Cardinal Mazarin Goes Into Exile

February 6th, 1651

Portrait of Jules Mazarin, 17th century. Versailles.

One of the reasons for Jules Mazarin’s unpopularity as first minister of France during the minority of Louis XIV was the fact that he was not French. Of Sicilian descent, he was born in Italy in 1602 as Giulio Raimondo Mazzarino, the son, it was claimed, of an inn-keeper or an oyster-seller or possibly a pirate. He had a Jesuit education in Rome and his remarkable diplomatic and political gifts attracted the attention of Cardinal Richelieu. Moving to France, he was naturalised in 1639 and on Richelieu’s death in 1642, Mazarin succeeded him. According to the Mazarinades, the fierce and often obscene squibs against him, he had oiled his way into the bed of the Queen-Regent, Anne of Austria, and governed France from there. Alternatively he was a homosexual. Either way, he was a greedy, jumped-up adventurer busy feathering his own nest. As he would die in possession of the largest private fortune in France, this accusation had some force.

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