Cardinal Richelieu

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Richelieu, Cardinal


(Armand-Jean du Plessis, Duc de Richelieu). Born Sept. 5, 1585, in Paris; died there Dec. 4, 1642. French statesman and cardinal (from 1622).

In 1624, Richelieu became head of the royal council and de facto ruler of France. Attempting to strengthen absolutism, he took La Rochelle (1628) and the southern fortresses (1629) from the Huguenots, who had set up a state within the state. He deprived the Huguenots of the political rights granted them under the Edict of Nantes (1598), but he maintained freedom of religion, as well as certain privileges enjoyed by the Huguenot bourgeoisie (the Edict of Mercy, 1629). In 1632, Richelieu suppressed a feudal rebellion in Languedoc and executed the Duke of Montmorency, the governor general. Richelieu ordered the destruction of the nobles’ castles, excluding those located along the country’s borders. Supervision of provincial governors was increased, and the rights of the provincial estates, parliaments, and tax collection authorities were greatly limited. Administrative duties were transferred to the provincial intendants.

Richelieu considered his principal foreign-policy task to be the struggle against the Hapsburgs, against whom he waged a “covert” war by supporting their enemies, the German Protestant princes, Holland, Denmark, and Sweden. In 1635 he took France into the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48). The creation of a navy and reorganization of the army contributed to French victories.

In economics Richelieu pursued a mercantilist policy, expanding the French colonization of Canada and promoting French trading companies in the West Indies, including Santo Domingo, as well as in Senegal and Madagascar. To strengthen absolutism and broaden foreign policy, Richelieu increased the oppressive tax burden and harshly suppressed popular movements provoked by his tax policy, including many urban uprisings in the 1620’s, 1630’s, and 1640’s, as well as uprisings by the Croquants (1624, 1636–37) and the Va-nu-pieds (“the barefoot ones,” 1639). In his Political Testament, Richelieu stated the basic principles of the policy of French absolutism.

In literature and art, Richelieu promoted the development of French classicism. He founded the Académie Française.


Maximes d’état …. Paris, 1880.
Mémoires, vols. 1–10. Paris, 1908–31.
Testament politique [7th ed.]. Paris, 1947.


Liublinskaia, A. D. Frantsiia v nach. XVII v. Leningrad, 1959.
Liublinskaia, A. D. Frantsuzskii absoliutizm v pervoi treti XVII v. Moscow-Leningrad, 1965.
Hanotaux, G. Histoire du cardinal de Richelieu, vols. 1–6. Paris [1932–47].
Hauser, H. La Pensée et l’action économique du cardinal de Richelieu. Paris, 1944.
Saint-Aulaire, A. F. de. Richelieu [2nd ed.] Paris, 1960.
Méthivier, H. Le Siècle de Louis XIII. Paris, 1964.
Burckhardt, C. J. Richelieu. Bern [1971].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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