Cardinal Richelieu's Contribution To The Growth Of The French State

1906 words - 8 pages

Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu was born in 1585, and would become the future chief minister of the French monarchy from 1624 to 1642. When he was born, on his cot was the motto, Regi Armandus, meaning "Armand for the King" . This statement would arguably become one of the truest statements in history, as Richelieu would eventually play a very important part in firmly establishing the power of the French monarchy over its subjects and the power of France as a world power . Richelieu has been seen by different historians in two ways; one being a ruthless despot who would do whatever he possibly could to achieve his goals, and the other being of a brilliant politician who transformed France into one of the greatest and most powerful nations and monarchies in the world. However, some historians, such as Knecht argue that both of these views are interlinked. The Machiavellian principle, "the ends justify the means", applies greatly to Cardinal Richelieu, as he was a very ambitious politician, and would do anything that he saw as possible to strengthen the position of France and the king. Koenigsberger argues that, in relation to the wars of religion, "royal authority was restored largely by the energy of Louis XIII's chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu" .

Richelieu had many advantages being chief minister. One of these advantages was that he was a cardinal. The Catholic Church was an extremely powerful institution in France, and with one of their representatives in such a high position of parliament, it would be in the church's interest to support him wholly for their own ends. Wedgwood also argues that the church "would not readily tolerate an attack upon its main representative in council" . Theoretically, with the support of the church behind him, Richelieu would be supported by Catholics across the country.

Another advantage that Richelieu had being chief minister was his close relationship with the king. Richelieu expressed political advice to the king which was seriously acknowledged by the king. Richelieu's value to the king is shown by when he offered to resign in 1626, the king wrote to him stating "My trust in you is complete, and it is true that I have never found anyone whose service has pleased me as much" . With these points to his advantage, Richelieu had the potential to become a very influential figure in council.

The way in which Richelieu worked was with great speed and secrecy, and by making small scale reforms. Richelieu was not the most creative statesman as he worked by weakening some French institutions in order to strengthen others. This is because he was a very prudent statesman and would not carry out an operation unless he was certain that it would work. Wedgwood argues that this was because Richelieu did not want to damage his reputation; "the Cardinal fully understood that the most damaging thing for the prestige of a despot is to attempt, to fail, and to withdraw." The fact that Wedgwood describes...

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