Program InformationSeries: A Moment in Time
Year Produced: 2009
Elevated in 1624, Cardinal Richelieu was the real ruler of France and, more than any king, helped establish the French monarchy as absolute.
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Lead: Elevated in 1624, Cardinal Richelieu was the real ruler of France and, more than any king, helped establish the French monarchy as absolute.
Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts
Content: Armand-Jean du Plessis, Duc de Richelieu, was one of the most brilliant statesmen of his era and secured the power of his master, the French king, with every weapon at his not inconsiderable disposal. He possessed an agile mind and an infallible memory. Unconcerned with ethics or morality, he was able to go quickly to the root of a problem and deal with it.
The heart of the Cardinal's creed was "reason d'etat," the reason of state. The good of the state was the supreme good and that justified any action whatsoever. He sent innocent men to their deaths to enhance the power of the king. When Louis XIII became squeamish, Richelieu would browbeat him brutally. He said, "Man is immortal, his salvation is hereafter: the state has no immortality, its salvation is now or never."
Perhaps the boldest move of Richelieu's career--and one that indicates his ruthlessness--was his intervention in the Thirty Years War. Europe had been wracked by religious warfare for decades after 1620. Catholic countries led by Spain and Austria were anxious to take back territories that had fallen to Protestantism in the 100 years after Martin Luther. For years the Protestant cause suffered. During this time, Richelieu kept France out of the conflict. When it appeared, however, that France's archenemies--Spain and Austria--were going to prevail, the Roman Catholic Cardinal decisively intervened on the side of the Protestants who were saved from complete defeat.
Richelieu has been made villain in numerous works of fiction, but the intensity with which he pursued his goal secured for France a strong central government and a most powerful place in 17th century Europe.
At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts. The Producer of A Moment in Time is Steve Clark.