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.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The cardinal close to death...


A portrait on the last day of the cardinal de Richelieu by his court painter
Philippe de Champaigne
- 4 December 1642 -
•••••
*Twenty years after*
The Shade of Cardinal Richelieu
by Alexandre Dumas
In a splendid chamber of the Palais Royal, formerly styled the Palais Cardinal, a man was sitting in deep reverie, his head supported on his hands, leaning over a gilt and inlaid table which was covered with letters and papers. Behind this figure glowed a vast fireplace alive with leaping flames; great logs of oak blazed and crackled on the polished brass andirons whose flicker shone upon the superb habiliments of the lonely tenant of the room, which was illumined grandly by twin candelabra rich with wax-lights.
Any one who happened at that moment to contemplate that red simar, the gorgeous robe of office, and the rich lace, or who gazed on that pale brow, bent in anxious meditation, might, in the solitude of that apartment, combined with the silence of the ante-chambers and the measured paces of the guards upon the landing-place, have fancied that the shade of Cardinal Richelieu lingered still in his accustomed haunt.
It was, alas! the ghost of former greatness. France enfeebled, the authority of her sovereign condemned, her nobles returning to their former turbulence and insolence, her enemies within her frontiers; all proved the great Richelieu no longer in existence.
In truth, that the red simar which occupied the wonted place was his no longer, was still more strikingly obvious from the isolation which seemed, as we have observed, more appropriate to a phantom than a living creature, from the corridors deserted by courtiers, and courts crowded with guards, from that spirit of bitter ridicule, which, arising from the streets below, penetrated through the very casements of the room, which resounded with the murmurs of a whole city leagued against the minister; as well as from the distant and incessant sounds of guns firing, let off, happily, without other end or aim, except to show to the guards, the Swiss troops and the military who surrounded the Palais Royal, that the people were possessed of arms.
The shade of Richelieu was Mazarin. Now Mazarin was alone and defenceless, as he well knew.....
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7 comments:

Ilka Lohmann said...

Thanks for posting this painting by Champaigne. I like it because of its utter peacefulness.
It is consoling to look at it.

I also like "Twenty Years After". It is very intresting to read, how Dumas completely changed his attitude towards His Eminence.

Yours,
Ilka

henri proust said...

Thanks to Ilka for making your kind comment. Every literary and filmic author seems to project their own contemporary interpretation on the poor cardinal. Above all the popular romances by Dumas père. Like the Waverley novels of Walter Scott, there is much exaggeration and revisionism in their points of view. The personality of the 'real man' is still very hard to fathom and reduce to comfortable simplicities; or so say the heavyweight historians of our day.
In the Champaigne picture, the cardinal has lost his 'ferocity of face' on his sickbed. And Champaigne was a truely accurate painter of the face's personality. And morally very strict.

Ilka Lohmann said...

Greatings to Henri Proust! I recomment Carl J. Burckhardt's biography of the cardinal. It consists of three volumns, and in my opinion it is the best, profoundest and most objektiv work about Richelieu's life and time. It gives a full understanding of his personality, his family, the circumstances of his living, his friends and foes and - not least - of his politics and thoughts.

henri proust said...

I think 3 vols. will have to follow my current reading about the thirty-years war. 'La Guerre de trente ans' by Henri Bogdan. What was it like in Thurringia then, Ilka? I find it all a bit too complicated to follow.
But how come you speak/write such good English? And French? And poems?!
Prosit Neujahr 2010

Ilka Lohmann said...

I do not speak french. I learned English at school, and now I work as a private teacher for this language. I get a lot of practise, because I like to read a lot. And I write poems all my live.

Thunringia is great. It's a federal state of Germany. You might have heard of the town Weimar (like Bernhard of Weimar).
I is a beautiful land will hills and meadows and dark castles and forests and a lot of myths and legends. I like living here.

But your German mut be pretty good, too.

Yours,
Ilka

henri proust said...

I went to Weimar about 20 years ago, which was fascinating, with all that German history lying about. We stayed in the Hotel Elefant on the main square. It has a dark history, but is a beautiful building despite it all (ich bin architekt!). I would love to return to Thuringia as the old Germany had been protected in a certain way by the GDR. In those days the west seemed a bit too successful for its own good.
Howard C

silverwhistle said...

That's a beautiful portrait: it's one of my favourites, together with the triple and the earlier seated one. Considering his terrible sufferings -- which he had endured for many years -- he's still remarkably handsome. That it's not artistic flattery is clear when one compares his mummified face.

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