Cardinal Richelieu

French clergyman, cardinal, noble and statesman (1585-1642)
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Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu et de Fronsac (9 September 15854 December 1642) was a French clergyman, noble, and statesman. Consecrated as a bishop in 1607, he was appointed Foreign Secretary in 1616. He continued to rise in both the Catholic Church and French government, becoming a cardinal in 1622, and Chief minister to Louis XIII of France in 1624. He retained this office until his death in 1642, when he was succeeded by Cardinal Mazarin, whose career he had fostered.

To mislead a rival, deception is permissible; one may use all means against his enemies.

Richelieu sought to consolidate royal power and by restraining the power of the nobility, he transformed France into a strong, centralized state. In foreign policy, his primary objective was to check the power of the Habsburg dynasty in Spain and Austria, and ensure French dominance in the Thirty Years' War that engulfed Europe. Despite suppressing French Protestants, he made alliances with Protestant states like the Kingdom of England and the Dutch Republic to achieve his goals. Though he was a powerful political figure, events such as the Day of the Dupes, or Journée des Dupes, show this power was still dependent on the king's confidence.

Quotes edit

If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.
  • Savoir dissimuler est le savoir des rois.
    • Deception is the knowledge of kings.
    • “Maxims,” Testament Politique (1641)
  • Secrecy is the first essential in affairs of state.
    • “Maxims,” Testament Politique (1641)
  • Pour tromper un rival l'artifice est permis; on peut tout employer contres ses ennemis.
    • We may employ artifice to deceive a rival, anything against our enemies.
      • As quoted in Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern English and Foreign Sources (1899) by James Wood
    • Variant translation: To mislead a rival, deception is permissible; one may use all means against his enemies.
  • Ultima ratio Regum
    • The last reasoning of Kings.
      • A comment upon artillery fire, as quoted in Dictionary of Foreign Phrases and Classical Quotations (1908) edited by Hugh Percy Jones, p. 119; these words were later inscribed upon the cannon of Louis XVI of France.
  • Had Luther and Calvin been confined before they had begun to dogmatize, the states would have been spared many troubles.
    • As quoted in The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), edited by Charles George Herbermann
  • Harshness towards individuals who flout the laws and commands of state is for the public good; no greater crime against the public interest is possible than to show leniency to those who violate it.
    • As quoted in Champlain's Dream‎ (2008) by David Hackett Fischer

Disputed edit

  • Qu'on me donne six lignes écrites de la main du plus honnête homme, j'y trouverai de quoi le faire pendre.
    • If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.
      • As quoted in The Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations (1896) by Jehiel K̀eeler Hoyt, p. 763
    • Édouard Fournier, in L'Espirit dans l'Historie (1867), 3rd edition, Ch. 51, p. 260, disputes the traditional attribution, and suggests various agents of Richelieu might have been the actual author.
    • David Hackett Fischer, in Champlain's Dream (2009), Simon & Schuster, p. 704, n. 14, says it's a paraphrase of Quintilian and there is no source closer to Richelieu than Francoise Bertaut's Memoires pour servir à l'histoire d'Anne d'Autriche.
    • Variant translations:
    • Give me six lines written by the most honest man in the world, and I will find enough in them to hang him.
      • Attributed in Dictionary of Foreign Phrases and Classical Quotations (1908) edited by Hugh Percy Jones, p. 327
    • If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.
      • As quoted in America Debates Privacy Versus Security‎ (2007) by Jeri Freedman
    • Give me six lines written by the most honest man, and I will find something there to hang him.
      • As quoted in Champlain's Dream‎ (2008), Simon & Schuster, p. 391, by David Hackett Fischer, footnoted with disputation above.
  • The people can be easily misled, but a wise autocrat can guide them towards their own good
    • It is sometimes attributed to Cardinal Richelieu, though he probably never said it.

Quotes about Richelieu edit

  • He was a great statesman, not so much by reason of his calculations and his designs as by his exact appreciation of the means necessary for arriving at a certain end, and of the relation between a state’s internal policy and administration, and its foreign policy. This is the secret of his success in an enterprise in which France was running counter to a power stronger than herself.
  • Supported by the king, Richelieu had exercised a veritable dictatorship which the French people had submitted to with impatience, but without which the national work would have been impossible. The nobles were not the only ones who protested. More than once the peasants rose up because of the taxes, the bourgeois because the interest was not paid. The greatness of the result to be attained—France entrenched on the Rhine, the conquest of the "natural frontiers," the end of the German danger, the humbling of the Hapsburgs—were ideas fitted to exalt the minds of those shaping French policy. But how could the masses be expected to renounce their comforts cheerfully for such far-off ends which were beyond their powers of comprehension? Later the policy of Richelieu became a tradition, a national dogma, respected even by the revolutionists. But during his lifetime his contemporaries were far from feeling that no sacrifice was too great if it meant the defeat of the house of Austria. In truth the death of the great Cardinal was felt rather as a relief.
  • His most recurring insistence is upon the supremacy of reason and prudence over the hazards of emotion and favoritism in the governance of affairs of state. His strongest injunction is a constant surveillance of every potential serious source of danger to the state and equally steadfast purpose in promoting every measure for strengthening the realm. The king must appoint men of high competence, integrity, and fidelity to government service; be on guard against flatterers; be patient with mediocrities and know how best to employ them; maintain a strong and adequate army; and never act without the advice of the royal council. Many other counsels are given which reveal the flexibility of Richelieu's mind, his circumspect caution, and a determination that brooked no obstacle in carrying through a plan. There are too many exhortations to abide by the Christian conscience, which seem to consort uncomfortably with Richelieu's overriding purpose—to make France an absolute monarchy and the dominant state of Europe.
    • Joseph F. Costanzo, 'Reviewed Work: The Political Testament of Cardinal Richelieu: The Significant Chapters and Supporting Selections by Henry Bertram Hill', The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 341, Unconventional Warfare (May 1962), pp. 131-132
  • Combining in himself the functions of a number of former officials, he had accepted the position in order to centralize the control of the sea and of commerce in his own hands. After he had accomplished this purpose he proceeded to use the office to develop the economic interests of the state. He appointed, for example, a number of men to investigate and make reports concerning various commercial problems. He also made vigorous attempts to establish a powerful naval and commercial marine. Meanwhile he encouraged the founding of a great French colonial empire. By his external policies alone, he sketched the broad outlines of the mercantilist policy which his successor Colbert evolved in more complete detail.
    • Franklin Charles Palm, 'Mercantilism as a Factor in Richelieu's Policy of National Interests', Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 39, No. 4 (December 1924), p. 658

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