Cardinal Mazarin

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Cardinal Mazarin

Cardinal Jules Mazarin, born Giulio Raimondo Mazzarino (1602-1661) was a French cardinal and statesman who controlled the French government while Louis XIV was young. Mazarin was a conservative who followed the aims of Cardinal Richelieu, his main sponsor. Their goals were to support the Catholic Church, to secure and maintain royal absolutism in France, and to make France the leading power of Europe. His main achievements were the ending of the Thirty Years War through the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and his defeat of the Fronde in 1653. Using an elaborate network of personal relations, he restored royal authority to the point at which the king could rule alone. Mazarin attained his aims by both scrupulous and unscrupulous means, inspired love in some and hatred in others, and was controversial in his own time and ever since.


He was born in Pescina, Italy on July 14, 1602, to an aristocratic family that had lost its wealth. He was educated by Jesuits at Rome and was named papal envoy of France in 1634. There he met Cardinal Richelieu and secretly aided him in the Thirty Years' War against Austrian and Spanish Habsburgs. Mazarin was made a cardinal by the pope as a reward for his service to France from King Louis XIII.

Prime minister

After the death of Richelieu in 1642, Mazarin succeeded him as the Prime Minister of France. In 1643, the cardinal became chief minister and tutor to the young Louis XIV after the death of Louis XIII. Having kept Richelieu's policies of centralization, Mazarin was blamed for the civil disturbances of the Fronde, and was forced to leave Paris twice. He returned to the kingdom in 1653 when the nobles' revolts had ended. The nobles hated Mazarin for usurping their historic place in the crown's service.

Foreign policy

In terms of foreign policy and diplomatic relations, Mazarin ended the Peace of Westphalia, which brought the Thirty Years' War to a conclusion and brought French prestige, and concluded the Peace of the Pyrenees, which ended the Franco-Spanish conflict.

The ending of the Thirty Years War was an event closely linked to that year's significant domestic unrest. The outbreak of the Fronde (1648-53) in August was only one manifestation of rising dissatisfaction with the royal government over such issues as taxation and a perceived unwillingness to conclude peace. Much of this dissatisfaction was focused on Cardinal Mazarin. There was a close linkage in France at this time between international and domestic events, and Mazarin was highly conscious of this and sought to use it to his advantage. Whatever the value of his policies, in 1648 Mazarin was relatively unsuccessful politically in that he was often faulted for what went wrong and denied credit for what went right.

The Fronde (1848-53) was most serious challenge to the French crown's authority between the 16th-century religious wars and the French revolution of 1789. After the Frondeurs had been defeated Mazarin devoted himself to the training of the young king, Louis XIV. Louis showed respect for his mentor by postponing his personal rule until Mazarin died on March 9th, 1661.


Mazarin was a leading promoter of the arts. He was an avid art collector, founded the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture (1648), introduced Italian opera at court, and established an important library in Paris.

see also Louis XIV


  • Cambridge Modern History: Vol. 5 The Age Of Louis XIV (1908), old, solid articles by scholars; complete text online
  • Croxton, Derek. Peacemaking in Early Modern Europe: Cardinal Mazarin and the Congress of Westphalia, 1643-1648. (1999) 397 pp.
  • Dunlop, Ian. Louis XIV (2000), 512pp excerpt and text search
  • Parrott, David. Richelieu's Army. War, Government and Society in France, 1624-1642 (2001).
  • Shennan, J. H. Louis XIV (1993) online edition
  • Sturdy, David J. Richelieu and Mazarin: A Study in Statesmanship (2003) 198pp and text search
  • Treasure, Geoffrey. Mazarin: The Crisis of Absolutism in France. (1996). 413 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Treasure, Geoffrey. Richelieu and Mazarin (1998) 96pp online edition
  • Wilkinson, Richard. "Cardinal Mazarin." History Today1996 46(4): 39-45. Issn: 0018-2753 Fulltext: Ebsco
  • Wolf, John B. Louis XIV (1968), the standard scholarly biography online edition