told by Princess Matchabelli that the Duke of Richelieu earnestly wanted to speak to me. We met after dinner on the deck of the tourist class, by which I was travelling. He said to me that he had known Swami Vivekananda. They had met in Paris in 1900, at the house of Mr. and Mrs. Francis H. Leggett, devoted disciples of the Swamiji. It was the time of the Paris Exposition, in connection with which the late Sir J. C. Bose was the Indian representative at the Congress of Scientists. The Leggetts used to invite notables to their house and entertained them lavishly.
We saw each other many times in New York. Both the Duke and Duchess became fond of me and often invited me to their house for dinner or luncheon, where I met noted men in politics and public life. On several occasions the Duke and Duchess came to the Centre for dinner. The last time I saw the Duke was in Miami, Florida, in April, 1952. We had lunch together and he discussed the present world tension from a philosophical standpoint. He looked very fragile. But as usual he was very animated and excited in conversation. After returning to New York he caught pneumonia, which proved fatal to him.
During the past few years the Duke of Richelieu was in indifferent health. He knew that he was living on borrowed time. We saw his slight body wearing out day by day from an incurable illness. But his power of mind remained unimpaired till the very last. In conversation he often towered high over the intellects of others. Courtesy and culture radiated from every pore of his skin. Whenever he came to our Centre for dinner, he would go to the kitchen, after the meal was over, to thank the cook and the maid personally for the food.
With the passing away of the 8th Duke of Richelieu, a link with the past has been severed. I felt highly honoured when the Duchess requested me to be one of the honorary pall-bearers at his funeral."
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.