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Jules Mazarin

Jules MazarinAKA Giulio Raimondo Mazzarino

Born: 14-Jul-1602
Birthplace: Pescina, Abruzzi, Italy
Died: 9-Mar-1661
Location of death: Vincennes, France
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Institute de France, Paris, France

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Religion

Nationality: France
Executive summary: French Cardinal and Statesman

French cardinal and statesman, elder son of a Sicilian, Pietro Mazarini, the intendant of the household of Philip Colonna, and of his wife Ortensia Buffalini, a connexion of the Colonnas, was born at Piscina in the Abruzzi on the 14th of July 1602. He was educated by the Jesuits at Rome until his seventeenth year, when he accompanied Jerome Colonna as chamberlain to the university of Alcala in Spain. There he distinguished himself more by his love of gambling and his gallant adventures than by study, but made himself a thorough master, not only of the Spanish language and character, but also of that romantic fashion of Spanish love-making which was to help him greatly in later life, when he became the servant of a Spanish queen. On his return to Rome, about 1622, he took his degree as Doctor utriusque juris, and then became captain of infantry in the regiment of Colonna, which took part in the war in the Valtelline. During this war he gave proofs of much diplomatic ability, and Pope Urban VIII entrusted him, in 1629, with the difficult task of putting an end to the war of the Mantuan succession. His success marked him out for further distinction. He was presented to two canonries in the churches of St. John Lateran and Sta. Maria Maggiore, although he had only taken the minor orders, and had never been consecrated priest; he negotiated the treaty of Turin between France and Savoy in 1632, became vice-legate at Avignon in 1634, and nuncio at the court of France from 1634 to 1636. But he began to wish for a wider sphere than papal negotiations, and, seeing that he had no chance of becoming a cardinal except by the aid of some great power, he accepted Cardinal Richelieu's offer of entering the service of the King of France, and in 1639 became a naturalized Frenchman.

In 1640 Richelieu sent him to Savoy, where the regency of Christine, the Duchess of Savoy, and sister of Louis XIII, was disputed by her brothers-in-law, the princes Maurice and Thomas of Savoy, and he succeeded not only in firmly establishing Christine but in winning over the princes to France. This great service was rewarded by his promotion to the rank of cardinal on the presentation of the King of France in December 1641. On the 4th of December 1642 Cardinal Richelieu died, and on the very next day the king sent a circular letter to all officials ordering them to send in their reports to Cardinal Mazarin, as they had formerly done to Cardinal Richelieu. Mazarin was thus acknowledged supreme minister, but he still had a difficult part to play. The king evidently could not live long, and to preserve power he must make himself necessary to the queen, who would then be regent, and do this without arousing the suspicions of the king or the distrust of the queen. His measures were ably taken, and when the king died, on the 14th of May 1643, to everyone's surprise her husband's minister remained the queen's. The king had by a royal edict cumbered the queen-regent with a council and other restrictions, and it was necessary to get the parlement of Paris to overrule the edict and make the queen absolute regent, which was done with the greatest complaisance. Now that the queen was all-powerful, it was expected she would at once dismiss Mazarin and summon her own friends to power. One of them, Potier, bishop of Beauvais, already gave himself airs as prime minister, but Mazarin had had the address to touch both the queen's heart by his Spanish gallantry and her desire for her son's glory by his skilful policy abroad, and he found himself able easily to overthrow the clique of "Importants", as they were called. That skilful policy was shown in every arena on which the great Thirty Years' War was being fought out. Mazarin had inherited the policy of France during the Thirty Years' War from Richelieu. He had inherited his desire for the humiliation of the house of Austria in both its branches, his desire to push the French frontier to the Rhine and maintain a counterpoise of German states against Austria, his alliances with the Netherlands and with Sweden, and his four theaters of war -- on the Rhine, in Flanders, in Italy and in Catalonia.

During the last five years of the great war it was Mazarin alone who directed the French diplomacy of the period. He it was who made the peace of Brömsebro between the Danes and the Swedes, and turned the latter once again against the empire; he it was who sent Lionne to make the peace of Castro, and combine the princes of North Italy against the Spaniards, and who made the peace of Ulm between France and Bavaria, thus detaching the emperor's best ally. He made one fatal mistake -- he dreamt of the French frontier being the Rhine and the Scheldt, and that a Spanish princess might bring the Spanish Netherlands as dowry to Louis XIV. This roused the jealousy of the United Provinces, and they made a separate peace with Spain in January 1648; but the valor of the French generals made the skill of the Spanish diplomatists of no avail, for Turenne's victory at Zusmarshausen, and Condé's at Lens, caused the peace of Westphalia to be definitely signed in October 1648. This celebrated treaty belongs rather to the history of Germany than to a life of Mazarin; but two questions have been often asked, whether Mazarin did not delay the peace as long as possible in order to more completely ruin Germany, and whether Richelieu would have made a similar peace. To the first question Mazarin's letters, published by M. Chéruel, prove a complete negative, for in them appears the zeal of Mazarin for the peace. On the second point, Richelieu's letters in many places indicate that his treatment of the great question of frontier would have been more thorough, but then he would not have been hampered in France itself.

At home Mazarin's policy lacked the strength of Richelieu's. The Frondes were largely due to his own fault. The arrest of Broussel threw the people on the side of the parlement. His avarice and unscrupulous plundering of the revenues of the realm, the enormous fortune which he thus amassed, his supple ways, his nepotism, and the general lack of public interest in the great foreign policy of Richelieu, made Mazarin the especial object of hatred both by bourgeois and nobles. The irritation of the latter was greatly Mazarin's own fault; he had tried consistently to play off the king's brother Gaston of Orleans against Condé, and their respective followers against each other, and had also, as his carnets prove, jealously kept any courtier from getting into the good graces of the queen-regent except by his means, so that it was not unnatural that the nobility should hate him, while the queen found herself surrounded by his creatures alone. Events followed each other quickly; the day of the barricades was followed by the peace of Ruel, the peace of Ruel by the arrest of the princes, by the battle of Rethel, and Mazarin's exile to Brühl before the union of the two Frondes. It was while in exile at Brühl that Mazarin saw the mistake he had made in isolating himself and the queen, and that his policy of balancing every party in the state against each other had made every party distrust him. So by his counsel the queen, while nominally in league with De Retz and the parliamentary Fronde, labored to form a purely royal party, wearied by civil dissensions, who should act for her and her son's interest alone, under the leadership of Mathieu Molé, the famous premier president of the parlement of Paris. The new party grew in strength, and in January 1652, after exactly a year's absence, Mazarin returned to the court. Turenne had now become the royal general, and out-manoeuvred Condé, while the royal party at last grew to such strength in Paris that Condé had to leave the capital and France. In order to promote a reconciliation with the parlement of Paris Mazarin had again retired from court, this time to Sedan, in August 1652, but he returned finally in February 1653. Long bad been the trial, and greatly had Mazarin been to blame in allowing the Frondes to come into existence, but he had retrieved his position by founding that great royal party which steadily grew until Louis XIV could fairly have said "L'État, c'est moi." As the war had progressed, Mazarin had steadily followed Richelieu's policy of weakening the nobles on their country estates. Whenever he had an opportunity he destroyed a feudal castle, and by destroying the towers which commanded nearly every town in France, he freed such towns as Bourges, for instance, from their long practical subjection to the neighboring great lord.

The Fronde over, Mazarin had to build up afresh the power of France at home and abroad. It is to his shame that he did so little at home. Beyond destroying the brick-and-mortar remains of feudalism, he did nothing for the people. But abroad his policy was everywhere successful, and opened the way for the policy of Louis XIV. He at first, by means of an alliance with Oliver Cromwell, recovered the northwestern cities of France, though at the price of yielding Dunkirk to the Protector. On the Baltic, France guaranteed the Treaty of Oliva between her old allies Sweden, Poland and Brandenburg, which preserved her influence in that quarter. In Germany he, through Hugues de Lionne, formed the league of the Rhine, by which the states along the Rhine bound themselves under the headship of France to be on their guard against the house of Austria. By such measures Spain was induced to sue for peace, which was finally signed in the Isle of Pheasants on the Bidassoa, and is known as the Treaty of the Pyrenees. By it Spain recovered Franche Comté, but ceded to France Roussillon, and much of French Flanders; and, what was of greater ultimate importance to Europe, Louis XIV was to marry a Spanish princess, who was to renounce her claims to the Spanish succession if her dowry was paid, which Mazarin knew could not happen at present from the emptiness of the Spanish exchequer. He returned to Paris in declining health, and did not long survive the unhealthy sojourn on the Bidassoa; after some political instruction to his young master he passed away at Vincennes on the 9th of March 1661, leaving a fortune estimated at from 18 to 40 million livres behind him, and his nieces married into the greatest families of France and Italy.

The man who could have had such success, who could have made the Treaties of Westphalia and the Pyrenees, who could have weathered the storm of the Fronde, and left France at peace with itself and with Europe to Louis XIV, must have been a great man; and historians, relying too much on the brilliant memoirs of his adversaries, like De Retz, are apt to rank him too low. That he had many a petty fault there can be no doubt; that he was avaricious and double-dealing was also undoubted; and his carnets show to what unworthy means he had recourse to maintain his influence over the queen. What that influence was will be always debated, but both his carnets and the Brühl letters show that a real personal affection, amounting to passion on the queen's part, existed. Whether they were ever married may be doubted; but that hypothesis is made more possible by M. Chéruel's having been able to prove from Mazarin's letters that the cardinal himself had never taken more than the minor orders, which could always be thrown off. With regard to France he played a more patriotic part than Condé or Turenne, for he never treated with the Spaniards, and his letters show that in the midst of his difficulties he followed with intense eagerness every movement on the frontiers. It is that immense mass of letters that prove the real greatness of the statesman, and disprove De Retz's portrait, which is carefully arranged to show off his enemy against the might of Richelieu. To concede that the master was the greater man and the greater statesman does not imply that Mazarin was but a foil to his predecessor. It is true that we find none of those deep plans for the internal prosperity of France which shine through Richelieu's policy. Mazarin was not a Frenchman, but a citizen of the world, and always paid most attention to foreign affairs; in his letters all that could teach a diplomatist is to be found, broad general views of policy, minute details carefully elaborated, keen insight into men's characters, cunning directions when to dissimulate or when to be frank. Italian though he was by birth, education and nature, France owed him a great debt for his skilful management during the early years of Louis XIV, and the king owed him yet more, for he had not only transmitted to him a nation at peace, but had educated for him his great servants Le Tellier, Lionne and Colbert. Literary men owed him also much; not only did he throw his famous library open to them, but he pensioned all their leaders, including René Descartes, Vincent Voiture (1598-1648), Jean Louis Guez de Balzac (1597-1654) and Pierre Corneille. The last-named applied, with an adroit allusion to his birthplace, in the dedication of his Pompée, the line of Virgil: "Tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento."

    Roman Catholic Cardinal
    Naturalized French Citizen 1639


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