Foreign Affairs: Poker Lessons From Richelieu

An incomparable diplomat, Cardinal Richelieu more nationalist than statesman or prince of the Church:

For the next two decades, Richelieu was a crucial player in French and European politics, but with his position resting on his ability to please and manipulate his vain, stubborn, and temperamental royal master — whom Blanchard nicely describes as “worn out by inner torments, military battles, and furious hunting.” As a Spanish diplomat of the time put it, Richelieu had come “closer to Jupiter, but also to his thunder.” Blanchard might have dwelt somewhat more on this fascinating relationship, in which Richelieu not only flattered the king endlessly but also made sure the monarch was surrounded by attractive young men. Above all, Richelieu became a mentor to Louis, someone able to scold the king for his shortcomings, sometimes even in public.

As Richelieu’s star and influence rose, Marie grew resentful of her former protégé, and a showdown became inevitable. On November 11, 1630, Marie exploded at the cardinal in front of the king, showering him with insults and forcing him to beg for mercy on his knees. Louis, apparently struck dumb by the outburst, left without acknowledging Richelieu, and Marie’s supporters rejoiced that their nemesis the cardinal had fallen. That evening, the king summoned Richelieu to his hunting lodge at Versailles — for his execution, the cardinal thought, assuming he had finally lost the high-stakes poker game of court politics. Overcoming his urge to flee, Richelieu obeyed the king’s command and discovered that he was in fact being restored to royal favor, in an episode that would become known as the Day of the Dupes, with Marie’s leading allies arrested instead the next morning. By 1642, Louis could write to Richelieu, “I have never loved you so much. We have been together for too long ever to be separated.”

Thus the career began.  Great read to print off for a lunch break.

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