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Jules Mazarin Edit Profile

clergyman , statesman

Cardinal Jules Raymond Mazarin was an Italian cardinal and the first minister of France after Cardinal de Richelieu’s death in 1642.

Background

Jules Mazarin was born on July 14, 1602 in Pescina, Italy, but was raised in Rome. On his mother's side he was descended from a Sicilian branch of the Colonna family.

Education

Jules was educated by the Jesuits at Rome till his seventeenth year, when he accompanied Jerome Colonna as chamberlain to the university of Alcala in Spain.

On his return to Rome, about 1622, he took his degree as Doctor.

Career

In 1628 Jules was appointed secretary to the papal legate of Milan, G. F. Sacchetti; in this post he had his first opportunity to play an active political role.

n January 1630, during the war between Spain and France over the succession to the crown of Mantua, Sachetti’s successor, Antonio Cardinal Barberini, sent Mazarin to France to negotiate with the great cardinal de Richelieu.

After Mazarin’s return to Rome in 1632, Barberini included him in a circle of artists, painters, and musicians, before obtaining for him a mission as extraordinary nuncio (ambassador) to the French court in 1634. There, at Richelieu’s side, Mazarin acquired the favour of those in power and became devoted to the French nation, whose “openness of heart and of mind” impressed him. He did not forget his mission, however, which was to negotiate the peace between Spain and France sought by Urban VIII; hence it was with despair that he watched Richelieu bring France openly into the Thirty Years’ War in May 1635.

Recalled to Avignon in his capacity as legate, then to Rome (December 1636), he continued to exert an influence on French politics through his correspondence with Richelieu and his adviser, Father Joseph.

With his friends cardinals Barberini, Nicholas Bagni, and Alessandro Bichi, Mazarin directed the French faction within the papal court. Louis XIII of France rewarded his efforts by recommending him as the royal candidate for a cardinalate in 1638, gave him ecclesiastical pensions and benefices (in order to be eligible for them Mazarin was granted French naturalization papers in 1639), and finally invited him to return to Paris, where he arrived on Jan. 5, 1640. Disappointed because his ambitions in Rome had been frustrated by the Spanish faction, Mazarin left the papal service to enter the service of France. It was to France and, in particular, to Richelieu that he owed the cardinal’s hat bestowed upon him by the Pope on Dec. 16, 1641, though Urban VIII had himself been favourably impressed by the efforts his former subject was making in favour of the general peace.

Mazarin’s ambition was to put an end to the rivalry between the Catholic powers of Europe. On Richelieu’s death, however (Dec. 4, 1642), and especially after that of Louis XIII (May 14, 1643), he became first minister of France, an office that the regent, Anne of Austria, entrusted to his experience and his ability in the name of the child Louis XIV. Mazarin used this new power to promote the peace negotiations that opened at Münster, in Westphalia, on April 10, 1644, although he now had to subordinate his ideal of peace to French foreign policies and ambitions.

He was aided by a good diplomatic team, over which he exercised firm control, and by extremely competent generals, Louis II de Bourbon, prince de Condé, and Henri de Turenne. Their brilliant victories over the Spanish and imperial troops helped bring about the Peace of Westphalia (October 1648), a general European settlement that established peace in Germany.

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.

He reestablished the role of the intendants or commissaries of the king, who administered the provinces; they gradually assumed the power of the provincial governors who had shown themselves to be unreliable during the rebellions. He thus succeeded in sustaining order through a policy of moderation, which he applied even to popular revolts such as the peasant uprising of Sologne in 1658.

Mazarin obtained great wealth during his ministry and became one of the largest landowners in France.

Achievements

  • During the early years of King Louis XIV, Jules Mazarin completed Richelieu’s work of establishing France’s supremacy among the European powers and crippling the opposition to the power of the monarchy at home.