Cardinal Richelieu
Henri Motte

Cardinal Richelieu Henri Motte

Armand Jean du Plessis was born in Paris on September 9, 1585. He took the name Richelieu from the name of his family's estate. From the time he was born he set out on a military career. However, in 1601 at 22 he switch to theology and became the Roman Catholic bishop of Locon, a city near La Rochelle in western France. He became a representative to the Estates-General in 1614, and soon won the favor of the Queen Mother Marie de Medicis. Richelieu's powerful, analytical intellect was characterized by a reliance on reason, strong will, the ability to govern others and use political power effectively. By 1622 he became a cardinal and in 1624 the Chief or Prime Minister of King Louis XIII. Cardinal Richelieu became the most powerful person in France, in part because Louis was a weak king and in part because Richelieu was so strong. He had control of almost every facet of French politics, from the daily activities of the court to foreign policy and affairs. His dual role as head of the church in France and Prime Minister, allowed him to control the direction of the government.

Cardinal Richelieu has been admired by many historians for his intelligence and energy. During his service as prime minister he helped France become the leading power in Europe. He supported the French navy and the establishment of French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. Richelieu was also a great patron of the arts. He rebuilt the Sorbonne in Paris, supported promising writers and founded the French Academy. Many French historians consider Richelieu as the founder of French unity, as well as the person who released France from its medieval nature.