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Born either at Rome or at Piscina in the Abruzzi, of a very old Sicilian family, 14 July, 1602; died at Vincennes, 9 March, 1661. His father was majordomo to the Colonna family at Rome. One of his uncles, Giulio Mazarini (1544-1622), a Jesuit, enjoyed a great reputation in Italy, particularly at Bologna, as a preacher, and published several volumes of sacred eloquence.
His youth was full of excitement: he accompanied the future Cardinal Colonna to Madrid ; he was in turn a captain of pontifical troops and then a pontifical diplomat in the Valtelline War (1624) and the Mantuan War of Succession (1628-30). The truce which he negotiated (26 October, 1630) between the French, on one side, and the Spaniards and the Duke of Savoy, on the other, won for him the esteem of Richelieu, who was well pleased at his letting Pignerol fall into the hands of the French. The Spaniards tried to injure him with Pope Urban VIII, but the influence of Cardinal Antonio Barberini and a letter from Richelieu saved him. He became canon of St. John Lateran, vice-legate at Avignon (1632), and nuncio extraordinary in France (1634). The Spaniards complained that in this last post Mazarin made it his exclusive business to support Richelieu's policy, and he was dismissed from the nunciature by Urban VIII (17 Jan., 1636). Soon after leaving the papal service, he went to Paris, placed himself at Richelieu's disposition, and was naturalized as a French subject in April, 1639. Richelieu commissioned him, late in 1640, to sign a secret treaty between France and Prince Thomas of Savoy, and caused him to be made a cardinal on 16 Dec., 1641. Shortly before Richelieu's death, Mazarin by a piece of clever management, had been able to effect the reoccupation of Sedan by French troops, and Richelieu on his deathbed (4 Dec., 1642) recommended him to the king. On the death of Louis XIII (14 May, 1642), Anne of Austria, leaving the Duc d'Orléans the shadowy title of lieutenant-general of the kingdom gave the reality of power to Mazarin, who first pretended to be on the point of setting out for Italy, and then pretended that his acceptance of office was only provisional, until such time as the peace of Europe should be re-established.
But Mazarin, like Richelieu, was, in the event, to retain power until his death, first under the queen regent and then under the king after Louis XIV had attained his majority. His very humble appearance and manner, his gentle and kindly ways, had contributed to his elevation, and Anne's affection for him was the best guarantee of his continuance in office. The precise character of his relations with Anne of Austria is one of the enigmas of history. Certain letters of Anne of Austria to Mazarin, published by Cousin, and admissions made by Anne to Mme de Brienne and recorded in the Memoirs of Loménie de Brienne, prove that the queen regent was deeply attached to the cardinal. Still, "my sensibilities have no part in it", she said to Mme de Brienne. Few historians give credence to Anne's assertion on this point, and some go so far as to accept the allegations of the Princess Palatine in her letters of 1717, 1718, and 1722, according to which Anne of Austria and Mazarin were married. M. Loiseleur, who has made a careful study of the problem, believes that Mazarin was never married; it is certain that he retained the title and insignia of a cardinal until his death; probably he was even a cardinal-priest, though he never visited Rome after his elevation to the purple and seems never to have received the hat. And in any case he held the title of Bishop of Metz from 1653 to 1658.
Mazarin continued Richelieu's policy against the House of Austria. Aided by the victories of Condé and Turenne, he succeeded in bringing the Thirty Years' War to a conclusion with the Treaties of Munster and Osnabrück (Treaty of Westphalia ), which gave Alsace (without Strasburg ) to France ; and in 1659 he ended the war with Spain in the Peace of the Pyrenees, which gave to France Roussillon, Cerdagne, and part of the Low Countries. Twice, in 1651 and 1652, he was driven out of the country by the Parliamentary Fronde and the Fronde of the Nobles, with the innumerable pamphlets (Mazarinades) which they published against him, but the final defeat of both Frondes was the victory of royal absolutism, and Mazarin thus prepared the way for Louis XIV'somnipotence. Lastly, in 1658, he placed Germany, in some sort, under the young king's protection, by forming the League of the Rhine, which was destined to hold the House of Austria in check. Thus did he lay the foundation of Louis XIV's greatness. His foreign policy was, as Richelieu's had often been, indifferent to the interests of Catholicism : the Peace of Westphalia gave its solemn sanction to the legal existence of Calvinism in Germany, and, while the nuncio vainly protested, Protestant princes were rewarded with secularized bishoprics and abbacies for their political opposition to Austria. Neither did it matter much to him whether the monarchical principle was respected or contemned in a foreign country: he was Cromwell's ally. Towards the Protestants he pursued an adroit policy. In 1654 Cromwell opened negotiations with the Calvinists of the South of France, who, the year before, had taken up arms in Ardeche to secure certain liberties for themselves. Mazarin knew how to keep the Calvinists amused with fine words, promises, and calculated delays: for six years they believed themselves to be on the eve of recovering their privileges, and in the end they obtained nothing. The cardinal well knew how to retain in the king's service valuable Protestants like Turenne and Gassion. His personal relations with the Holy See were hardly cordial. He could not prevent Cardinal Pamfili, a friend of Spain, from being elected pope (15 Sept., 1644) as Innocent X. He received in France, one after the other, Cardinals Antonio and Francesco Barberini, nephews of the late pope, and the Bull of 21 February, 1646, fulminated by Innocent X against the cardinals, who were absenting themselves without authorization, (by the tenor of which Bull Mazarin himself was bound to repair to Rome ), was voted by the Parliament of Paris "null and abusive". Mazarin obtained a decree of the Royal Council forbidding money to be remitted to Rome for expediting Bulls, there was a show of preparing an expedition against Avignon, and Innocent X, yielding to these menaces, ended by restoring their property and dignities to Mazarin's protégés, the Barberini. Following up his policy of bullying the pope, Mazarin sent two fleets to the Neapolitan coast to seize the Spanish presidios nearest to the papal frontiers. Apart from this, he had no Italian policy, properly speaking, and his demonstrations in Italy had no other object than to compel Spain to keep her troops there, and to bring the pope to a complaisant attitude towards France and towards Mazarin's own relations. The elevation of his brother Michael Mazarin to the cardinalate (October, 1647) was one of his diplomatic victories. Though not interested in questions of theology, Mazarin detested the Jansenists for the part taken by some of them -- disavowed, however, by Antoine Arnauld -- in the Fronde, and for their support of Cardinal de Retz . A declaration of the king in July, 1653, and an assembly of bishops in May, 1655, over which Mazarin presided, gave executive force to the decrees of Innocent X against Jansenism. The order condemning Pascal's "Provinciales" to be burnt, the order for the dismissal of pupils, novices, and postulants from the two convents of Port-Royal, the formula prepared by the Assembly of the Clergy against the "Augustinus" (1661), which formula all ecclesiastics had to sign -- all these must be regarded as episodes of Mazarin's anti-Jansenist policy. On his deathbed he warned the king "not to tolerate the Jansenist sect, not even their name". Having little by little become "as powerful as God the Father when the world began", enjoying the revenues of twenty-seven abbacies, always ready to enrich himself by whatever means, and possessing a fortune equivalent to about $40,000,000 in twentieth century American money, Mazarin, towards the end of his life, multiplied in Paris the manifestations of his wealth. He organized a free lottery, at his own expense, with prizes amounting to more than a million francs, collected in his own palace more wonderful things than the king's palace contained, had no objection to presiding at tournaments, exhibitions of horsemanship, and ballets, and patronized the earliest efforts of the comic poet Molière. The young Louis XIV entertained a profound affection for him and, what is more, fell in love with the cardinal's two nieces, Olympe Mancini and Marie Mancini, one after the other. Mazarin sent Marie away, to prevent the king from entertaining the idea of marrying her. But if, for reasons of state, he refused to become the uncle of the King of France, it seems that there were moments when he dreamed of the tiara : the Abbé Choisy asserts that Mazarin died "in the vision of being made pope ". One reminiscence at least of the old political ideas of Christian Europe is to be found in his will: he left the pope a fund (600,000 livres) to prosecute the war against the Turks. The cardinal, who throughout his life had given but little thought to the interests of Christianity, seems to have sought pardon by remembering them on his deathbed. The same will directed the foundation of the College of the Four Nations, for the free education of sixty children from those provinces which he had united to France. To this college he bequeathed the library now known as the Bibliothèque Mazarine. Mazarin's nieces made princely marriages: Anne Marie Martinozzi became the Princesse de Conti; Laura Martinozzi, the Duchesse de Modène; Laure Mancini died in 1657, Duchesse de Mercoeur; Olympe Mancini became Comtesse de Soissons ; Hortense Mancini, Marquise de la Meilleraie and Duchesse de Mazarin; Marie Mancini, Countess Colonna ; Marie Anne Mancini, Duchesse de Bouillon. All these women, and particularly the last four, had singularly stormy careers.