Eminence: Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of Franceby Jean-Vincent Blanchard
Chief Minister to King Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu was the architect of a new France in the 17th century, and the force behind the nation's rise as a European power. One of 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. (A notable advocate
Chief Minister to King Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu was the architect of a new France in the 17th century, and the force behind the nation's rise as a European power. One of 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. (A notable advocate of realpolitik in our own time, Henry Kissinger, credits Richelieu with introducing a modern approach to international relations). Forging a nation-state amidst the swirl of unruly, grasping nobles, widespread corruption, wars of religion, and an ambitious Habsburg empire, Richelieu's hands were full. Serving his king, however, and mastering the politics of absolute power provided Richelieu with his greatest challenge and ultimately determined his legacy to France and to all those who practice statecraft. Jean-Vincent Blanchard's rich and insightful new biography brings Richelieu fully to life, at court, on the battlefield, at times cruel and ruthless, always devoted to creating a lasting central authority vested in the power of monarchy, a power essential to the hegemony of France on the European stage for the next two centuries. Especially interesting to contemporary readers will be Richelieu's careful understanding of politics as spectacle; much of what he accomplished was promoted strategically through the arts, through a "style," or romance of power. Richelieu's story offers us a keener understanding of the dark arts of politics.
“Blanchard's captivating biography vividly captures the rise to power of a seminal figure who was instrumental in creating France as we know it.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Blanchard gives Cardinal Richelieu a tremendous depth of character through the re-creation of key, decisive moments over the course of his courtly career.” Kirkus Reviews
“Cardinal Richelieu receives a more nuanced portrayal from Blanchard…. [he] excels in digging deep beneath the surface to reveal the extraordinary man who spawned the legend.” Margaret Flanagan, Booklist
“Blanchard paints a riveting picture of the scope of Richelieu's career…. While the life of the notorious cardinal is hardly untouched material for writers, Blanchard's biography is one of few recent treatments of the subject in English and should be well received by scholars and general readers with a serious interest in French military or political history.” Tessa L.H. Minchew, Library Journal
“A richly rewarding study of both an early student of absolute state power, and how his influence built the foundation for France's domination of seventeenth-century Europe.” BarnesandNobleReview.com
A tightly focused, fresh appraisal of the shrewd, ambitious minister for King Louis XIII.
In his first English-language book, Blanchard (French Literature and Politics/Swarthmore Coll.) gives Cardinal Richelieu a tremendous depth of character through the re-creation of key, decisive moments over the course of his courtly career. The astute cardinal, who acted as key advisor to Louis XIII, skillfully manipulated religious and political insurrections and effectively created a French navy and a beefed-up administrative state. He asserted the king's power, in spite of the king's resentment of the cardinal's influence, and even though he found his advice indispensable. Blanchard writes that Richelieu "allowed his countrymen to think of a grand future for themselves," thus laying the foundation for the Sun King's subsequent reign of glory (and profligacy). The coup d'état of 1617, in which the overbearing queen mother's Italian confidant, Concino Concini, was murdered by the kings' jealous princes, would forever spot Richelieu's reputation, as he had been chief of the queen's council. Yet Richelieu managed to negotiate a tender rapprochement between mother and son; he was awarded the position of cardinal in 1622 after the death of the king's influential favorite, Duc de Luynes. He would have to manage further traitorous machinations involving the king's younger brother, Gaston, and later favorite, Cinq-Mars. Richelieu was the key in maneuvering the crown through a landmine of political insurrection among the warring Protestants, and he made himself master of maritime development. However, in continuing a series of pot-boiling wars with the Hapsburgs, he drained the country's coffers. Blanchard dwells on Richelieu's passion for building and the theater, though too rarely quotes from his own cerebral writing.
Despite deliberately pared-down, somewhat stilted language, a well-organized work that would make an indispensable supplement for students of the period.
- Walker & Company
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- 6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Meet the Author
Jean-Vincent Blanchard is an associate professor of French literature and politics at Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. He is the author of several books published in France; this is his first book published in English.
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