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 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 Niccolò Machiavelli. Truly… See more details below
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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 Niccolò 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. Éminence offers a rich portrait of a fascinating man and his era, and gives us a keener understanding of the dark arts of politics.
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.
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.
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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