French Renaissance Paleography


France, ca. 1643
Pompe funebre de Mr le cardinal de Richelieu
In Éloges et pièces historiques, ser. 2 v. 52 of the Saint-Sulpice Collection
Chicago, Newberry Library, Case folio BX 4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v. 52, item no. 11


We don’t know who authored this satirical obituary poem about Cardinal Richelieu; we hope a user of this website will be able to tell us more about it.

Richelieu (Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu) was a Catholic priest who eventually became King Louis XIII’s chief minister, and a cardinal. Among many notable actions, Richelieu founded the Académie Française, the forty-member scholarly society that continues to update its famed dictionary and monitor use of the French language to this day. The Cardinal also established the Company of New France (Compagnie des Cent-Associés) and invested Samuel de Champlain with the authority to develop the French colony in Northeastern North America. Richelieu carried out a policy of repression of Protestantism in France, and also strove to reduce the influence of the Habsburgs in Europe, inciting a war between France and Spain that continued even after his death. He was autocratic and intransigent and therefore not universally beloved. Upon his death, Pope Urban VIII is supposed to have said: “If there is a God, Cardinal Richelieu will have much to answer for. If not, he has done very well.”
The Newberry Library purchased the Saint-Sulpice Collection, in which this poem is found, in 2003. The religious order of Saint-Sulpice assembled and bound this collection of 2,566 biographical pamphlets in Paris at the beginning of the 19th century. The Sulpicians do parish work, but their main arena of activity has always been education. They collected the pamphlets to serve as educational models, especially for rhetorical writing. Funeral sermons, orations, commemorative verses, and discourses dating from the 16th through the 18th century are included. While most of the pamphlets are printed, the Sulpicians also bound in a few manuscript documents. The majority of the pamphlets are in French, but the collection includes numerous Latin publications as well, and some first editions of short works by well-known writers such as Budé, Molière, and Pascal. The Sulpicians organized the collection alphabetically according to the name of the person described in the individual pamphlet, and then bound them in two series of volumes, to accommodate larger and smaller formats. The Newberry Library has cataloged all of the items in the collection separately, but conserves them in the original volumes, as prepared in Paris in the early 19th century.


On Richelieu, see: