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Eminence: Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of France Hardcover – September 13, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company; First Edition (1 in number line) edition (September 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802717047
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802717047
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #506,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Blanchard's captivating biography vividly captures the rise to power of a seminal figure who was instrumental in creating France as we know it."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Blanchard gives Cardinal Richelieu a tremendous depth of character through the re-creation of key, decisive moments over the course of his courtly career."—Kirkus Reviews

"Cardinal Richelieu receives a more nuanced portrayal from Blanchard…. [he] excels in digging deep beneath the surface to reveal the extraordinary man who spawned the legend."—Margaret Flanagan, Booklist

"Blanchard paints a riveting picture of the scope of Richelieu’s career…. While the life of the notorious cardinal is hardly untouched material for writers, Blanchard’s biography is one of few recent treatments of the subject in English and should be well received by scholars and general readers with a serious interest in French military or political history."—Tessa L.H. Minchew, Library Journal
 
"A richly rewarding study of both an early student of absolute state power, and how his influence built the foundation for France's domination of seventeenth-century Europe."—BarnesandNobleReview.com

About the Author

Jean-Vincent Blanchard is an associate professor of French literature and politics at Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. He is the author of several books published in France; this is his first book published in English.

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Customer Reviews

This biography is clearly written and enjoyable to read.
James R. Moulton
Blanchard's book is a detailed read that any history buff would enjoy and learn from.
Robert Chapman
There are other problems, that might not be the author's fault.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By lordhoot on October 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is an introductory biography of Cardinal Richelieu. The author, Jean-Vincent Blanchard, wrote a well written and entertaining book on the cardinal but he doesn't add much to the life and time of one of the most misunderstood statesmen of modern Europe. The book's approach to Cardinal Richelieu is one of respect and admiration. Personally I see nothing wrong with that. Cardinal Richelieu remains one of the most important men in French history period. And one of the most important men of modern European history. His role in saving France from the chaotic period after the death of Henry IV is clearly shown in this book.

The book covered all the major events of Richelieu's life. I was bit surprised that he did not go deeper into the fate of Urban Grandier which many historians point to Richelieu's callous disregard for justice. There is only a minor sentence regarding Grandier. I am also bit surprised that the author did not make much issue of one event that secured Richelieu to power until his dying days, the birth of future Louis XIV. The Dauphin literally removed two of Richelieu's deadest enemies from any political equation: Gaston the former heir and direct enemy of Richelieu and the Queen Mother. Both were non-factors in French politics after the birth of Dauphin and ensure Richelieu hold on power. (Of course the Cinq-Mar Affair proves to be a minor bump on the road.)

Although author acknowledged the overall greatness of Richelieu, he was wise enough to point out his many weaknesses, mainly in the field of finance, trade and commerce that nearly led to economic ruins of France and no doubt, fuel the coming revolution called the Fronde.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By T. Thomson on November 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
OK as a light introduction but lacks a comprehensive tie-in to European affairs of the early seventeenth century. I did not get a feel for the protagonist or any of the other characters. It reminded me of reading history books in (U.S.) high school.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By J. Moran VINE VOICE on December 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This biography of Richelieu, apparently intended for a general audience, attempts to encompass his entire career and complex personality in 227 pages of text. The result: unsatisfactory.

Armand-Jean du Plessis (1585-1642), Duc de Richelieu and Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, was, according to Henry Kissinger in his book "Diplomacy," "the father of the modern state system." Kissinger, who adds that "few statesmen can claim a greater impact on history" than Richelieu, is not alone in this estimate.

Richelieu dominated the time in European history that modern nations began to emerge from the violent chaos of religious and dynastic strife arising from the Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation. Violence repeatedly convulsed Europe in religious and dynastic strife from circa 1524 to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and beyond. Kingdoms were riven with civil wars, ostensibly based on religion, and dynasts devastated Europe both in the name of disparate Christian creeds and to increase their own political power.

Richelieu himself was as complex and even contradictory as the era he confronted. A man of some sensitivity and considerable cultivation, he entered a clerical career, read and wrote orthodox theology and was apparently a sincere Catholic throughout his life. Yet this did not prevent him from pursuing policies that placed the growth of French monarchial power above everything else. He pursued these aims with utter ruthlessness and opportunistic practical expediency.

To take just one example, Richelieu crushed Protestant military and political power in France but did not expel Protestants or even interfere much with their strictly religious practices.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David J. Highsmith on November 21, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Not the best narrative of the Cardinal's life, this concentrates too much on his military exploits and spends too little time on his fascinating personality. Nevertheless, it is a good account of what Richelieu had to do to survive in Louis XII's court.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By J. Greenhut on December 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Why the historical profession believes that while research and analysis must be taught, writing is to be left up to the historian to figure out on his own is beyond me. Having just finished one of Robert Massie's sparking biographies, perhaps I was expecting too much from a classically trained historian. Although the brief biography does not specifically state that Blanchard is not a native English speaker, I have the feeling that this is part of the problem. Writing well in a language not really your own is extraordinarily difficult, and few have managed (Conrad springs to mind). Most of us should avoid it. Best to write in one's own language and hire a really good translator, or have an editor not shy to massively rewrite the work.

The poor writing is unfortunate. Richelieu is one of the giants of early modern Europe and a well written popular biography is sorely needed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nymund on September 20, 2013
Format: Paperback
I really wanted to like Eminence: Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of France but Jean-Vincent Blanchard's work here isn't that good to begin with and the plodding translation from the original French doesn't help either.

Writing history is a balancing act. You need to channel the available source materials into a cohesive narrative without overly simplifying the sheer complexity of it all.

In spite of what Blanchard would have us believe the Thirty Years' War was not an episode of Family Feud starring the Valois and Hapsburg dynasties. Louis XIII was not mercurial or unpredictable. He merely played all sides against the middle the way successful executives do.

As for Blanchard's treatment of the Cardinal himself there's entirely too much reliance on court gossip for comfort. And history is not a fairy tale. These were real people who thought and acted rationally in the context of their particular circumstances.

We're still waiting for the authoritative Richelieu biography because this isn't it. Not even close.
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