Richelieu, Armand-Jean du Plessis, cardinal and duke de


Richelieu, Armand-Jean du Plessis, cardinal and duke de

biographical name

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Cardinal de Richelieu, detail of a portrait by Philippe de Champaigne; in the Louvre, Paris—Giraudon/Art Resource, New York

(born Sept. 9, 1585, Richelieu, Poitou, France—died Dec. 4, 1642, Paris) French statesman and chief minister to Louis XIII. Born to a minor noble family, he was ordained a priest in 1607 and became bishop of Luçon. As the first bishop in France to implement reforms decreed by the Council of Trent, he brought order to a diocese ruined by the Wars of Religion. In 1614 he was elected a deputy of the clergy in the Estates-General, where he was noted as a conciliatory force. He became an adviser to Marie de Médicis in 1616 and later councillor to her son, Louis XIII. Named a cardinal in 1622, he served as chief minister from 1624 and became the controlling influence in France's policies. He established royal absolutism in France by suppressing the political power of the Huguenots and reducing the influence of the nobles. In foreign policy, he sought to weaken Habsburg control of Europe and involved France in the Thirty Years' War. Devious and brilliant, he increased the power of the Bourbon dynasty and established orderly government in France. He also founded the Académie Française and rebuilt the Sorbonne.

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