Retz, Jean Francois Paul De Gondi

Retz, Jean Francois Paul de Gondi

Cardinal de, often written Rais, a French prelate, was born at Montmirail in Oct. 1614. By birth he was a Knight of Malta, and was destined by his father for the Church, in the hope that he might succeed his uncle as arch- bishop of Paris. The ecclesiastical life was wholly distasteful to him, and his earlier years were spent in prodigality and excesses of all kinds; but, at the same time, he prosecuted his theological studies with great success, and received valuable benefices. He was made canon of Notre Dame in 1627, and adopted the title of abbe de Retz. His ambition and hardihood gained for him the friendship of the count de Soissons, and by the conspiracy planned by that nobleman he hoped to be released from his ecclesiastical life and enter upon a political one, which was more congenial to his intriguing nature. After the death of the count, he devoted himself with more regularity to his profession, and succeeded in gaining so great a popularity that Louis XIII, on his death-bed, appointed him coadjutor to his uncle, the bishop of Paris. In this position he gained the hearts of the people by his charities and great attention to all the outward requirements of religion. During the wars of the Fronde he rendered valuable assistance to the royal cause; but finding that he was dist trusted, he finally became the secret leader of the popular party, and the greatest opponent of cardinal Mazarin. He was made cardinal in 1652, and received tempting offers of a position as ambassador of France to the Holy See; but before he had decided to accept this proposition, he was arrested by order of Louis XIV, and was kept closely confined at Vincennes. On the death of his uncle, March 21,1654, his friends took possession of the archbishopric in his name. By resigning his claims, he succeeded in gaining a change of residence, and was removed to the Chateau of Nantes. He escaped from his confinement Aug. 8,1654, and after many adventures reached Spain. Philip IV offered him an escort, and he immediately hastened to Rome, where he declared himself archbishop of Paris, the pope having refused to acknowledge his resignation. Retz subsequently travelled through Europe; and having been prohibited by Louis XIV from occupying his archbishopric in person, he governed it by vicars and subordinates until 1662, when he formally resigned all claim to it in consideration of receiving other valuable benefices. He was reconciled to the king, and received permission to establish himself at Commercy, where he kept up a petty state, and occupied himself in study and works of charity. He died at Paris, Aug. 24,1679. His writings are chiefly political, and as such are not of interest here. But his greatest work is his Memoires, composed during his years of retirement. They were first published in 1717, and have been translated into several foreign languages. See Memoires du Cardinal de Retz; Lettres de Madame de Sevigne; Voltaire, Siecle de Louis XIV. — Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, s.v.

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