A Flash of Scarlet Part XVI

Not long after the execution of Henri de Montmorency, the Cardinal once again fell ill, this time for 3 months. It is not hard to imagine succumbing to the stress and hatred that surrounded him. On his way from Toulouse to Bordeaux where he was to escort the Queen, he received news that the loyal Maréchal de Schomberg, rescuer of Toiras and defeater of Buckingham had died of apoplexy.  Then, Gustavus Adolphus was killed at the Battle of Lutzen, weakening the Protestant alliance with France. The Cardinal worsened, giving a “cause de celebre” to his many enemies among them, Madame de Chevreuse who openly planned her position next to the Queen. Once again with terrific strength of will, the Cardinal recovered and meted out a terrible vengeance. Chevreuse was exiled from court while her partner, Monsieur de Chateauneuf was disgraced and in prison from whence we know few people escaped alive. The King rushed from Paris and celebrated with the Court, the seemingly miraculous recovery.

Again, Richelieu continued to exercise his wealth and creativity by purchasing more land and refurbishing the many country houses he owned, among them, Rueil, Limours and Bois-le-Vicomte. He felt limited by the Palais Cardinal which he had purposely built so that it would not out-shine the King’s palace. He then purchased his family home of Richelieu and the former lands of the Montpensier family, their neighbours.  The old chateau was torn down and its former outbuildings used to create the chateau of today. He was not given permission by the Pope to tear down the chapel, however. There is little left of the Chateau de Richelieu started in 1625 and finished in 1633,  once thought to be surpassed in beauty only by Fontanbleau.

Chateau and Town of Richelieu 1633

The Cardinal naturally extended the decor to include the many artistic treasures he had accumulated over the years.  Figures of mythological statues filled the gateways and from the ruined House of Montmorency, the famous Slaves of Michel Angelo stood near a variegated marble stairway. He wished for his officers and nobles, to build a town where they could stay when attending court and this soon rose up. While war with Gaston d’Orleans drew ever nearer, he focused on acquiring new paintings and statues. Here are some of the remaining parts of a town that the Cardinal never actually visited in spite of 8 years creating it and a link to the actual town today.

Paris was the place Richelieu spent his remaining years, at the Palais -Cardinal completed in 1634.  There he lived in almost royal splendor. Allegorical paintings of his life made of mosaic were embedded into gold ceilings. Paintings by famous artists, among them, Phillipe de Champagne who painted the now famous portraits of the Cardinal. The palace was filled with art treasures from all over Europe, the gardens clipped and formal.

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Le Palais Cardinal-Paris 1634

Richelieu’s charity was spread widely between his household pages who received the same training as royalty to the sick and poor of the streets. A number of gentlemen waited on him constantly and he had 5 private secretaries ( this often leading to academic confusion over what he actually wrote himself). Among them were the Prieur des Roches, Charpentier, Chéré, Mulot, Rossignol and at times, his private physician, Monsieur Citoys. Pere Joseph and his Capuchin clerks controlled an army of spies at home and abroad. Among his most confidential counsellors were the Bouthilliers and Monsieur de Noyers and Leffamas, head of the Paris police brought him reports of enemies. Jules Mazarin, later to become his successor became his most trusted diplomat. His aides-de-camp were the Cardinal de la Valette, the Archbishop of Bordeaux. The Marquise de Brézé and Marquis de la Meilleraye were created Marshalls of France. He had an army of pamphleteers and writers working under him the most well-known was Renaudot who founded the Gazette de France under the Cardinal. When he travelled, 12 instruments travelled with him along with a force of guards which included 200 musketeers, one hundred horse and a troop of gendarmes. These were quartered in and around the palace.

A normal day, when he was not ill, would begin at eight in the morning and end at eleven, after which he would sleep only for a few hours before his restless mind would cause him to commence writing. At dawn he would sleep for a few more hours and then rose to greet the King’s ministers. After hearing mass he would give an audience to anyone who wanted to see him until midday. After midday dinner, he would see the King and receive his ambassadors or attend public events. In the evening, he might stroll in his gardens, chatting with a friend until evening prayers.

Naturally, at court he was not always popular with his enemies or with women although it has been said that he at least attempted to be agreeable to them. Whether the rumours of him having a mistress are true or not would have to be proven. It is certain that affairs of state would take up a good part of his time. He is said to have been rebuffed by both Queen Anne and Madame de Chevreuse. Never the less, he could be found in the company of women at many social occasions. He was on the most affectionate terms with his niece, Marie Madeleine de Vignerot, daughter of his sister Francoise. The Cardinal attempted to arrange many marriages for her but none of them came to fruition. Still she had a powerful place at court as Duchess d’Aiguillon and was close friends with the Princess de Conde and Mademoiselle d’Angennes. She became the main figure at his entertainments.

Richelieu, who loved drama and the ballet had two theatres built at the Palais Cardinal one of which in 1641 hosted the famed play “Mirame” of which he wrote the greater part. It was performed in a theatre which could hold 3,000 people. The scenery was imported from Italy by Mazarin,  now Richelieu’s right hand . It was considered an innovation of the day with mechanical moving parts, which we find charming today. Some critics did not like it and some compared the story line to the affair between Queen Anne and Buckingham. A few disreputables had been invited which upset the King but the play was a resounding success. In the end, the Queen passed on a golden bridge drawn by peacocks to a silver throne behind the curtain from where she presided over a grand ball at the end of the evening. Richelieu had accomplished what he had set out to do, make himself acceptable to French society.


Salle du Palais-Cardinal 1641 -Jacquot



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