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Cardinal Richelieu. Statesman Or Tyrant? Discuss.

2478 words - 10 pages

Richelieu was a French clergyman, noble, and statesman. He was born in 1585. His family, although belonging only to the lesser nobility of Poitou, was somewhat prominent. His father was François Du Plessis, seigneur de Richelieu. He was a soldier and courtier who served as the Grand Provost of France. His mother, Susanne de La Porte, was the daughter of a famous jurist. When he was only five years old, his father died fighting in the French Wars of Religion and left the family in debt. However with the aid of royal grants the family was able to avoid financial difficulties. He was consecrated as a bishop in 1607. He later entered politics, and became Secretary of State in 1616. Richelieu soon rose in both the Church and the state, becoming a cardinal in 1622, and King Louis XIII's chief minister in 1624. He remained in office until his death in 1642.Up until the middle of the 17th century, it had become very clear that France was by not a major player in European affairs. Spain was still the most powerful state as it held a strong position over European commerce and economics. However, by 1648, this power would shift, and France would become a strong country and state, in terms of political and economic influence. This transfer of power was aided by a weakening of the Spanish Empire, along with the establishment of an increasingly strong French state. "This establishment of France would begin to occur prior to the religious wars, and would be spearheaded by a strengthening of the centralized government through the development of royal absolutism".Richelieu was the most significant contributor to this movement, political advisor to the king, Louis XIII, and head of the French Roman Catholic Church. The Cardinal's capable leadership, ambition and strong will helped France to move from a second rate country to a European powerhouse. During his reign as first minister, Richelieu would accomplish numerous tasks, and establish himself as a symbol of power and leadership in France.Richelieu's main aims when he was Chief minister were to consolidate royal power and to crush domestic factions. By him restraining the power of the nobility, he helped to transform France into a strong centralised state. His main foreign policy objective was to stop the power of the Austro-Spanish Habsburg dynasty. Although he was a Roman Catholic cardinal, he did not hesitate to make alliances with Protestant rulers in attempting to achieve this goal. His tenure was marked by the Thirty Years' War that engulfed Europe.It can be said that during his time in office, Richelieu was both a tyrant and a statesman. All the actions he took were for the benefit of the state, even if they were realised sometimes in a harsh or brutal way.Richelieu could only achieve his goals with the support of the king. The king had appointed him to the council in 1624 because of his success as an advisor to the Queen Mother. Then the Cardinal soon became the king's advisor through his ability...

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