1902 Encyclopedia > Jules Mazarin (Giulio Mazarin)

Jules Mazarin
(also known as: Giulio Mazarin)
French statesman and cardinal
(1602-61)




JULES MAZARIN, (1602-1661), cardinal, the suc-cessor of Bichelieu, and forerunner of Louis XIV., was the elder son of Pietro Mazarini, the intendant of the house-hold of Philip Colonna, and of his wife Ortensia Buffalini, a connexion of the Colonnas, and was born at Piscina in the Abruzzi on July 14, 1602. He was educated by the Jesuits at Rome till his seventeenth year when he accomparried Jerome Colorína as chamberlain to the university of Alcalá 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 after life, when he became the servant of a Spanish queen. On his return to Home 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. Dntrusted 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 1034, and nuncio at the court of France from 1634-36. 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 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 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 May 14, 1643, to every one'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 theatres of war—on the Rhine, in Flanders, in Italy, and in Catalonia. This is not the place to examine the campaigns of the last five years of the great war (see CONDE, TURENNE), but 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 XlV. This roused the jealousy of the United Provinces, and they made a separate peace with Spain in January 1648; but the valour 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. Cheruel, 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.





We must now notice that strange period of the Fronde which has always been variously treated, for modern historians have written its history from many different standpoints, all of which can be categorically supported from the varying mémoires of the principal actors. Now, however, thanks to the labours of M. Cousin on the carnets of Mazarin, which contain the substance of his inmost thoughts, and of M. Cheruel on the letters written to and by Mazarin, it is possible to construct a more accurate tnd trustworthy history of the Fronde than has ever yet been attempted. It is not, however, intended here to trace the whole history of the Fronde, interesting as that would be, but merely to trace the policy of Mazarin throughout the epoch. The origin of both the Frondes was partly Mazarin's fault. In 1645 the parlement of Paris had pro-tested against certain taxes, and had been checked by a lit de justice; and when, in 1648, it united its members in the Chambre de Saint Louis for the general reform of the kingdom, Mazarin and the queen, instead of holding another lit de justice, calling the states-general, or trans-ferring the parlement out of Paris, any of which measures would have broken its power, foolishly believed in the influence of the victory of Lens, and threw the people of Paris on the side of the parlement by the arrest of Broussel. The Fronde of the princes and the nobles, on the other hand, was largely due to Mazarin's absorption of political power. These Frondeurs were not, like their ancestors, moved by great religious and political sympathies, but by merely selfish aims for restoring the old licence of duel and intrigue, and were only united in one sentiment, hatred to Mazarin. That this was so was greatly Mazarin's own fault ; he had tried consistently to play off 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 Retire], and Mazarin's exile to Brühl before the union of the two Frondes. It was while in exile at Briihl 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, laboured 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 Mole, 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 Conde, while the royal party at last grew to such strength in Paris that Conde 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 had 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'Etat, 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 neighbouring 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 success-ful, and opened the way for the policy of Louis XIV. He at first, by means of an alliance with Cromwell, recovered the north-western 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 Lionne, formed the league of the Bhine, by which the states along the Rhine bound themselves under the head-ship 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 which is known as the treaty of the Pyrenees. By it Spain recovered Franche Comte, but ceded to France Boussillon, 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 March 9, 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 camels show to what unworthy means he had recourse to maintain his influence over 4he queen. What that influence was will be always debated, but both his carnets and the Briihl 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 hypo-thesis is made more possible by M. Cheruel'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 Conde 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, now in course of publication, that prove the real greatness of the statesman, and disprove De Retz's portrait, which is carefully arranged to show oft' 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. From first to last the diplomatist peeps forth, and gives the key to his character, and to the causes of his success. Italian though he was by birth, education, arid 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 Descartes, Voiture, Balzac, and Pierre Corneille. The last-named, the greatest of them all, did not care for Mazarin as a paymaster only, but as a statesman ; he was a profound royalist, believing that absolutism alone could save France from the horrors of religious wars, or the selfish turbulence of a Fronde, and to Mazarin he applied, with an adroit allusion to his birthplace, in the dedication of his Pompée, the line of Virgil—

"Tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento."

All the earlier works on Mazarin, and early accounts of his administration, of which the best were Bazin's Histoire de France sous Louis XIII. et sous le Cardinal Mazarin, 4 vols., 1846, and Saint-Aulaire's Histoire de la Fronde, have been superseded by M. Cheruel's admirable Histoire de France pendant la minorité de Louis XIV., 4 vols., 1879-80, which covers from 1643-51, and its sequel Histoire de France sous le Ministère de Cardinal Mazarin, 2 vols., 1881-82, which is the first account of the period written by one able to sift the statements of De Retz and the memoir writers, and rest upon such documents as Mazarin's letters and carnets. To M. Cheruel the Government of France has entrusted the task of editing Mazarin's Letters, of which two volumes have at present appeared, which must be carefully studied by any student of the history of France. For his " carnets " reference must be made to M. Cousin's articles in the Journal des Savants ; for his early life to Cousin's Jeunesse de Mazarin, 1865, and for the careers of his nieces to RenéVs Les Nieces de Mazarin, 1856. For the Mazarinades or squibs written against him in Paris during the Fronde, see Moreau's Bibliographie des Mazarinades, 1850, containing an account of 4082 Mazarinades. On the Fronde, also, consult Gaillardin's Histoire de Louis XIV., 6 vols., 1876-78, and Feillet's interesting Misère au temps de la Fronde. For his foreign policy, besides his Letters, see Valfrey's Hugues de Lionne, and Mignet's Histoire des Négociations relatives à la Succession d'Espagne. (H. M. S.)



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