Cardinal Richelieu

Political Figure / Religious Figure

Born: 9 September 1585
Died: 4 December 1642
Birthplace: Paris, France
Best known as: The power behind the throne of Louis XIII

Name at birth: Armand-Jean du Plessis

A bright child, Armand-Jean du Plessis studied theology as a teen and at the young age of 21 was appointed Bishop of Lucon. In 1622 he was made a cardinal and from there rose to become head of the Royal Council and prime minister of France. King Louis XIII was a weak ruler and Richelieu filled the void, more or less running the empire via his advice to the king. A clever politician and strategist, Richelieu expanded royal power, punished dissent harshly, and built France into a great European power. At the same time he supported the arts and learning and founded the famous French Academy. Novelist Alexandre Dumas made Richelieu a crafty villain in his 1844 book The Three Musketeers, and Richelieu's name has since become synonymous with political intrigue and ambitious power "behind the throne."

Extra credit: Richelieu is also called the Red Eminence, or in French L'Eminence Rouge.

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