Cardinal Jules Mazarin
1602–61, French statesman, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. His original name was Giulio Mazarini. After serving in the papal army and diplomatic service and as nuncio at the French court (1634–36), he entered the service of France and made himself valuable to King Louis XIII's chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu, who brought him into the council of state. Although he had received only minor orders and had never been ordained a priest, he was raised to cardinal upon the recommendation of Louis XIII (1641).
After the deaths of Richelieu (1642) and Louis XIII (1643), Mazarin was the principal minister of the regent Anne of Austria. The theory that Mazarin was secretly married to the widowed queen has been widely credited. He won favorable terms for France in the Peace of Westphalia (1648), but his attempts to raise money through taxation and his centralizing policy provoked the troubles of the Fronde(1648–53), during which he was several times forced to leave France. After the defeat of the Fronde, Mazarin was securely in control of France. By clever diplomacy he strengthened the crown and negotiated the favorable Peace of the Pyrenees at the end of the war with Spain (1659).
1615–80, superintendent of finance (1653–61) under King Louis XIV of France. His loyalty to Cardinal Mazarin during the Fronde helped to secure his position. By his transactions with financiers, to whom he allowed huge profits, he impoverished the treasury and accumulated a vast personal fortune. He spent large sums for his own purposes, notably on his mansion at Vaux, and was a patron of literary men, among them Jean Baptiste Molière and Jean de La Fontaine. He was created marquis of Belle-Isle. Aroused by Jean Baptiste Colbert, who gave the king reports of Fouquet's mismanagement of funds, and made jealous by a magnificent fete he attended at Vaux, Louis XIV ordered Fouquet's arrest in 1661. The trial took three years. Fouquet was sentenced (1664) to banishment, but the king, still resentful, changed the sentence to life imprisonment.
Jean Baptiste Colbert
1619–83, French statesman. The son of a draper, he was trained in business and was hired by Cardinal Mazarin to look after his financial affairs. On his deathbed, Mazarin recommended Colbert to King Louis XIV, who made him comptroller general of finances (1665). Colbert helped to procure the downfall of the superintendent of finances, Nicolas Fouquet , for mismanagement. As Louis XIV's minister, Colbert scaled down the public debt by repudiating some obligations and reducing the value of others and set up a system of accounts in order to keep the government within its income. His efforts to make taxes more equal had little success in the face of localism and tradition. Colbert's aim was to make France economically self-sufficient. One of the most successful practitioners of mercantilism, he encouraged the growth of industry through subsidies and tariff protection, rigidly regulated the qualities and prices of manufactured and agricultural products, tried to break down trade barriers within France, initiated a vigorous road-building program, and restricted the use of natural resources. In 1669 he was made secretary of state for naval affairs. He constructed shipyards, arsenals, and harbors, among them Brest and Rochefort, and began the construction of a large navy as a first step in the development of commerce and colonization. Colbert contributed significantly to the splendor of Louis XIV's reign by patronizing the arts and sciences. He founded the Academy of Sciences and the Paris Observatory and promoted the French Academy. His efforts at economy were soon menaced by the extravagance of the king, and the opening of Louis XIV's wars began the decline of Colbert's power and the ascendancy of the marquis de Louvois. It was Colbert's commercial policy, however, that, by challenging Dutch commercial strength, contributed to the Dutch War of 1672–78. To meet military expenses, Colbert was obliged to resort to increased taxation, the sale of offices, borrowing, and the anticipation of future revenues. His new taxes caused serious disturbances. Despite his unpopularity at the time of his death, Colbert was later ranked among the greatest of French statesmen.
Michel Le Tellier
1603–85, French statesman. A minister of state under Cardinal Mazarin, he became war minister in 1643. He later shared his duties with his son, the marquis de Louvois. At the time of his death he was chancellor of France.
marquis de Louvois
François Michel Le Tellier, marquis de Louvois
1641–91, French statesman, minister during the reign of King Louis XIV. After 1654 he was associated in office with his father, Michel Le Tellier, and from 1666 he functioned as war minister, officially replacing his father in 1677. His father shared in the reforms credited to Louvois. Among these reforms were the creation of an efficient provisioning system, the introduction of the bayonet and the flintlock rifle, the close coordination of the artillery and the corps of engineers with the infantry, the creation of grades to which officers might be promoted without purchasing their commissions, and the establishment of a fixed rate of pay. By these measures the French army became the most powerful military force in Europe. After the death of Jean Baptiste Colbert (1683), Louvois became the most influential of Louis's ministers. He supported the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and was largely responsible for the brutal enforcement of that measure. Louvois also was instrumental in the shaping of Louis's aggressive policies. The devastation of the Palatinate (1689) by the French army under his orders during the War of the Grand Alliance earned him condemnation throughout Europe.