The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

July 14, 2016

July 14, 1602

The man we call Cardinal Mazarin (July 14, 1602 to March 9, 1661),was born Giulio Raimondo Mazzarino. His life gives an interesting look at the realities of European power in the 17th century. Mazarin came from a very old Sicilian family. The following sketch relies on a Catholic encyclopedia:

...His youth was full of excitement: he accompanied the future Cardinal Colonna to Madrid; he was in turn a captain of pontifical troops and then a pontifical diplomat in the Valtelline War (1624) and the Mantuan War of Succession (1628-30). The truce which he negotiated (26 October, 1630) between the French, on one side, and the Spaniards and the Duke of Savoy, on the other, won for him the esteem of Richelieu, who was well pleased at his letting Pignerol fall into the hands of the French. The Spaniards tried to injure him with Pope Urban VIII, but the influence of Cardinal Antonio Barberini and a letter from Richelieu saved him. He became canon of St. John Lateran, vice-legate at Avignon (1632), and nuncio extraordinary in France (1634). The Spaniards complained that in this last post Mazarin made it his exclusive business to support Richelieu's policy, and he was dismissed from the nunciature by Urban VIII (17 Jan., 1636). Soon after leaving the papal service, he went to Paris, placed himself at Richelieu's disposition, and was naturalized as a French subject in April, 1639. Richelieu commissioned him, late in 1640, to sign a secret treaty between France and Prince Thomas of Savoy, and caused him to be made a cardinal on 16 Dec., 1641.

.... Richelieu on his deathbed (4 Dec., 1642) recommended him to the king. On the death of Louis XIII (14 May, 1642), Anne of Austria,[regent for her son Louis XIV] leaving the Duc d'Orléans the shadowy title of lieutenant-general of the kingdom gave the reality of power to Mazarin,....

...Mazarin, like Richelieu, was, in the event, to retain power until his death, first under the queen regent and then under the king after Louis XIV had attained his majority.

His very humble appearance and manner, his gentle and kindly ways, had contributed to his elevation, and Anne's affection for him was the best guarantee of his continuance in office. The precise character of his relations with Anne of Austria is one of the enigmas of history. ...the queen regent was deeply attached to the cardinal. ....Few historians... accept the allegations of the Princess Palatinein her letters of 1717, 1718, and 1722, according to which Anne of Austria and Mazarin were married. M. Loiseleur, who has made a careful study of the problem, believes that Mazarin was never married; it is certain that he retained the title and insignia of a cardinal until his death; probably he was even a cardinal-priest, though he never visited Rome after his elevation to the purple and seems never to have received the hat. And in any case he held the title of Bishop of Metz from 1653 to 1658.

Mazarin continued Richelieu's policy against the House of Austria. Aided by the victories of Condé and Turenne, he succeeded in bringing the Thirty Years' War to a conclusion with [the]...Treaty of Westphalia... which gave Alsace (without Strasburg) to France; and in 1659 he ended the war with Spain in the Peace of the Pyrenees, which gave to France Roussillon, Cerdagne, and part of the Low Countries.

Twice, in 1651 and 1652, he was driven out of ...[France] by the Parliamentary Fronde and the Fronde of the Nobles, with the innumerable pamphlets (Mazarinades) which they published against him, but the final defeat of both Frondes was the victory of royal absolutism, and Mazarin thus prepared the way for Louis XIV's omnipotence.

Lastly, in 1658, he placed Germany, in some sort, under the young king's protection, by forming the League of the Rhine, which was destined to hold the House of Austria in check. Thus did he lay the foundation of Louis XIV's greatness.

His foreign policy was, as Richelieu's had often been, indifferent to the interests of Catholicism: the Peace ofWestphalia gave its solemn sanction to the legal existence of Calvinism in Germany, and, while the nuncio vainly protested, Protestant princes were rewarded with secularized bishoprics and abbacies for their political opposition to Austria. Neither did it matter much to him whether the monarchical principle was respected or contemned in a foreign country: he was Cromwell's ally. ...[Cromwell was a regicide.]

His personal relations with the Holy See were hardly cordial. He could not prevent Cardinal Pamfili, a friend of Spain, [the enemy of France] from being elected pope (15 Sept., 1644) as Innocent X. He received in France... Cardinals Antonio and Francesco Barberini, nephews of the late pope...[T]he Bull of 21 February, 1646, fulminated by Innocent X against the cardinals, who were absenting themselves [from Rome] without authorization, (by the tenor of which Bull Mazarin himself was bound to repair to Rome), was voted by the Parliament of Paris "null and abusive". Mazarin obtained a decree of the Royal Council forbidding money to be remitted to Rome for expediting Bulls...[T] here was a show of preparing an expedition against Avignon, and Innocent X, yielding to these menaces, ended by restoring their property and dignities to Mazarin's protégés... Following up his policy of bullying the pope, Mazarin sent two fleets to the Neapolitan coast ...Apart from this, he had no Italian policy, properly speaking, and his demonstrations in Italy had no other object than to compel Spain to keep her troops there, and to bring the pope to a complaisant attitude towards France and towards Mazarin's own relations.

.... Though not interested in questions of theology, Mazarin detested the Jansenists for the part taken by some of them .... in the Fronde.... A declaration of the king in July, 1653, and an assembly of bishops in May, 1655, over which Mazarin presided, gave executive force to the decrees of Innocent X against Jansenism. The order condemning Pascal's "Provinciales" to be burnt, the order for the dismissal of pupils, novices, and postulants from the two convents of Port-Royal,....all these must be regarded as episodes of Mazarin's anti-Jansenist policy.

... Having little by little become "as powerful as God the Father when the world began", enjoying the revenues of twenty-seven abbacies, always ready to enrich himself by whatever means, and possessing a fortune equivalent to about $40,000,000 in twentieth century American money, Mazarin, towards the end of his life, multiplied in Paris the manifestations of his wealth. He organized a free lottery, at his own expense, with prizes amounting to more than a million francs, collected in his own palace more wonderful things than the king's palace contained, ... and patronized the earliest efforts of the comic poet Molière. The young Louis XIV entertained a profound affection for him and, what is more, fell in love with the cardinal's two nieces, Olympe Mancini and Marie Mancini, one after the other. Mazarin sent Marie away, to prevent the king from entertaining the idea of marrying her. 

......One reminiscence at least of the old political ideas of Christian Europe is to be found in his will: he left the pope a fund (600,000 livres) to prosecute the war against the Turks. The cardinal, who throughout his life had given but little thought to the interests of Christianity, seems to have sought pardon by remembering them on his deathbed. The same will directed the foundation of the College of the Four Nations, for the free education of sixty children from those provinces which he had united to France. To this college he bequeathed the library now known as the Bibliothèque Mazarine....

Cardinal Mazarin is also remembered for his affection for cats. I hope this is not due to confusing Mazarin with his patron Richelieu, who was famously fond of them.  

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