This gentleman and his dog formed our greeting committee at Richelieu. The man on his bicycle smiled each time we met as he and his companion circled the town.
“Read pages 19 through 60. You will be tested on this history material tomorrow.” Groans and muttered complaints fill the classroom as the students grab backpacks and hit the door. Remember those days in the past, or is this currently your daily grind?
One of the entrances to Richelieu with the moat now filled with gardens and only a narrow stream of water.
I was taken back to those days of history-cramming when I decided to write about Richelieu, France. My office printer labored slowly with twenty-nine pages of conquests, conspiracies and wars. More facts funneled slowly into my brain from guide and reference books, plus more and more pages opened in the computer as I went from one history site to another. Remembering the groans and complaints in the classroom, I couldn’t come to terms with an all-out history campaign here on the Southern lady’s weekly kisses and hugs approach to France.
Richelieu is a thriving community, not just a tourist town.
But telling about the City of Richelieu without telling about Cardinal Richelieu, its founder, is like telling about Graceland without mentioning Elvis, or talking about Kentucky Fried Chicken and leaving out the Colonel. So, sit up straight, no throwing of spit-balls (ask me later if you don’t understand) and pay attention since there will be a test following!
Notice the gardens in the moat and the pleasant pathway to stroll around peacefully. I hope you like this backdoor approach to the city.
Jean de la Fontaine proclaimed the new town as: “The most beautiful village in the universe.” Fontaine could write blurbs for real estate brochures and magazine ads today!
Jim and I could live here. He would barbecue, and I would sit on the bench in the shade. Just planning ahead!
Front doors along the main street. You already know what lies at their back doors.
The city’s 17th– century urban planning was conceived by Cardinal Richelieu, who as chief minister was the most powerful man in France with the exception of the monarch. “To ensure quick settlement, the Cardinal imposed no city taxes. In return, buyers of plots for construction undertook to build within two years a house according to the plans and specifications filed with the court of the city, while being forced to choose as builder one of the Cardinal’s appointees.” The architect Jacques Lemercier, who was responsible for the Sorbonne and the Palais-Royal in Paris, was engaged to create the walled town on a grid arrangement surrounded by an ornamental moat and large imposing walls.
I could handle a garden like this.
The walls enclose a series of entrance courts, and on the opposite side there are formal gardens with gravel walks and surrounding trees.
In 1625, Cardinal Richelieu commissioned Lemercier to draw up plans for his huge palace, clearly intending for it to be incomparably luxurious. It was filled with priceless furniture and works of art. “Extremely fearful of competition, Richelieu ordered many of the chateaux in the area to be razed. The town survived the French Revolution; the palace, ironically, was confiscated, damaged and then dismantled.”
That’s Jim on a bridge in the beautiful Richelieu Gardens open to the public.
Shady long walkways are wonderful in hot weather.
Soon she will have a backpack with history books.
My homework reading assignment yielded facts that got under my skin. I’m hoping not to offend the citizens of Richelieu, my regular readers, Elvis or the Colonel with my dislikes.
The tactic that disturbed me most was Richelieu’s plan of blockading La Rochelle to stop any land supplies of food and goods to the city in his campaign against the Huguenots. This maneuver had a devastating impact on the Huguenots. Before the blockade, the city’s population stood at 25,000. After it was lifted, only 5000 remained alive in a very weak state. “It was said that you either liked Richelieu or hated him – there was no half-way.”
Other than the beautiful village, what remains of his legacy? His ideas of a strong nation-state and aggressive foreign policy helped create the modern system of international politics. The International Movie Database (effective April 2013) lists ninety-four films and television programs in which Cardinal Richelieu is a character. Richelieu is a major character and one of the main villains in Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. A wing of the Louvre Museum in Paris is named for him. Four warships of the French Navy bore his name.
Richelieu was famous for his patronage of the arts; most notably, he founded the Académie Française, the learned society responsible for matters related to the French language.
I found more stuff that put my nose out of joint as I read the pages, but I have to give him credit for leaving behind a lovely village that is very livable today after hundreds of years. Don’t miss seeing a broader perspective of the town of Richelieu with an aerial, pictures of the squares and colorful scenes of a local celebration. Just CLICK here for the website.
Don’t be surprised if the town of Richelieu appears again on these pages since it is a favorite of mine with its lively markets and antique stores. I could easily write the village on my list of places to search for a two-bedroom apartment with garden in the moat and a stream flowing past, just a few steps from the market and boulangerie.
Ya’ll meet me in the garden for a picnic after I walk past Richelieu’s shadow.
Test Questions – Multiple Choice:
1: What city is the most beautiful in the universe? Opp, Alabama or Richelieu, France
2: Who is a character in 94 films and television shows? Cardinal Richelieu or Colonel Sanders
3: Who was the architect for Richelieu? Rick Ruiz, John Gerald, Jean Perron, Roland Stout, Doug Walker, Dr. George Tseng or Jacques Lemercier (Like Richelieu, I promote my friends, in this case, my architect friends!)
4: Buy “A French Opportunity” and you are guaranteed an “A” on the test!
Thank you for joining me for journeys in France and beyond. Your kind support is greatly appreciated. I will mark your attendance record as excellent on your report card!
I love hearing from students, teachers, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and bachelors in the comments section.