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 Niccolo Machiavelli.Read more...
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 Niccolo 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. "Eminence" offers a rich portrait of a fascinating man and his era, and gives us a keener understanding of the dark arts of politics."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-06-20
- Reviewer: Staff
Cardinal Richelieu (1585–1642) may be best known from Alexander Dumas's The Three Musketeers as a man even more powerful than the French king. In this gripping new biography, Blanchard, associate professor of French literature and politics at Swarthmore, brings Richelieu to life and demonstrates that the cardinal's power grew out of his dependence on and loyalty to the king. Blanchard's chronicle traces Richelieu's life and career from his birth in Paris to a nobleman and high-ranking court official. In 1606 King Henry IV nominated Richelieu to become bishop of Luçon and thus began his rapid ascent to power as confidante of Louis XIII, who named him the duc de Richelieu; named a cardinal in 1622, he became known as l'Éminence rouge ("the Red Eminence") for his noble style and red cardinal's robes. Through various political and military intrigues, Richelieu strove to consolidate the monarchy's power and make France less dependent on foreign nations. A patron of the arts, Richelieu built a theater in his palace, funded the work of Pierre Corneille, and founded the Académie française, the paramount French literary society. Blanchard's captivating biography vividly captures the rise to power of a seminal figure who was instrumental in creating France as we know it. (Sept.)