ITT we talk about one of the most badass historical figures ever, the Cardinal de Richelieu. Multiple posts pasta incoming.
>This is the story of a badass, infamous, iron-fisted clergyman who served the French Royal House of Bourbon during the height of the seventeenth century and utterly demolished all enemies of France, both foreign and domestic – the notorious Armand-Jean du Plessis, better known to history and Three Musketeers novels as Cardinal Richelieu.
>Armand-Jean du Plessis was born in 1585, the third son of a down-on-their-luck family of French aristocrats who were on the downswing of the “good old days”. Armand-Jean was skinny, not particularly strong, and got sick a lot, and from a very young age was forced to rely on his wits to stay on his feet.
His dad was a French soldier who got his ass killed during the Wars of Religion, leaving the family in crushing debt, financially ruined, and with little more than their manor and a hereditary title of Bishop of Lucon to their name. France, meanwhile, was also completely broke, and the recent assassination of King Henri IV meant that the country was now ruled in name only by a pre-teen King whose balls hadn’t dropped yet.
France was a feudal realm full of local medieval-style knights, Catholics and Protestants were murdering each other in the street on the regs, and the ancient enemies of France -- the hated Hapsburgs of Austria -- had powerful family members ruling over Prussia, Spain, and Italy… meaning that in addition to internal religious anarchy, France was also completely surrounded by pissed-off Germans that basically just wanted to kill all French people anywhere they could be found. Bitchin.
The first time the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword” appears in print is in a play written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839.
The words are being spoken by Cardinal Richelieu. Even though he may never have actually uttered the words in real life, the phrase fits, because without ever unsheathing a blade on the battlefield, fucking Armand-Jean du Plessis still managed to grind France into what would be the most dominant military, economic, and political force on the European continent for nearly a century.
By the time he was done, this sickly poor kid from the countryside would be known as L’Eminence Rouge – “The Red Eminence,” and people would be naming goddamn World War II battleships and Paris Metro stops after him.
Richelieu had two older brothers, but the eldest inherited the family manor and the middle bro decided he’d rather peace out and become a monk than have to wear one of those silly bishop’s hats.
Eager to do his duty to help out the family, Armand quit the military academy and resolved to become the most badass priest in the history of the Catholic Church. He was only 21 and technically wasn’t old enough to be a bishop, but it didn’t stop him – he traveled to Rome and convinced the Pope to appoint him Bishop of Lucon anyways.
As Bishop, Richelieu supported the Crown, and was the first Bishop to give sermons and write texts in French instead of Latin.
When he wasn’t saving souls, he also sent bribes and other presents to the King’s mom, Marie de Medici, an Italian woman who was running the show while the King wasn’t old enough to do his thing.
Carefully calculating his moves paid off, and Richelieu eventually got in so tight with the Queen Mother that he was appointed to run the Palace Chapel for the King and Queen themselves.
All it took after that was for him to personally negotiate the peaceful resolution to a possible French Civil War between the nobility and the King and the next thing you know King Louis XII is appointing him to wear the cool red robes of a Roman Catholic Cardinal.
Richelieu was a non-inheriting son of a dirt-poor family of minor nobles. He convinced the Pope to make him the youngest Bishop in France. Then he convinced the Queen to let him look over the spiritual health of the Royal Family. Then he defused a potentially-horrific Civil War. He then became Cardinal, and was made First Minister of France in 1624.
It was around that time that the Queen decided Richelieu had become too powerful and was actually becoming a threat to her power.
She tried to convince her now-grown son to banish Richelieu and exile him. The King chose Cardinal Richelieu over his own momma, and had her exiled instead.
As First Minister of France, Cardinal Richelieu had one goal and one goal only – to fucking forge France into the most badass realm the world had ever seen, no matter how many assholes he needed to eviscerate or demolish to get there.
As far as he could tell, he had three main enemies – Protestant rebels, Hapsburg Germans, and disloyal noblemen who weren’t happy about the idea of Feudalism coming to an end.
He dealt with the nobles first. His first move was to create a professional private army that was loyal to him alone, and then he sent these badass mercenaries to the homes of potentially-disloyal aristocrats to rip apart their castle walls brick-by-brick and discourage them from rising against him.
He put regional governors in different counties, having them report to him directly instead of to the local lords. He created a hardcore cloak-and-dagger spy network that spread its tendrils throughout France, and his agents, disguised as monks, nuns, minstrels, peasants, prostitutes, guards and maids infiltrated nearly every prominent aristocratic household in France.
Before long, this guy was running a war room that would give him an early-warning indication of any potentially-disloyal nobleman from the Pyrenees to the Rhine.
Anyone suspected of potential treason (or anyone he decided he wanted to frame for potential treason) was either shanked to death in his home or was dragged out into the middle of Paris and publicly had his head chopped off with an axe.
Next it was time to deal with the Huguenots, which sounds like a shitty band name but was actually a term to refer to French Calvinists who weren’t down with the Roman Catholic Church and started setting up their cities where the Church wouldn’t have any power.
Well, this was a problem for Cardinal Richelieu, but not for the reasons you’d think. You see, Richelieu didn’t really even care that much that these guys were Protestants – what pissed him off was that they were rebels.
The Huguenots got some military and financial support from England, who sent the Duke of Buckingham to the port city of La Rochelle to help the Huguenots seize control of it.
The Protestants took over the city, which at the time was the third biggest city in France, and, as you can imagine, this really really super mega pissed Cardinal Richelieu off.
He slapped on his badass red Cardinal plate armor, grabbed a rapier, assembled his personal red-cloaked Musketeers, and led an army to lay siege to the city. Personally commanding a force of over 20,000 soldiers, Richelieu surrounded La Rochelle, and encircled it with eleven forts and almost eight miles of trenches packed with riflemen. He set up cannons, began bombarding the city, and then blocked off the city’s harbor with an insane act of badass engineering – he sailed a bunch of ships into the harbor, sunk them, packed them up with gravel, and then built a fucking impenetrable sea wall and put cannons on there so no English reinforcements could enter the harbor.
Just for added effect, Richelieu also bought a couple badass warships from Holland, an act that to this day is referred to as the Birth of the French Navy. Richelieu would serve as the navy’s Admiral for the rest of his career, and would also order construction of the French Naval Academy.
Glad you enjoy it desu
When it first opened fire on the Cardinal’s troops, the City of La Rochelle was home to roughly 25,000 soldiers and civilians. After fourteen months of being hammered on all sides by the Cardinal’s artillery, only 5,000 people remained.
Finally, Richelieu had to deal with the fucking Hapsburgs, who were a problem for him because they were German.
The Hapsburgs heard about the La Rochelle thing and tried to fuck with France by attacking Venice, a strong ally of France in Northern Italy, but fuck that. It turns out that Richelieu actually had two spies in the Hapsburg court – one was the Prince’s fencing instructor, and the other was the Princess’s dancing teacher. He knew exactly what was going down, and countered it immediately.
The second the siege of La Rochelle was over, Richelieu immediately led his army south, crossed the Alps in the middle of winter, attacked the Hapsburg army from the back, and drove them away from the besieged Italian city in complete disarray.
Richelieu got his revenge on the Hapsburgs, but he didn’t do it directly – he did it by financing the enemies of the Holy Roman Empire.
He gave lots of money and gear to the Dutch to fight the Spanish, and the Swedes to fight the Germans, and then he had his agents plant false evidence that discredited or otherwise ruined the best military commanders in the German army. Richelieu’s diabolical mastermind Bond villain shit turned the Thirty Years’ War into one of the most brutal and bloodiest conflicts in European history, and made a local fight into an epic world war that drove the Hapsburgs nearly completely bankrupt.
It was the same tactic the Russians used in the Vietnam War and the U.S. did during the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, but this guy was pioneering that shit back before they’d invented the hot air balloon or the guillotine. When the Pope Himself came to Richelieu and was like, “hey bro, WTF, you’re supporting a bunch of godless Protestant countries in wars against a place literally called the HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE,” Richelieu told his spiritual boss – the friggin’ Pope – to cram it up his cram hole.
The Pope almost excommunicated him, but didn’t, because Richelieu is a goddamn genius at manipulating even the world’s most powerful people to his every whim.
While all this was going on, Richelieu also ordered French ships and men to the New World to establish a base of power in the newly-discovered North American continent.
He had his guys seize island territories like Haiti, Martinique, and Guadeloupe, and in 1629 Cardinal Richelieu signed the treaty that created the Province of Quebec.
Oh, and he also build a city near his old hometown, named it after himself, and built a huge palace there for his mistress. Hashtag Big Pimpin.
Pic related was his headquarter in Paris, in the Louvre palace.
I mentioned the part about the pen being mightier than the sword, but Richelieu had another phrase he liked to use as well. He liked to refer to artillery as “The Last Reasoning of Kings.” I like this because it sums him up pretty well – he’d find some way to fuck you over first, but if that didn’t work out he was cool with just blowing your face off with grapeshot at point-blank range. The phrase became so well-known during his time that the Latin translation of it, Ultima Ratio Regum, would be inscribed on cannons in the artillery batteries of French armies under Louis XIV.
And it really just doesn’t get any more fucking badass than having a phrase that sounds like a Grindcore album title embossed on a two-ton iron shotgun.
Nowadays Cardinal Richelieu is most well-known for being the bad guy in the Three Musketeers, where he’s basically a diabolical evil genius who fucks with people but still lets D’Artagnan go even after he has to chance to execute him.
Tons of actors have played him (including Vincent Price!) but for my money I’ll always just picture this guy looking like Tim Curry. I can’t find any good clips that don’t have shitty audio but if you can hang then here’s a rad clip of Richelieu shooting Charlie Sheen in the dick, and if this doesn’t make you happy I don’t know what will.
Here’s another insane thing about Cardinal Richelieu – did you know that the Man in the Iron Mask was a real person? It was!
Nobody knows who he was (the best money is that he was an illegitimate brother of Louis XIV), but pretty much every conspiracy theory involving him has something to do with Cardinal Richelieu slapping that metal gimp-mask on an important guy as a means of protecting the Cardinal’s position of power in the government.
I don’t have a theory on this, because I haven’t dug too far into it, but I do know that in 1642 a nobleman libertine asshole known as the Marquis de Cinq-Mars made a deal with Spain to overthrow Richelieu, and Richelieu’s spies snagged that fucker at the Spanish border, dragged him to Paris, and had his dome lopped off in front of thirty thousand screaming fans.
Cardinal Richelieu died in December of 1642 at the age of 57, passing the reins of government on to another Cardinal he’d personally trained in the fine art of knife-point diplomacy.
At the time of his death, the King of France was a four year-old boy who would become Louis XIV, the Sun King.
Thanks to the Red Eminence, Louis XIV would inherit a strong, stable, powerful country that would go on to establish complete dominance over the European mainland for decades.
End of the story.
God damned beautiful.
History reads of many majestic people but it takes a truly special one to not only be one of those people, but bring it to a whole other level.
I can only imagine the type of person who would bring that kind of radical change to not just a single nation, but the world.
I think Peter I was pretty badass. Some of the shit he did was hilarious.
Not really relevant but I'm going to post it anyway because I found it interesting.
>The furious Paris mob which tore it down on July 14, 1789, and the happy crowds of Frenchmen who still celebrate Bastille Day every July 14, have imagined the Bastille as a mournful den where a tyrant wreaked his will on the suffering people of France. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bastille was the most luxurious prison which has ever existed. Imprisonment there carried no dishonour. With rare exceptions, its occupants were aristocrats or gentlemen who were received and treated according to their rank. The King could order troublesome nobles put there until he or they changed an opinion. Fathers could send unruly sons to the Bastille for several months to cool their foolishness. Rooms were furnished, heated and lighted according to the means and tastes of the prisoners. A servant could be kept, and guests could be invited for dinner-Cardinal de Rohan once gave a banquet for twenty. There was competition for the more favorable rooms; those at the tops of the towers were the least desirable, being the coldest in winter and hottest in summer. Nothing was required of the prisoner. he could play his guitar, read poetry, exercise in the governor's garden and plan menus to please his guests.
>Many a famous man spent time in the Bastille. The most mysterious was the Man in the Iron Mask, whose identity was ornamented by Alexandre Dumas into a twin brother if Louis XIV. Like most stories about the Bastille, this one was mostly imaginary; the famous mask was not of iron, but of black velvet, although even the governor of the Bastille was not allowed to lift it, and the prisoner died, still unknown, in 1703.
was going gr8 up to this point
fucking over the Habsburgs = fucking over Europe as a whole in the long-run, as history would prove. And in going against them in the Thirty Yeas War, he was practically reversing all his previous work against the Huguenouts (who would still be a fixture in france), and hurting potential future allies down the line.
>tfw no stronk Polan and HRE buffer states
Well it is relevant,since it's Richelieu who turned it into a state prison where you could send people without any kind of trial.
It's also true that it has often been depicted as a shithole, while it was in fact some kind of luxury prison.There was even fine shops.
However, the prison also had six dungeons and one torture room , located six meters deep at the moat which served as punishment for insubordinate prisoners.
The funny detail is that to preserve the Noble prisonners dignity, the arrival of a new prisoner was announced by ringing a bell .The surrounding shops (including stalls along the ditch that are rented to the Governor ) was then closed and guards covered their faces so as not to see the face of the newcomer .
If i'm not mistaken, the real infernal prison in Paris was the Chatelet, with it's glauquous dungeons build in a way so the prisonners weren't able to stand or seat and had water to their knees.
Wasn't the Man in the Mask in a few other prisons aside from The Bastille?
Like not to derail but I think there's been sources of him in either a black velvet or metal mask in a few different prisons.
Yes, there has been several of them actually. Putting a mask on some prisonners was known practice in France at some point, when those prisonners were detaining state secrets or where considered particulary harmful.
But this particular prisonner was surrounded by hundreds of rumors and contradictory stories. But he was indeed detained in other prisons than the Bastille.
First time he was mentionned was on September 4,1687. Some illegal handwritten "gazette" ,which was distirbuted under the cloak in Paris ,informed its readers that an officer ,M.de Saint-Mars ,had led "by order of the king" a state prisoner to the fort on the Sainte -Marguerite island in Provence . "Nobody knows who he is ; it is forbidden to say his name and orders are to kill him if it's spoken".he was locked up in a sedan chair with a steel face mask", said the gazette.
Then in 1698, another gazette announced that the same M.de Saint-Mars has been appointed governor of the Bastille's prison, and that when he took possession of the place, he was carrying with him a mysterious prisonner hidden from the sight of everyone else.
But there's really a very dense mythology and historical texts around that story, even so the only version of the story we know today is the one written by Alexandre Dumas. it would take a very long thread to have a global vision of that mysterious prisonner.
Actually, the most plausible theory is that he was a random prisonner that was once injured and had some nasty iron "prosthetic" on his face (which happened at the time) and was taken out of his cell so he could be paraded arround bored nobles. Think of XIXth century freakshows except much earlier.
>The Hapsburgs heard about the La Rochelle thing and tried to fuck with France by attacking Venice, a strong ally of France in Northern Italy, but fuck that. It turns out that Richelieu actually had two spies in the Hapsburg court – one was the Prince’s fencing instructor, and the other was the Princess’s dancing teacher. He knew exactly what was going down, and countered it immediately.
I wish you were my history teacher back then.
True, his an interesting character too. There is also a lot to say about Mazarin.
>and then blocked off the city’s harbor with an insane act of badass engineering – he sailed a bunch of ships into the harbor, sunk them, packed them up with gravel, and then built a fucking impenetrable sea wall and put cannons on there so no English reinforcements could enter the harbor.
Just to have a more precise idea about how insane this was: He sunk 59 ships and build a 1.5km long and 20m high wall on it. You can still see the remains of it in La rochelle.
I dunno how La Vie En Rose is related here but God knows I'm glad it did. Love that video, that voice is just heavenly.
I walk about 1.5km each day so to just imagine that distance being built from purposefully sunk ships and gravel, throw cannons on top of that bad boy, fucking legendary stuff. Glad that history will remember him.
In a next thread probably, i'm a bit too lazy now Tbh...