Cardinal Richelieu

French clergyman, cardinal, noble and statesman (1585-1642)

Armand Jean du Plessis, better known as Cardinal Richelieu (9 September 1585–4 December 1642) was a French clergyman, noble, and statesman. His full name was Armand Jean du Plessis. He was later created the Duke of Richelieu and duke of Fronsac.

Cardinal Richelieu was the French chief minister from 1624 until his death.

In order to keep the diocese of Luçon, Armand Jean needed to become a monk. He joined the Grande Chartreuse, the main monastery of the Carthusian order. This monastery is in the Isère département, near Grenoble. As a comparison, Luçon is near La Roche-sur-Yon.

He was consecrated as a bishop in 1607. For this he obtained a dispensation of the pope; at age 21, he was too young to become a bishop. He later entered politics and became a Secretary of State in 1616. Richelieu soon rose in both the Church and the state. He became a cardinal in 1622. He became King Louis XIII's chief minister in 1624. He remained in office until his death in 1642; then Jules Cardinal Mazarin became chief minister.

The Cardinal de Richelieu was often known by the title of the King's "Chief Minister". As a result, he is sometimes said to be the world's first Prime Minister. He sought to consolidate royal power and crush domestic factions. By restraining the power of the nobility, he transformed France into a strongly centralized state. His chief foreign policy objective was to check the power of the Austro-Spanish Habsburg dynasty; although a Roman Catholic cardinal, he did not hesitate to make alliances with Protestant rulers. With these alliances, he tried to achieve this goal. His tenure was marked by the Thirty Years' War that engulfed Europe.

As an advocate for Samuel de Champlain and of the keeping of Quebec, he founded the Compagnie des Cent-Associés and saw the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye return Quebec to French rule under de Champlain, after the settlement had been captured by the Kirkes in 1629. This in part allowed the colony to eventually develop into the heartland of French-speaking culture in North America.

Richelieu was also famous for his patronage of the arts; most notably, he founded the Académie française, the learned society responsible for matters of the French language. Richelieu is also known by the sobriquet l'Éminence rouge ("the Red Eminence"), from the red shade of a cardinal's vestments and the style "eminence" as a cardinal.