Armand Emmanuel Sophie Septemanie du Plessis, duc de Richelieu - Encyclopedia

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ARMAND EMMANUEL SOPHIE SEPTEMANIE DU PLESSIS, DUC DE RICHELIEU (1766-1822), French statesman, was born in Paris on the 25th of September 1766, the son of Louis Antoine du Plessis, duc de Fronsac and grandson of the marshal de Richelieu (1696-1788). The comte de Chinon, as the heir to the Richelieu honours was called, was married at fifteen to Rosalie de Rochechouart, a deformed child of twelve, with whom his relations were never more than formal. After two years of foreign travel he entered the Queen's dragoons. and next year received a place at court, where he had a reputation for Puritan austerity. He left Paris in 1790 for Vienna, and in company with his friend Prince Charles de Ligne joined the Russian army as a volunteer, reaching the Russian headquarters at Bender on the 21st of November. He was present at the capture of Ismailia and received from the empress Catherine the cross of St George and a golden sword. By the death of his father in February 17 9 1, he succeeded to the title of duc de Richelieu. He returned to Paris shortly afterwards on the summons of Louis XVI., but he was not sufficiently in the confidence of the court to be informed of the projected flight to Varennes. In July he obtained a passport from the National Assembly for service in Russia. In the Russian army he obtained the grade of general-major, only to be forced by the intrigues of his enemies to resign. The accession of Alexander I. brightened his prospects. His erasure from the list of emigres, which he had failed to secure from Napoleon, was accorded on the request of the Russian government, and in 1803 he became governor of Odessa. Two years later he became governor general of the Chersonese, of Ekaterinoslav and the Crimea, then called New Russia. In the eleven years of his administration, Odessa rose from a miserable village to an important city. He commanded a division in the Turkish War of 1806-7, and was engaged in frequent expeditions to the Caucasus.

Richelieu returned to France in 1814; on the triumphant return of Napoleon from Elba he accompanied Louis XVIII. in his flight as far as Lille, whence he went to Vienna to join the Russian army, believing that he could best serve the interests of the monarchy and of France by attaching himself to the headquarters of the emperor Alexander. Richelieu's character and antecedents alike marked him out as valuable support of the monarchy after its second restoration. Though the bulk of his confiscated estates were lost beyond recall, he did not share the resentment of the mass of the returned emigres, from whom and their intrigues he had held aloof during his exile, and was far from sharing their delusions as to the possibility of undoing the work of the Revolution. As the personal friend of the Russian emperor his influence in the councils of the Allies was likely to be of great service. He refused, indeed, Talleyrand's offer of a place in his ministry, pleading his long absence from France and ignorance of its conditions; but after Talleyrand's retirement he consented to follow him as prime minister, though - as he himself said - he did not know the face of one of his colleagues.

The events of Richelieu's tenure of office are noticed elsewhere (see France: History). Here it need only be said that it was mainly due to his efforts that France was so early relieved of the burden of the allied army of occupation. It was for this purpose mainly that he attended the congress of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1818. There he had been informed in confidence of the renewal by the Allies of their treaty binding them to interfere in case of a renewal of revolutionary trouble in France; and it was partly owing to this knowledge that he resigned office in December of the same year, on the refusal of his colleagues to support a reactionary modification of the electoral law. After the murder of the duc de Berry and the enforced retirement of Decazes, he again became president of the council (21st February 1821); but his position was untenable owing to the attacks of the "Ultras" on the one side and the Liberals on the other, and on the 12th of December he again resigned. He died of: apoplexy on the 17th of May 1822.

Great part of Richelieu's correspondence with Pozzo di Borgo, Capo d'Istria and others, with his journal of his travels in Germany and the Turkish campaign, and a notice by the duchesse de Richelieu, is published by the Imperial Historical Society of Russia, vol. 54. There is an exhaustive study of his career by L. de Crousaz-Cretet, Le Duc de Richelieu en Russie et en France (1897), with which compare an article by L. Rioult de Neuville in the Revue des questions historiques (Oct. 1897). See also R. de Cisternes, Le Duc de Richelieu, son action aux conferences d'Aix-la-Chapelle (1898), containing copies of documents.

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