Armand Jean du Plessis, Duke of Richelieu
Cardinal and famous statesman.
Born in 1585 in Paris, France; died there in 1642.
Destined for a military career, upon the resignation of his brother from the Bishopric of Lugon, he changed his plans, and after serious theological studies, obtained the. see and was consecrated bishop when only twenty-two years old.
He always discharged his episcopal duties with exemplary zeal, composed a remarkable catechism., wrote a refutation of Protestantism, and had missions preached allover his diocese.
At the States General of 1614, where he was the mouth-piece of the clergy, he attracted attention by his eloquence and soon after was made Secretary of State by Maria de' Medici.
After a brief disgrace he returned to power, was made cardinal in 1622, and President of the Council of Ministers in 1624; he occupied this post until his death, 18 years later.
Richelieu's policies may be summed up as follows: at home, destruction of the Huguenot party, which, with British assistance, was creating a State within the State; curbing of the rebellious princes who were fomenting civil wars to serve their own ambition; abroad, the humiliation of the House of Austria, even by making alliances with Protestant princes and the Turks.
The war against the Huguenots ended by the capture of La Rochelle, after a memorable siege conducted by Richelieu in person; in his fight against the princes he frustrated several plots and had some of the leaders put to death (Montmorency, Cinq-Mars, De Thou); in his struggle against the House of Austria he supported Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, and during the French period of the Thirty Years War (1635-1643) had several armies fighting against the Austro-Spanish troops; although the war brought unspeakable miseries upon several French provinces, especially Artois and Lorraine, the cardinal persisted despite even the pleadings of Saint Vincent de Paul.
Richelieu was a great patron of letters and the founder of the French Academy in 1634.
He was one of the greatest statesmen France ever produced, but his actions were frequently inspired by a spirit of vindictiveness, and his policy of constant alliances with the Protestants of Holland and Germany for the sole purpose of humbling the House of Austria, cannot be condoned.
New Catholic Dictionary