Saturday 7 February 2015

Cardinal Richelieu ( 1585-1642 )
Read the book on Cardinal Richelieu which I had borrowed from the library.
 Cardinal Richelieu is one of my heroes. He was the principal adviser, somewhat like the Prime Minister, to King Louis 13th of France, from 1624 till his death in 1642.
 Richelieu's total focus was to make France a strong unified state. Like Arjuna whose eyes were focused on the eyes of the revolving fish in the reflection in water at Draupadi's swayamvar, Richelieu's policy was devoted single mindedly to that end..
 India too requires people with such single minded devotion to make India a powerful, modern, highly industrialized state.
Richelieu was lucky because he had a master, King Louis 13th, who realized that the Cardinal was giving advice in the interest of the King and of France, whose embodiment at that time was the King.
 Though knowing that he could be dismissed by the King any time, Richelieu did not hesitate to scold the King when that was necessary. In matters of national policy, he told Louis, the King must suppress his personal feelings. In his famous address to Louis after the victory of La Rochelle, he bluntly told the King that he was superficial in his judgments, that he lacked assiduity, that he had no proper sense of great objectives, and that he had sometimes irrational aversions.
 It was the greatness of Louis that despite such harsh words he did not sack Richelieu, knowing that whatever he said was in the King's interest and in the interest of France. This was similar to Queen Elizabeth the First's respect for her principal secretary Cecil, or Kaiser William's respect for Bismarck., or Emperor Akbar's respect for his navratnas. A good ruler should be always open to good advice, even if it conflicts with his/her own views.
 For achieving his objectives Richelieu adopted the following policies :
1. He smashed the power of the feudal nobles, who often had private armies, and he ordered them to demolish their fortifications. He did not even hesitate to get some of the high nobles who were rebellious and in conspiracy with Spain ( which was then France's principal enemy ) executed e.g.the duc de Montmorency , comte de Marillac and marquis de Cinq-Mars.
 When all of France was pleading for clemency to Montmorency, Louis, on Richelieu's advice, said " I should not be the king if I had the feelings of private persons ".
 Richelieu was not naturally bloodthirsty, but he was also not concerned too much with justice in the lawyers' sense. The execution block was a place of business, no more.
 In his memoirs Richelieu wrote : " The Courts of law require proof before sentencing someone. This is not necessarily so in matters of state. There, occasions arise when one must start with an execution."
  I agree with this view.  Many of the netas of India who have looted the country, or who have incited hatred among communities, castes, or ethnic, lingual, or regional groups in India deserve summary execution
 In the ' Day of Dupes ' in 1630, Richelieu persuaded the King to exile his own mother, Marie de Medici for trying to obstruct state policy.
2. To make France strong, Richelieu adopted the policy of opposing the Hapsburgs who were conspiring to end France's independence. He converted the 30 years war ( 1618-1648 ) from a war between Catholics and Protestants, to a struggle against Hapsburg attempt of hegemony over other nations.
3. Though a Catholic himself, Richelieu was not a bigot. He crushed the Huguenots ( the French Protestants ) at La Rochelle,, not because he wanted to suppress Protestants but because they had become separate centres of military power within France, which no nation can tolerate. However, after defeating them militarily, he permitted Protestants free excercize of their religion.
 Richelieu supported Protestants against Catholic countries where the national interest so required.
 The King fully supported Richelieu, realizing that whatever he did was in the interest of France and the King. So devoted did Louis become to Richelieu that when the latter was on his death bed in November 1642 Louis fed him with his own hands, something unprecedented.
 Richelieu told the King that he was leaving Louis his kingdom at a pinnacle of international power, with all his enemies, domestic and foreign in full retreat. He advised the King to appoint his protege Cardinal Mazarin, as his successor., The King agreed.

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