Help Now >
Armand-Jean du Plessis, Duke de Richelieu
FREE Catholic Classes
Cardinal ; French statesman, b. in Paris, 5 September, 1585; d. there 4 December 1642. At first he intended to follow a military career, but when, in 1605, his brother Alfred resigned the Bishopric of Luçon and retired to the Grande Chartreuse, Richelieu obtained the see from Henry IV and withdrew to the country to take up his theological studies under the direction of Bishop Cospéan of Aire. He was consecrated bishop on 17 April, 1607; he was not yet twenty-two years old, although the Brief of Paul Vdated 19 December, 1606, announcing his appointment contains the statement: "in vigesimo tertio aetatis anno tantum constitutus". Mgr. Lacroix, the historian of Richelieu's youth, believes that in a journey made to Rome at the end of 1606, Richelieu deceived the pope as to his age, but the incident is still obscure. In his diocese, Richelieu showed great zeal for the conversion of Protestants and appointed the Oratorians and the Capuchins to give missions in all the parishes. Richelieu represented the clergy of Poitou in the States General of 1614, where his political career began. There he was the mouth-piece of the Church, and in a celebrated discourse demanded that bishops and prelates be summoned to the royal councils, that the distribution of ecclesiastical benefices to the laity be forbidden, that the Church be exempt from taxation, that Protestants who usurped churches or had their coreligionists interred in them be punished, and that the Decrees of the Council of Trent be promulgated throughout France. He ended by assuring the young king Louis XIII that the desire of the clergy was to have the royal power so assured that it might be "comme un ferme rocher qui brise tout ce qui le heurte" (as a firm rock which crushes all that opposes it).
Richelieu was named secretary of state on 30 November, 1616, but after the assassination of Concini, favourite of Maria de' Medici, he was forced to leave the ministry and follow the queen mother to Blois. To escape the political intrigues which pursued him he retired in June, 1617, to the priory of Coussay and, during this time of leisure caused by his disgrace, published in October, 1617 (date confirmed by Mgr. Lacroix), his "Les principaux points de la foi de l'église catholique, défendus contre l'éecrit adressé au Roi par les quartre ministres de Charenton"; it was upon reading this book half a century later that Jacques de Coras, a Protestant pastor of Tonneins, was converted to Catholicism. Richelieu continued to be represented to the king as an enemy to his power; the Capuchin, Leclerc du Tremblay, never succeeded in completely clearing him in Louis XIII's opinion. To disarm suspicion Richelieu asked the king to name a place of exile, and at his order went in 1618 to Avignon, where he passed nearly a year and where he composed a catechism which became famous under the name of "Instruction du chrétien". This book, destined to be read in every parish each Sunday at the sermon, was a real blessing at a time when ignorance of religion was the principal evil. When Maria de' Medici escaped from Blois in 1619, Richelieu was chosen by the minister Luynes to negotiate for peace between Louis XIII and his mother. By Brief of 3 November, 1622, he was created cardinal by Gregory XV. On 19 April, 1624, he re-entered the Council of Ministers, and on 12 August, 1624, was made its president. Richelieu's policy can be reduced to two principal ideas : the domestic unification of France and opposition to the House of Austria. At home he had to contend with constant conspiracies in which Maria de' Medici, Queen Anne of Austria, Gaston d'Orléans (the king's brother), and the highest nobles of the court were involved. The executions of Marillac (1632), Montmorency (1632), Cinq-Mars and of de Thou (1642) intimidated the enemies of the cardinal. He had also to contend with the Protestants who were forming a state within the state (see HUGUENOTS). The capitulation of La Rochelle and the peace of Alais (28 June, 1629) annihilated Protestantism as a political party.
Richelieu's foreign policy ( for which see LECLERC DU TREMBLAY ) was characterized by his fearlessness in making alliances with the foreign Protestants. At various times the Protestants of the Grisons, Sweden, the Protestant Princes of Germany, and Bernard of Saxe-Weimar were his allies. The favourable treaties signed by Mazarin were the result of Richelieu's policy of Protestant alliances, a policy which was severely censured by a number of Catholics. At the end of 1625, when Richelieu was preparing to give back Valteline to the Protestant Grisons, the partisans of Spain called him "Cardinal of the Huguenots ", and two pamphlets, attributed to the Jesuits Eudemon Joannes and Jean Keller, appeared against him; these he had burned. Hostilities, however, increased until finally the king's confessor opposed the foreign policy of the cardinal. This was a very important episode, and on it the recent researches of Father de Rochemonteix in the archives of the Society of Jesus have cast new light. Father Caussin , author of "La Cour Sainte", the Jesuit whom Richelieu, on 25 March, 1636, had made the king's confessor, tried to use against the cardinal the influence of Mlle. de La Fayette, a lady for whom the king had entertained a certain regard and who had become a nun. On 8 December, 1637, in a solemn interview Caussin recalled to the king his duties towards his wife, Anne of Austria, to whom he was too indifferent; asked him to allow his mother, Maria de' Medici, to return to France ; and pointed out the dangers to Catholicism which might arise through Richelieu's alliance with the Turks and the Protestant princes of Germany. After this interview Caussin gave Communion to the king and addressed him a very beautiful sermon, entreating him to obey his directions. Richelieu was anxious that the king's confessor should occupy himself solely with "giving absolutions", consequently, on 10 December, 1637, Caussin was dismissed and exiled to Rennes, and his successor, Father Jacques Sirmond , celebrated for his historical knowledge, was forced to promise that, if he saw "anything censurable in the conduct of the State", he would report it to the cardinal and not attempt to influence the king's conscience. However, Father Caussin's fears concerning Richelieu's foreign policy were not shared by all of his confrères. Father Lallemand, for instance, affirmed that it was rash to blame the king's political alliance with the Protestant princes -- an alliance which had been made only after an unsuccessful attempt to form one with Bavaria and the Catholic princes of Germany.
That Richelieu was possessed of religious sentiments cannot be contested. It was he who in February, 1638, prompted the declaration by which Louis XIII consecrated the Kingdom of France to the Virgin Mary ; in the ministry he surrounded himself with priests and religious; as general he employed Cardinal de la Valette; as admiral, Sourdis, Archbishop of Bordeaux ; as diplomat, Bérulle ; as chief auxiliary he had Leclerc du Tremblay. He himself designated Mazarin his successor. He had a high idea of the sacerdotal dignity, was continually protesting against he encroachments of the parlements on the jurisdiction of the Church, and advised the king to choose as bishops only those who should "have passed after their studies a considerable time in the seminaries, the places established for the study of the ecclesiastical functions". He wished to compel the bishops to reside in their dioceses, to establish seminaries there, and to visit their parishes. He aided the efforts of St. Vincent de Paul to induce the bishops to institute the "exercises des ordinants", retreats, during which the young clerics were to prepare themselves for the priesthood. Richelieu foresaw the perils to which nascent Jansenism would expose the Church. Saint-Cyran's doctrines on the constitution of the Church, his views on the organization of the "great Christian Republic", his liaison with Jansenius (who in 1635 had composed a violent pamphlet against France under the names of Mars gallicus ), and the manner in which he opposed the annulment of the marriage of Gaston d'Orléans, drew upon him the cardinal's suspicion. In having him arrested 14 May, 1638, Richelieu declared that "had Luther and Calvin been confined before they had begun to dogmatize, the states would have been spared many troubles". Two months later Richelieu forced the solitaries of Port Royal-des-Champs to disperse; some were sent to Paris, others to Ferte-Milon. Saint-Cyran remained in the dungeon of Vincennes until the cardinal's death. With the co-operation of the Benedictine Gregoire Tarisse, Richelieu devoted himself seriously to the reform of the Benedictines. Named coadjutor to the Abbot of Cluny in 1627, and Abbot of Cluny in 1629, he called to this monastery the Reformed Benedictines of Saint-Vannes. He proposed forming the congregations of Saint-Vannes and Saint-Maur into one body, of which he was to have been superior. Only half of this project was accomplished, however, when in 1636 he succeeded in uniting the Order of Cluny with the Congregation of Saint-Maur . From 1622 Richelieu was proviseur of the Sorbonne, and was in virtue of this office head of the Association of Doctors of the Sorbonne. He had the Sorbonne entirely rebuilt between 1626 and 1629, and between 1635 and 1642 built the church of the Sorbonne, in which he is now buried.
Help Now >
On the question of the relations between the temporal and the spiritual powers, Richelieu really professed the doctrine called Duvalism after the theologian Duval, who admitted at the same time the supreme power of the pope and the supreme power of the king and the divine right of both. In the dissensions between Rome and the Gallicans he most frequently acted as mediator. When in 1626 a book by the Jesuit Sanctarel appeared in Paris, affirming the right of the popes to depose kings for wrong-doing, heresy, or incapacity, it was burned in the Place de Greve; Father Coton and the three superiors of the Jesuits houses summoned before the Parlement were forced to repudiate the work. The enemies of the Jesuits wished immediately to create a new disturbance on the occasion of the publication of the "Somme theologique des vérités apostoliques capitales de la religion chrétienne", by Father Garasse, but Richelieu opposed the continued agitation. It was, however, renewed at the end of 1626, owing to a thesis of the Dominican Têtefort, which maintained that the Decretals formed part of the Scripture. Richelieu again strove to allay feeling, and in a discourse (while still affirming that the king held his kingdom from God alone) declared that "the king cannot make an article of faith unless this article has been so declared by the Church in her oecumenical councils". Subsequently, Richelieu gave satisfaction to the pope when on 7 December,1 629, he obtained a retraction from the Gallican Edmond Richer, syndic of the theological faculty, who submitted his book "La puissance ecclesiastique et politique" to the judgment of the pope. Nine years alter, however, Richelieu's struggles against the resistance offered by the French clergy to taxes led him to assume an attitude more deliberately Gallican. Contrary to the theories which he had maintained in his discourse of 1614 he considered, now that he was a minister, that the needs of the State constituted a case of force majeure , which should oblige the clergy to submit to all the fiscal exigencies of the civil power. As early as 1625 the assembly of the clergy, tired of the incessant demands of the Government for money, had decreed that no deputy could vote supplies without having first received full powers on the subject; Richelieu, contesting this principle, declared that the needs of the State were actual, while those of the Church were chimerical and arbitrary.
In 1638 the struggle between the State and the clergy on the subject of taxes became critical, and Richelieu, to uphold his claims, enlisted the aid of the brothers Pierre and Jacques Dupuy, who about the middle of 1638 published "Les libertés de l'église gallicane". This book established the independence of the Gallican Church in opposition to Rome only to reduce it into servile submission to the temporal power. The clergy and the nuncio complained; eighteen bishops assembled at the house of Cardinal de la Rouchefoucald, and denounced to their colleagues this "work of the devil ". Richelieu then exaggerated his fiscal exigencies in regard to the clergy ; an edict of 16 April, 1639, stipulated that ecclesiastics and communities were incapable of possessing landed property in France, that the king could compel them to surrender their possessions and unite them to his domains, but that he would allow them to retain what they had in consideration of certain indemnities which should be calculated in going back to the year 1520. In Oct., 1639, after the murder of an equerry of Marshal d'Estrees, the French Ambassador, Estrees declared the rights of the people violated. Richelieu refused to receive the nuncio (October, 1639); a decree of the royal council, 22 December, restrained the powers of the pontifical Briefs, and even the canonist Marca proposed to break the Concordat and to hold a national council at which Richelieu was to have been made patriarch. Precisely at this date Richelieu had a whole series of grievances against Rome : Urban VIII had refused successively to name him Legate of the Holy See in France, Legate of Avignon, and coadjutor to the Bishop of Trier ; he had refused the purple to Father Joseph, and had been opposed the annulment of the marriage of Gaston d'Orléans. But Richelieu, however furious he was, did not wish to carry things to extremes. After a certain number of polemics on the subject of the taxes to be levied on the clergy, the ecclesiastical assembly of Mantes in 1641 accorded to the Government (which was satisfied therewith) five and a half millions, and Richelieu, to restore quiet, accepted the dedication of Marca's book "La concorde du sacerdoce et de l'empire", in which certain exceptions were taken to Dupuy's book. At the same time the sending of Mazarin as envoy to France by Urban VIII, and the presentation to him of the cardinal's hat put an end to the differences between Richelieu and the Holy See.
Upon the whole, Richelieu's policy was to preserve a just mean between the parliamentary Gallicans and the Ultramontanes. "In such matters", he wrote in his political testament, "one must believe neither the people of the palace, who ordinarily measure the power of the king by the shape of his crown, which, being round, has no end, nor those who, in the excesses of an indiscreet zeal, proclaim themselves openly as partisans of Rome ". One may believe that Pierre de Marca's book was inspired by him and reproduces his ideas. According to this book the liberties of the Gallican Church have two foundations: (1) the recognition of the primacy and the sovereign authority of the Church of Rome, a primacy consisting in the right to make general laws to judge without appeal, and to be judged neither by bishops nor by councils; (2) the sovereign right of the kings which knows no superior in temporal affairs. It is to be noted that Marca does not give the superiority of a council over the pope as a foundation of the Gallican liberties. (For Richelieu's work in Canada see article CANADA.) In 1636 Richelieu founded the Academie Française. He had great literary pretensions, and had several mediocre plays of his own composition produced in a theatre belonging to him. With a stubbornness inexplicable today Voltaire foolishly denied that Richelieu's "Testament politique" was authentic ; the researches of M. Hanotaux have proved its authenticity, and given the proper value to admirable chapters such as the chapter entitled, "Le conseil du Prince", into which Richelieu, says M. Hanotaux, "has put all his soul and his genius". [For Richelieu's "Mémoires" see HARLAY, FAMILY OF: (2) Achille de Harlay. ]
By the Grace of God, with the help of Montana Ranch and Cattle, Catholic Online School has become one of the fastest-growing, online K-Adult schools in the world. The school now has over 915,000 student enrollments from 193 countries. Click to Save 25% Now >
Join the Movement
When you sign up below, you don't just join an email list - you're joining an entire movement for Free world class Catholic education.
St. Clare of Assisi
Saint of the Day for Thursday, Aug 11th, 2022
Mysteries of the Rosary
Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Prayer of the Day for Thursday, Aug 11
Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony
The Apostles' Creed
Patron Saints A-Z
- Daily Readings for Thursday, August 11, 2022
- St. Clare of Assisi: Saint of the Day for Thursday, August 11, 2022
- Prayer for the Safety of a Soldier: Prayer of the Day for Thursday, August 11, 2022
- Daily Readings for Wednesday, August 10, 2022
- St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr: Saint of the Day for Wednesday, August 10, 2022
- Prayer to Our Guardian Angel: Prayer of the Day for Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.