In the West, Cardinal Richelieu has come to embody that historical archetype of the scheming hand behind a king. Working his way up from minor nobility to the highest echelons of power in the 17th century French court, Richelieu was a canny, ruthless Prime Minister to King Louis XIII. He brought the country’s aristocracy brutally into line and crushed resistance from French Protestants. That authoritarian streak has obscured Richelieu’s record of quasi-modernist reform. And the popularity of romantic works like Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, where Richelieu is the chief antagonist, cemented His Red Eminence’s notoriety.
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