Eminence: Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of France

Jean-Vincent Blanchard

Chief minister to King Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu was the architect of a new France in the seventeenth century, and the force behind the nation's rise as a European power. Among the first statesmen to clearly understand the necessity of a balance of powers, he was one of the early realist politicians, practicing in the wake of Niccolò Machiavelli. Truly larger than life, he has captured the imagination of generations, both through his own story and through his portrayal as a ruthless political mastermind in Alexandre Dumas's classic The Three Musketeers.

Forging a nation-state amid the swirl of unruly, grasping nobles, widespread corruption, wars of religion, and an ambitious Habsburg empire, Richelieu's hands were always full. Serving his fickle monarch, he mastered the politics of absolute power. Jean-Vincent Blanchard's rich and insightful new biography brings Richelieu fully to life in all his complexity. At times cruel and ruthless, Richelieu was always devoted to creating a lasting central authority vested in the power of monarchy, a power essential to France's position on the European stage for the next two centuries. Richelieu's careful understanding of politics as spectacle speaks to contemporary readers; much of what he accomplished was promoted strategically through his great passion for theater and literature, and through the romance of power. Éminence offers a rich portrait of a fascinating man and his era, and gives us a keener understanding of the dark arts of politics.
"Blanchard's captivating biography vividly captures the rise to power of a seminal figure who was instrumental in creating France as we know it."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Blanchard gives Cardinal Richelieu a tremendous depth of character through the re-creation of key, decisive moments over the course of his courtly career."—Kirkus Reviews

"Cardinal Richelieu receives a more nuanced portrayal from Blanchard…. [he] excels in digging deep beneath the surface to reveal the extraordinary man who spawned the legend."—Margaret Flanagan, Booklist

"Blanchard paints a riveting picture of the scope of Richelieu’s career…. While the life of the notorious cardinal is hardly untouched material for writers, Blanchard’s biography is one of few recent treatments of the subject in English and should be well received by scholars and general readers with a serious interest in French military or political history."—Tessa L.H. Minchew, Library Journal

"A richly rewarding study of both an early student of absolute state power, and how his influence built the foundation for France's domination of seventeenth-century Europe."—BarnesandNobleReview.com

About the Author
Jean-Vincent Blanchard is an associate professor of French literature and politics at Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. He is the author of several books published in France;

Show sample text content

Download sample