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Cardinal Richelieu

Triple portrait of Cardinal Richelieu

Like Urban VIII, Cardinal Richelieu had a lot to do with the Congress of Westphalia even though he didn’t live to see it. He was, after all, the architect of France’s network of alliances with Protestant powers (especially Sweden and the Dutch Republic), without which a peace conference would have looked very different. He was also willing to stick by his alliances in spite of pressure to make peace without them, or at least to negotiate with his opponents without the active participation of his Protestant allies. This doomed the Congress of Cologne, and eventually led to the Congress of Westphalia. Richelieu drafted the instructions for the French plenipotentiaries for Westphalia shortly before his death in 1642. Cardinal Mazarin, who was intended as one of the plenipotentiaries prior to Richelieu’s death, made significant changes in French policy, but it can still be said that he was building on his predecessor’s legacy.


Richelieu has attracted enormous interest from historians, so there are many books available about him touching on a wide variety of subjects. The short one by J. H. Elliott is an excellent introduction.

Richelieu and Olivares (2008) by J. H. Elliott

Éminence: Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of France (2013) by Jean-Vincent Blanchard

Cardinal Richelieu: And the Making of France (2000) by Anthony Levi


I did manage to uncover one very old movie focussed on Richelieu. He appears far more often in the many adaptations of Alexandre Dumas’s “The Three Musketeers,” in which he is a chief villain.

Cardinal Richelieu (1935)

Monty Python has a rather funny sketch that includes Cardinal Richelieu as a witness for the defense, but all I can find online at the moment is this one featuring his covering a Petula Clark song.

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