Cardinal Richelieu (1935)





Director:     Rowland V. Lee

Starring:     George Arliss (Cardinal Richelieu),  Maureen O'Sullivan (Lenore),  Edward Arnold (Louis XIII),  Cesar Romero (Andre de Pons),  Douglass Dumbrille (Baradas), Francis Lister (Gaston), Halliwell Hobbes (Father Joseph), Violet Kemble Cooper (Queen Marie), Katharine Alexander (Queen Anne), Robert Harrigan (Fontailles), Joseph R. Tozer (De Bussy), Lumsden Hare (Gustavus Adolphus - King of Sweden), Russell Hicks (Le Moyne), Keith Hitchcock (Duke D'Epernon), Murray Kinnell (Duke of Lorraine).

Cardinal Richelieu (George Arliss) dominating King Louis XIII of France.  



Spoiler Warning:    

The Vatican, Rome, 1630.  Frenchmen come to see the Pope.  They are the representatives of the feudal lords of France.  An edict is before King Louis IV that will strip the lords of the revenues and reduce the lords to lackeys.  If the King signs the edict, it will mean civil war.  They are now the helpless victims of the Minister of State, Cardinal Richelieu.  They want the Pope to intercede to prevent the civil war. 

In France at a meeting of the lords, Andre de Pons says that they have no time to wait for the Pope for the King has already signed the edict.  He says that henceforth the lords are mere servants of the King or Richelieu. The men turn to the military man, Baroner, urging him to strike fast at the royal forces.  The military man says they have already struck.  He goes on to say that he has been in secret conference with Queen Anne (the Austrian wife of King Louis XIII) and the Queen Mother (Maria de'Medici).   Both women know about the danger that Richelieu represents to France.

The Louvre, Palace of Louis XIII, King of France.  Richelieu is away.  The military representative of the lords comes to see the Queen and Queen Mother.  Richelieu is away and it's a good time to strike at him.  The Queen Mother goes to get the order for the Cardinal's dismissal.  The brother of the King asks to be left out of the conspiracy as of yet.

The Queen and Queen mother plus Baroner go to get the King to sign the order of dismissal.  They lock the doors behind them.  The King's brother is very nervous thinking that Richelieu can arrive at any minute.  Andre de Pons tells him that the Cardinal is far away and can't reach here any time soon.  But the brother hears some noise outside and looks out the window.  It's the Cardinal! 

Richelieu is stopped from going into the King's chambers.  He gets back in his coach and leaves.

The King refuses to sign the dismissal document.  So the three start saying that Richelieu is more popular than the King, he is richer than the King and he has a nicer palace than the King.  And Richelieu took 10 million francs from the Duke of Normandy so the Duke doesn't  have to forfeit his land.  Now the King starts to change his mind about signing and the others urge him to sign.  Richelieu enters the room from a secret passage.  He says:  "I have a feeling that I am the subject of this absorbing debate."

The King tells Richelieu that he has heard many grievous accusations against the Cardinal.  For instance, is it true that the Duke of Normandy gave the Cardinal 10 million francs?  Richelieu says yes.  And was that a bribe?  Yes.  Richelieu defends himself by saying that he knew that their army could not win a fight with the army of the Duke of Normandy.  So, instead the Cardinal accepted the bribe and then has been using the money to strengthen the nation's army.  He says he wants to hold all these petty lands under one strong hand, that of the King's hand.  He wants a France united. 

But what about that exquisite palace that Richelieu is building?  The Cardinal says it's being build to honor the King himself.  He hands over the deed to the palace and estate to the King.  The holy man takes the deed back to hold it for insurance that upon his dismissal, he will receive a nice little abode somewhere with a nice garden where he can commune with his God.  He leaves. 

Palais-Cardinal.  The actual seat of the French government.  A monk presents the Cardinal with 15 Huguenot nobles' death sentences to be signed by His Eminence.  And King Gustav II Adolph of Sweden (reigned 1611-1632) is still waiting to see the Cardinal.  Richelius has the King called in.  The King of Sweden says he needs money.  [The King led Sweden as a great power and used Swedish military supremacy during the Thirty Years War, to help determine the political as well as the religious balance of power in Europe.   His daughter became Queen Christina.]  Richelieu tells the King to cross the border with 30,000 troops.  Then Gustav II will get the French gold promised him. 

Monk Joseph talks with Richelieu, who tells him  that Lenore is coming out of the convent now, and she's Richelieu's responsibility. 

Lenore at this moment is kissing Andre de Pons.  Andre wants to know her name, but she won't tell him as yet.  She says she has to ask her guardian if it's okay for Andre to see her openly and not just in secret.  When she finds out where she will be, she will leave a note for Andre in the crevice of a tree by their favorite bench. 

Lenore sneaks up on the Cardinal.  She surprises him.  Lenore tells him about how she communicated with an unknown young officer by throwing notes back and forth over the convent wall.  And today she met him for the first time.  And now she thinks one can fall in love with another at first meeting.  Richelieu asks her what is the man's name?  Andre de Pons.  That strikes the Cardinal as a familiar name.  He goes over to a list of enemies of the state and finds Andre's name there.  He asks Lenore if she is quite sure that Andre does not know that her guardian is Cardinal Richelieu?  She says she is quite sure Andre does not know.  Lenore asks if her guardian will see Andre and Richelieu says yes. 

The King has come to the palace with nearly half his court.  He says he has come to see the King's palace.  The King has brought enough people with him fit for a large wedding ceremony. 

Richelieu escorts the King and his entourage through the lavish gardens.   Lenore is out walking in the gardens and runs into them.  The King is enchanted by her look of youthful energy.  He asks to meet the young lady, whose father was killed in the service of France.  Richelieu makes the introduction and the King says she's lovely:  And she must be presented at court.  In fact, the King wants to see her tomorrow.  The King, to make sure Richelieu brings her to court, says they must give such a beauty a title and must find her a husband.  He has a candidate in mind.  The Cardinal doubts the King's motives, thinking the King might want Lenore as one of his mistresses, married to another man in name only.  The two get into a shouting match over the young lady.  The Cardinal will not brook the humiliation of this child. So the angry King says let's see how far the Cardinal can get without the support of his king.  The two men part company.

Richelieu tells Joseph:  "See, Joseph, on what little things the fate of nations depends.  A moment ago, I said there was a loophole and now the history of France may be changed by a pretty face in a garden."

Richelieu now speaks with Andre de Pons.  He explains to him the he is having the lands taken from the feudal lords because he wants a united France.  What lasted for a century can be destroyed in a night.  "England, Austria and Spain are arming against us."  He says, it's either unity or defeat.  "Think it over."

Richelieu gets a note form the King:  "Mlle. Lenore de Brissac will take up her residence in the Palace as Lady in Waiting to Her Majesty, the Queen, pending her marriage with the Comte de Ling-Mars."

Andre says he will follow Richelieu.  And the first order Richelieu gives to Andre is to marry right away.  Andre objects and Richelieu asks him if he has another candidate for his wife?  Andre says he loves the lady, but doesn't even know her name.  Richelieu asks him if Andre would throw away his whole military career for the sake of a woman whose name he doesn't even know?  Andre thinks about it.  Lenore comes into the room.  She's very surprised to see Andre and even more surprised when the Cardinal tells her that for the last 15 minutes he has been trying to get this young fellow to marry her, but he absolutely refuses the offer.   Lenore goes to Andre and it's obvious to both of them that they're going to be together. 

Richelieu officiates at the wedding ceremony.

The King is absolutely livid when he learns that Richelieu has tricked him.  He tells Baroner that he will have that man's head  ". . . if I could rule without him."

The feudal nobles plan to back the coalition of England, Austria and Spain and side with them and against the French.  The English representative, Lord Buckingham, says they want Gastonge in as King and Louis out.   Baroner says that's settled and now England will attack in the west at La Rochelle.  Austria will advance on the east.  Baroner says he will intercede with the King of France and make sure that the Swedish troops will not fight.  Spain will advance to Corbie and then surround Paris.  The Spanish representative demands that the French lords of the manor keep Richelieu's new army within the walls of Paris. 

Richelieu writes a note to the commander-in-chief of the army of France, Marshal Le Moyne, to proceed immediately to the defense of Corbie and drive the Spanish back. 

Baroner says to the King that if the army leaves Paris, the people will rise up in revolt.  Andre is in the wrong place at the wrong time.  When the King sees him, he has him arrested for getting married without the royal consent.  Andre protests, saying that's not fair. So the King now exiles Andre from France.  Andre is taken away. 

The King tells Baroner that the army will stay in Paris.  Baroner's on a good roll here and now he asks the King if he has thought about the effect of the appearance of the Protestant Swedish troops on the Pope?  He even mentions the possibility that the Pope might excommunicate the King for having Protestants killing Catholics.  The King tells Baroner to inform Adolphus that his Swedish troops must be disbanded. 

Joseph brings Richelieu good news.  The Scottish rebellion against England has broken out.  Richelieu comments:  "Good.  It costs money, but it will keep England busy."  He then tells Joseph that he will have no interference with his plans --  not even from the Pope.  But, the Pope must be conciliated.  He tells Joseph to write a letter to the Pope saying that he picked the Protestant Swedish soldiers because he rebelled at the thought of Catholics fighting Catholics. 

Marshal Le Moyne is announced to the Cardinal.  He comes in saying that he has been stopped and now has to remain in Paris.  The King has ordered it because he thinks with the army gone from Paris, the people will revolt.  Richelieu asks to see the actual orders from the King.  He looks at the orders and says the document says that the General is not to leave Paris at the head of the army.  So Richelieu will get the army out of Paris and deliver the soldiers to the General away from the walls of Paris.  The General leaves.

Richelieu tells Joseph to use all their agents to change the attitude of the people of Paris.  Furthermore, Richelieu is going to stay at a chateau outside of Paris and outside the reach of His Majesty. 

Richelieu leads the troops out of Paris after his agents have worked to change the attitudes of the people of Paris.  The Cardinal is hailed now as a hero.  He delivers the troops to the General outside the walls of Paris. 

The King is furious at Richelieu and Baroner is there to tell the King to dismiss Richelieu.  The King, however, says that whenever Richelieu disobeys him, he always gets a feeling that the Cardinal may be right.  Baroner leaves.

The King's brother is so happy that now the King will move against Richelieu because the Cardinal has stepped way too far out of line this time.  Baroner comes in and tells the King's brother that the King will do nothing about Richelieu.  The brother throws up his hands in disgust at the news.  The fellow gets overwrought, even tells Baroner to kill the Cardinal.  He then says, he'll even kill Richelieu himself.  He starts crying over this turn of events.  His mother consoles him and assures him he will be King one day soon. 

The King's mother tells Baroner that she and Anne will take the treaty tonight.  She adds that no will dare to suspect the Queen.  Baroner leaves.

Lenore runs to Baroner to ask him to get her an audience with the King.  Her husband has been arrested and she wants to intercede on his behalf.  Baroner asks about Richelieu's whereabouts and Lenore tells him where the Cardinal will be tonight.  So, now Baroner tells her that he will intercede with the King on her behalf.  Baroner, however, doesn't intercede with the King.  He intercedes with Andre, telling him  that the Cardinal has tricked him.  He says Richelieu married him to Lenore, not to save Lenore from the King, but to save Lenore for the King.  When Richelieu returns to see the King he will offer Lenore up as a peace offering.  Therefore, he wants Andre to kill the Cardinal.  He need not fears reprisals, for with Richelieu gone, Baroner will be the Minister of State and he will protect Andre from any harm.   He also tells Andre that the Queen Mother and Queen Anne are on their way to Spain with the private treaty between England and Spain signed by all the feudal lords and the King's brother. 

Andre is convinced.  He tells Baroner:  "Get me out of here!  I'll do it."

Lenore arrives to tell Richelieu that Andre has been arrested on the King's orders.  And they won't even let her see Andre.  She cries.  Richelieu tells her:  "Louie strikes at me, through you."  He promises Lenore that Andre shall be free. 

Andre with Baroner and some soldiers ride to the chateau.  When they arrive, Baroner tells Andre to strike at Richelieu the instant he sees the man.  Andre goes right to Richelieu intent on killing him.  He says that the Cardinal made a fool of him by arranging a mock marriage to Lenore.  He mistakenly believes that Lenore is at the palace.  Richelieu swears that Lenore is here in the chateau with him.  Andre says it's a trick, but Richelieu tells him to open the door and call out for Lenore.  Andres does so and Lenore comes into the room.  Now Andre bows before Richelieu and kisses his hand, but now Baroner and his men have broken into the chateau.  The men fight their way in.  

Since there are too many men with Baroner, Andre pretends that he has just killed the Cardinal by strangling him. Baroner goes to check on Richelieu, who pretends to be dead.  Baroner announces to his men that they can presently put their plan into action.  They rush outside. 

Richelieu now asks Andre what plan was Baroner talking about?  The plan to depose the King and put his brother on the throne.  The Queen Mother and Queen Anne are on their way to Spain with a private treaty.  Richelieu is thrilled to learn that the conspirators signed all their names to the treaty.  He says the fools have done themselves in now with their signatures.  He tells Joseph to alert his agents to be on the look out for the royal coach with the Queen Mother and Queen Anne in it. 

Baroner rushes to the King and tells him that Richelieu is dead.  He adds that Richelieu was plotting to have the King himself killed.  Louie dismisses that idea, saying that Richelieu was never out to hurt his King physically.  And he says to himself that he's going to have to think for himself now.  But Baroner is right there to take Richelieu's place.  He starts telling the King to undo all that Richelieu had done.  The King goes along with Baroner. 

Informed that the coach of the two queens is not far ahead of him, Richelieu and Andre are riding in their coach at a fast rate, trying to catch up with the royal coach.   The cardinal sends a man ahead to warn the inn keeper at the next stop to delay the royal coach. 

The inn keeper informs the two royals that the roads ahead have been washed out.  So the Queen Mother decides to stay at the inn until tomorrow.   The women go into the inn.

Richelieu arrives and speaks with the two women.  He tells them that he wants that secret treaty they have with them.  The women deny that they have any such treaty.  So, Richelieu says he has an arrest warrant for them for high treason.  He suggests to them that they give him the document and save themselves.  They still refuse to give him the treaty.  For emphasis, Richelieu bangs on a handkerchief on the table.  He feels something hard under the handkerchief and removes the handkerchief from the table.  There on the table is the packet.  Richelieu grabs it and grabs the treaty from inside the packet.  And now he's off to see the King. 

The King's brother seats himself on the royal throne in anticipation of becoming the next King of France.  The current King comes in and announces all the changes now that Cardinal Richelieu is deceased.  He says he will be relying more on the nobles, Baroner and his brother.  He says that Richelieu was involved in a terrible scheme of high treason and, if he were here today, he would forfeit his head.   The Cardinal now makes his appearance.  He says that Baroner is an assassin and the King's brother is a traitor.  Baroner and the nobles try to rush Richelieu, but he stops them by saying that as a priest he declares an area around him that, if anyone should step inside the area, they will call the curse of Rome down upon them. 

He now walks up to the King and hands him the private treaty complete with the signatures of all the conspirators.  Crestfallen over the document, the King plops himself into his chair.  Richelieu is back in power.  He tells the nobles that France is now united under one absolute authority, King Louis XIII.  Richelieu adds:  "And I am his shadow."


Good movie.  In 1617 Louis XIII decided to break with his mother and support the rebels against the Queen Mother. Louis staged a palace coup d'état and mother Marie was sent into exile in Blois. In 1619 there was a revolt of the nobles backed by the Queen Mother.  (Queen Anne seems not to have been involved in the plot.)  The King put the revolt down with the help of Richelieu, who once had been a key ally of the Queen Mother.  Richelieu helped reconcile the Queen Mother and the King.  The movie uses this revolt as the backdrop of just one part of Cardinal Richelieu's long political career.  Richelieu always seems to get himself out of trouble created by the Queen Mother and the nobles.  He is a clever man, indeed. 


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



Historical Background:


1589   -- on his deathbed Henry III recognizes Henry, King of Navarre and leader of the Huguenots, as his successor, who, as Henry IV, is the first Bourbon to become King of France.

1593 --  Henry of Navarre adopts the Catholic faith.

1594 --  Henry IV, having been crowned King of France at Chartres, enters Paris.

1595  --  Henry IV declares war on Spain.

1598 --  the Edict of Nantes gives the Huguenots liberty of conscience, full civil rights, and freedom of public worship.

1599 --  Henry IV obtains a divorce from Margaret of Valois.

1600 --  Henry IV marries Maria de'Medici.

1610 --  Henry IV is assassinated; succeeded by his son Louis XIII (at age 9) (-1643) with Queen Maria de'Medici as Regent (-1617).

1614  --  Maria, Queen Regent, summons the States General of France to counteract the power of the nobility (last meeting, 1789); last usage of the parliamentary machinery before the French Revolution.

1615 --  Louis XIII marries Anna of Austria.

1616 --  Richelieu becomes Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and War.

1618 --  Richelieu is ordered into exile at Avignon for intriguing with the Queen Mother.

1618-1648  --  Thirty Years' War.

1619 --  Maria de'Medici challenges the power of her son Louis XIII by raising an aristocratic rebellion; Louis recalls Richelieu from Avignon to prevent revolt, marches his army into Angers, and defeats his mother's supporters; Treaty of Angouleme ends the conflict.

1620 --  revolt of nobles against Louis XIII; Richelieu makes peace, reconciling the Queen Mother to her son.

1621  --  Huguenot rebellion against Louis XIII.

1624-42  --  administrative reform under Richelieu, who is made first minister of France.

1624  --  Anglo-French treaty for Charles, Prince of Wales, to marry Henrietta Maria, daughter of Henry IV and Maria de-Medici.

1626  --  Peace of La Rochelle between Huguenots and French crown.

1626  --  Richelieu suppresses Chalais conspiracy, concentrating all political power in his own hands; he was the chief minister of Louis XIII; he furthered centralization.

1637  --  Richelieu appoints intendants over the whole of France, and places the complete financial, judicial and police administration in their hands. The new system created a permanent civil service that helped to centralize absolute power at the expense of local authority.

1642  -- Cardinal Richelieu dies.  

1643 --  Louis XIII of France dead; succeeded by his 5 year old son Louis XIV (-1715).

1644 --  French occupation of the Rhineland.

1648 -- the "Fronde" -- the last rally of the discontented elements of French society against the power of the monarchy under the ancien regime. Richelieu's successor, Cardinal Mazarin, brought it to an end in 1653.

Despite the centralizing policy of Richelieu, Colbert, and Louis XIV, unity was never completely attained in France. There were still local independencies. And France remained divided within itself from the standpoint of administration, of law and of commerce. It was for the Rev to sweep away these anomalies to produce a reorganized France more centralized than ever. 

1660 --  Louis XIV marries Maria Teresa, Infant of Spain

1666 --  France and Dutch declare war on England; Dutch sign treaty of alliance with the "Great Elector."

1667 --  secret treaty between Louis XIV and Charles II against Spain

1667   --  war of Devolution begins as French troops invade Netherlands (ends 1668)

1715 --  Louis XIV dead; succeeded by his great-grandson (at 5) Louis XV (-1774) under regency of the Duc d'Orleans.


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