Armand Jean du Plessis, Duc de Richelieu, 1585 - 1642

portrait of Armand Jean du Plessis, Duc de Richelieu
Portrait by Philippe de Champaigne, April 1637

Born: 9 September 1585, Paris, France
Died: 4 December 1642, Paris, France

The youngest of three sons in a family of minor nobility at Richelieu, Poitou, France, his father François du Plessis died in 1590. The family was supported by a royal grant due to the father's military service. At nine he entered the College of Navarre at Paris, with expectation of a military career, but when his older brother refused to become Bishop of Luçon Armand changed course. Five years too young to hold the office, he went to Rome ask for papal compensation to take the post. He caught the attention of Marie de Medici, mother of and regent for Louis XIII, and held a position in the court of Anne of Austria, the young wife of the king. As Marie's political power rose and fell, du Plessis was sometimes an advisor to her, at other times an advisor to the king, and occasionally an intermediary as mother and son clashed and made peace. As the principal advisor to the king he was both opposed to the Protestant minority, the Huguenots, and waged war against them, but was also willing to ally with other Protestant powers, notably in Germany and Sweden, against the Habsburgs. He set out to eliminate the power of the traditional aristocracy and build the first significant central government. He played a key part in the treaties that forged the Peace of Westphalia, an event that can be said to have been the genesis of the modern national state. He was a sponsor of Samuel de Champlain, who settled and governed Quebec, and established the Académie française, the literary society that is still the final authority on the French language. As his health failed in the last year of his life, Richelieu reconciled with Pope Urban VIII and arranged for a trusted follower to become Jules Cardinal Mazarin and to succeed him, both as cardinal and advisor to the king.

Biography from Wikipedia and the Catholic Encyclopedia

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