The Paradox of Mazarin

Question: What is the doctrine of Mazarin?

Answer: It is the same that the French tyrants have taught, and that their followers embrace with all their hearts.

Question: What is the faith of Mazarin?

Answer: To believe that all belongs to the king; that he may take all without returning anything.

Question: What is the Credo?

Answer: I believe in the king for my own interest, he is all-powerful and can do all things; and in his only favourite, Mazarin, conceived in the mercenary spirit, born of Richelieu, suffered under Gaston and the Fronde, died for his ministry, and descended into hell where he sits at the right hand of Lucifer to persecute the living.

Few politicians in French history have suffered such intense criticism in their lifetime as Cardinal Jules Mazarin, chief minister of Louis XIV from 1643 to 1661. The quotation above is from a pamphlet published seven years after his death, but most of the criticism was voiced during the great political upheaval of the Fronde between 1648 and 1653. The term mazarinades was coined to describe the 5,000 or so scurrilous pamphlets printed in these years, most of which were written to destroy the reputation of Mazarin. Why was Cardinal Mazarin so unpopular in his lifetime? The answer to this question lies in the nature of his career, the extent of his power and the hostility aroused by his policies.

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