Jules Mazarin, born Giulio Raimondo Mazzarino (July 14, 1602, Pescina, Italy – March 9, 1661, Vincennes, France) served as the chief minister of France from 1642, until his death. Mazarin succeeded his mentor, Cardinal Richelieu.
Mazarin's early military and diplomatic experience, which marked him as a friend of France in the contests between French and Spanish factions in papal politics, recommended him to Richelieu. As papal vice-legate at Avignon (1632), and nuncio extraordinary in France (1634), Mazarin was perceived as an extension of Richelieu's policy, and under Habsburg pressure, Mazarin was dismissed by Urban VIII, January 17, 1636. Mazarin immediately went to Paris, offered his services to Richelieu and was naturalized as a French citizen by April. The apex of his diplomatic services was the secret treaty between France and Tomasso of Savoy signed late in 1640. The following year, at Richelieu's insistence, Mazarin made cardinal.
As Louis XIII died in 1643, and Louis XIV was only a child — Mazarin functioned essentially as the ruler of France: although the 5-year-old Louis XIV became king in 1643, under the regency of queen mother Anne of Austria, and until his death in 1661, Mazarin directed French policy. His modest manner contrasted with the imperious Richelieu, and Anne was so fond of him and so intimate in her manner with him, that long-standing rumors that they had been secretly married and that the Dauphin was their offspring.
A fictionalized Mazarin is a major character in Alexandre Dumas' novel, Twenty Years After. In it, Mazarin is portrayed as power-hungry, paranoid, and greedy.
Mazarin's policies for France
Mazarin continued Richelieu's anti-Habsburg policy and laid the foundation for Louis XIV's expansionism. The victories of Condé and Turenne brought the French party to the bargaining table at the conclusion of the Thirty Years War with the Treaty of Munster and Treaty of Osnabrück (Treaty of Westphalia), in which Mazarin's policies were French rather than Catholic and brought Alsace (though not Strasbourg) to France; he settled Protestant princes in secularized bishoprics and abbacies in reward for their political opposition to Austria. In 1658 he formed the League of the Rhine, which was designed to check the House of Austria in central Germany. In 1659 he made peace with Habsburg Spain in the Peace of the Pyrenees, which added to French territory Roussillon and Cerdagne in the far south and part of the Low Countries.
Towards Protestantism at home, Mazarin pursued a policy of promises and calculated delay to defuse the armed insurrection of the Ardèche (1653) for example, and keep the Huguenots disarmed: for six years they believed themselves to be on the eve of recovering the protections of the Edict of Nantes: in the end they obtained nothing.
Towards the pontificate of the successful Spanish candidate, Cardinal Pamphili, elected pope (15 September, 1644) as Innocent X, there was constant friction. Mazarin protected the Barberini cardinals, nephews of the late pope, and the Bull against them was voted by the Parliament of Paris "null and abusive"; France made a show of preparing to take Avignon by force, and Innocent backed down. Mazarin was more consistently an enemy of Jansenism, more for its political implications than out of theology, and on his deathbed warned young Louis "not to tolerate the Jansenist sect, not even their name."
Controversy over the Cardinal's policies, and the weakness of the regency, resulted in two civil wars, known as la Fronde (1648-52). Twice, in 1651 and 1652, he was driven out of the country, by the Parliamentary Fronde and the Fronde of the Nobles. The countless abusive and satirical pamphlets called Mazarinades published against him often invoked his Italian birth. In addition, the increasing authoritarian royal power of France (a process begun under Richelieu), as well as rising taxes, such as the Taille were attacked by defenders of ancient aristocratic liberties against the growing absolutism that Louis XIV was able to exploit.
Cardinal Mazarin's wealth (he collected benefices and amassed a huge fortune and a greater collection of art than the king's) and his nieces' beauty, made for notable family connections, marital and extramarital:
His niece Olympe Mancini, Countess of Soissons, was the mother of the famous Prince Eugene of Savoy.