Eminence: Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of France
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;
was Louis XIII who spoke in the French state’s interest, and that he only used his brilliant eloquence on behalf of a king who could be shy and suffered from a stutter. By Richelieu’s own system of thought, that his obeying these royal decisions was irreconcilable with the vows of a priest missed the point. It is hard not to shake off the feeling that quite often the cardinal’s advice to the king and his own actions were also an outlet for a power-hungry, vindictive, and mean temperament,
that make it unacceptable. See her Anne of Austria, pp. 106–7. 3. Parrott, Richelieu’s Army, p. 127. 4. After he gave his word of honor that he would not escape, the king allowed de Werth to go about freely in the capital. Soon enough this general found himself the object of Parisians’ insatiable appetite for novelty. The dames paid him visits. Richelieu offered a banquet in his honor. Common people were less worldly with de Werth: they spent the summer singing burlesque songs about the
September 6, gave the letter to the officials, and added that the missive meant the contrary, that the king’s real wish was to adjourn the promotion.48 In January 1621, Richelieu received a disappointing announcement: the Holy See had passed him over. Both queen and adviser got the news in Paris, where they had settled. Richelieu’s task was now to reinstate the queen smoothly in the position of power that she could rightly claim as the king’s mother. The king and Luynes would then forget about
such an imposing retinue that the Duc d’Épernon misjudged the number of carriages he needed to take her to his majestic château over the Garonne. By the time the duke finished showing Anne her apartments and rushed back to the water to fetch Richelieu, he found the cardinal walking the steady climb that leads to the house. As the duke’s secretary, Guillaume Girard, narrated it, no apology or prayer could persuade the cardinal to accept this belated offer of proper transport. Richelieu looked both
Habsburgs did not make Henri forget that he had been a Protestant. His Edict of Nantes protected the French Protestants from judicial discrimination, allowed them to hold public offices, and even gave them fortified towns. Henri also maintained a benevolent position toward the princes of Reformed Europe. Many subjects, known as the Good Frenchmen, revered their king for these pro-French and nonpartisan politics. At the same time, Henri’s sensible balancing act still left the stauncher Catholic