A Flash of Scarlet Part II

Suzanne du Plessis, finding herself suddenly bereft, left the Paris townhouse and took up residence at the seigneurie of Richelieu in Poitou, there to live under the iron hand of her mother-in-law, Francoise de Rochechouart.  During the 1580’s, Francois du Plessis (her husband and the Cardinal’s father) had become somewhat of a speculator at the court of Henry III, attempting to raise money for the King while at the same time earning some for himself. He became involved in many investments, including the building and selling of ships, borrowing money to invest and then repaying when the investments paid off. His early death however, left his creditors unpaid, throwing the family into tumult.

One thing that he did to the family’s benefit was to name his uncle, Jacques du Plessis (one of the previously mentioned boys to inherit a benefice from the Le Roy family) as a candidate for the bishopric of Lucon when that opportunity was presented to him by Henry III. Now, the Richelieu family did whatever they could to secure their hold on it. Suzanne applied for the lease of an abbey which she claimed belonged to her son, Alphonse and was compensated for the loss of it. Alphonse was the  son chosen to become Bishop of Lucon. Armand was to take up a military career.

After spending most of his childhood at Richelieu, Armand was sent to the abbey of St. Florent de Saumur and then to the college of Navarre in Paris from 1595-1600. It is thought that his uncle, Amador La Porte, may have been his benefactor in paying for him to attend this prestigious school. He then went on to take military training at Antoine de Pluvinel’s military academy where he would learn the “social graces” along with military skills. Those “social graces” would lead to him being among a number of young men who were treated by Henry IV’s physician ,  Jean de la Pierre, for “gonnorhea inveterata” which would infer that it wasn’t the first time he had been treated.

That type of life was soon to come to an end. His family,was under barrage as they tried to hold down the see of Lucon against the cathedral chapter who claimed that there were illegalities to their claim.  The revenues of the church were going into private hands instead of being used to repair the tired, war-torn cathedral and community. After doing everything they could to get Alphonse installed as bishop of Lucon, he decided that he was called to be a monk. This did nothing to help a family under duress . Armand was pulled from Monsieur Pluvinel’s academy and brought home. A short while later in 1603, Henry IV nominated Armand as bishop. He was only 18 years old.

Below a map of Lucon in relation to La Rochelle, France a distance of 42 kilometres.


Main Source: Joseph Bergin: The Rise of Richelieu 1991


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