Biography of Jules Mazarino (1602-1661)

Cardinal and Prime Minister of France, born in Pescina (Italy) in 1602 and died in Paris in 1661. Belonging to a powerful family of Rome, he studied at the Jesuit College of that city and, subsequently, in the University of Alcalá de Henares. After finishing his studies he joined the Pontifical army, where he attained the rank of captain.

His ascension to the French power

From a very young showed great diplomatic skills. He was named papal vicelegado in the French city of Avignon, and in 1634, I nuncio of the Pope in Paris. In the French court won the admiration of the cardinal Richelieu, first Minister Luis XIII. In 1639, became naturalized French citizen and became a part of the Conseil des Affaires, the French Council of Foreign Affairs. His work as a diplomat of the French court in Savoie earned him the Cardinal's hat, asked for it by Richelieu, while never was ordained a priest. Before his death in 1642, Richelieu recommended him to the King as his successor at the head of the Royal Council.

After the death of Luis XIII in 1643, Mazzarino became the Chief Minister of the Council of Regency headed by the Queen Mother, Ana de Austria, named Governor while last minority of Luis XIV, and about which the cardinal exercised great influence. In may 1643 Queen forced Parliament to annul the testamentary provisions of Luis XIII, dissolved the Council of Regency and Mazzarino first appointed Minister of the Crown. From then on, the cardinal would dictate policy of France supported faithfully by the Queen, which could have been secretly married. The Government of a foreigner just Francophile and serious socio-economic crisis traversing France as a result of the thirty years war, provoked general hostility to the cardinal.

The problems of the Mazzarino Government

Shortly after his ascension to power, had to cope with a nobility plot known as the cabal of the important, which concluded with the arrest and exile of the conspirators. Extraordinary tax levies enacted by Mazzarino at the edict of resales made grow the popular opposition to the Cardinal, especially between the Parisian bourgeoisie represented in the Parliament of the city. For its part, the nobility continued their efforts to halt the advance of the monarchical absolutism that advocated the policy of cardinal. The general dissatisfaction crystallized in July 1648 at the outbreak in Paris of a rebellion led by the Parliament, known as the Fronde. The insurrection became a civil war that forced the Royal family to leave Paris and that, with different phases, lasted until 1653. The popular agitation and the emergence of a series of tracts against the Cardinal, known as the mazzarinadas, made untenable the permanence of Mazzarino, head of the Government. The Cardinal was forced to environment in 1652 and 1653, first in Sedan and then in the German town of Brühl, to allow reconciliation between insurgents and the King.

The wear of the nation and the difficult international situation led in 1653 the exhaustion of the rebellion and the restoration of a monarchical absolutism coming out stronger from the crisis thanks to the political skill of Mazzarino. Although Luis XIV had come of age in the course of the conflict, the cardinal remained head of the Government as undisputed Dean of monarchical politics until his death in 1661.

In terms of international relations, Mazzarino continued the policy of Richelieu to establish French hegemony over Europe. Its main objective was to put an end to the thirty years war with an advantageous peace for France. Its diplomatic efforts and the victories of the French army led in 1648 to the signing of the peace of Westphalia with the Hapsburg Empire, first phase of the peace accords that would seal the end of the war. Since then Mazzarino became arbiter of the European conflict. His steps were directed to obtain peace with Spain, which after its alliance with England in Cromwell and the defeat of the Spanish army in the battle of the dunes (1658).

With the signing of the Franco-Spanish peace of the Pyrenees in 1659, France was proclaimed winner of the contest and obtained substantial territorial advantages. Mazzarino sealed peace with the marriage agreement between Luis XIV and the infanta María Teresa, which opened the way for a possible French succession to the Spanish throne. In the last phase of the peace agreements of the thirty years ' war, he acted as a mediator in the conflict that kept the Baltic countries, which concluded with the Treaty of Kardis (1661) and olive-Copenhagen (1660).

On the death of the cardinal in 1661, France had held political supremacy in Europe, its borders were consolidated and the nation prepared for the rise of monarchical absolutism that crystallized in the reign of Luis XIV, the Sun King.


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BERTIER DE SAUVIGNY, g. de. History of France, Madrid, 1986.