Skip to main content
Select Source:

Mazarin, Jules (Giulio Mazarini; 1602–1661)

MAZARIN, JULES (Giulio Mazarini; 16021661)

MAZARIN, JULES (Giulio Mazarini; 16021661), diplomat, cardinal, and first minister during the regency of King Louis XIV of France. Born near Pascina outside Rome on 14 July 1602, Mazarin was the eldest son of six children. He received an early Jesuit education in Rome and then pursued further studies in Spain. With the patronage and support of the Colonna family, who had ties to the court of Pope Urban VIII (reigned 16231644), he initially entered into the papal army in 1624, but by the late 1620s instead took the initial vows of a cleric and became a papal diplomat.

In 1630, while serving as an envoy for the papal court in the negotiations that sought an end to the war between Spain and France over the disputed succession of the crown of Mantua, Mazarin traveled to France to meet with Cardinal Richelieu, King Louis XIII's first minister. Mazarin's deft negotiating skills endeared him to the powerful French royal minister and helped to secure temporary peace between Spain and France.

Thanks to his success in the Mantua affair, the pope sent Mazarin to Paris in 1634 as his ambassador (nuncio) to the French court with the goal of realizing a lasting peace settlement between Spain and France. While in Paris, Richelieu and Mazarin began a mutually beneficial political relationship. In 1635, however, Richelieu adopted a policy of continued war with Spain in the context of the Thirty Years' War; Mazarin had failed in his mission to bring peace, and the pope recalled him. Once back at the papal court, Mazarin maintained his political ties to France and actively represented French interests there.

In 1638, in gratitude for his work on behalf of France in Rome, Louis XIII pressed the pope to promote Mazarin to cardinal; he received the cardinal's hat 16 December 1641. As his nomination for cardinal was in the making, Louis XIII and Richelieu invited Mazarin to France to enter into the service of the French king. Mazarin left Rome, never to return, and arrived in Paris in January 1640.

In the service of the French crown, Mazarin's diplomatic goals remained the same: to secure peace between Spain and France. His initial years in France, however, proved to be ones of domestic political instability and crisis with the death of Richelieu in December 1642 closely followed by that of Louis XIII in May 1643. The succession of the five-year-old Louis XIV to the throne in 1643 ushered in a regency government with the acting regent, the Spanish Queen Anne of Austria, holding the political authority of the king in trusteeship until he reached the age of majority when he could assume the full powers of the crown. As Richelieu's protégé and Louis XIV's godfather, Mazarin became the first minister; together, he and the queen worked as close political partners trying to stabilize the weak and vulnerable regency government. Although contemporaries and scholars alike have speculated that an even more intimate bond developed between the first minister and queen, there is no conclusive evidence as to the exact nature of their relationship.

With Mazarin and Anne of Austia at the helm of the government, a complex series of domestic revolts, collectively called the Fronde, developed in France, beginning in 1648 and lasting until 1653. The revolts began with the judges of the parlement or law court in Paris, spread to gain backing among some key nobles and princes, and then found popular support in Paris as well as the provinces. Although the causes of the revolts were rooted in varied and complex issues involving royal authority, including the levying of new taxes, the perceived abuse of royal authority in dealings with the parlement, and the crown's reliance on royal commissioned officers (intendants) in the outlying provinces, the revolts of the Fronde did specifically target Mazarin and Anne of Austria, seeking to remove these "foreigners" from power. During the crisis, pamphlets called "Mazarinades" circulated throughout France. These often-satirical pamphlets fueled the revolts as they contained scathing criticisms of Mazarin, Anne of Austria, and the regency government. The revolts of the Fronde forced Anne of Austria and Louis XIV, along with Mazarin, to flee Paris in 1649. Mazarin remained in exile from France during much of the Fronde, but continued to work with Anne of Austria and other noble factions loyal to their cause to bring an end to the revolts in 1653. The coronation of sixteen-year-old Louis XIV at Rheims Cathedral in June 1654 and Mazarin's return to Paris marked the end of the crisis and the full restoration of the first minister.

Even in the midst of the Fronde, Mazarin continued to direct France's foreign policy. He played an important part in the negotiations for the Peace of Westphalia at the end of the Thirty Years' War in 1648. Despite this treaty, which brought peace to much of warring Europe, the war between France and Spain continued. Mazarin pursued a policy of allying with German princes and England against the Habsburgs in an effort to force peace with Spain. Under the terms of the Peace of the Pyrenees in 1659, Mazarin finally secured his long-term goal of peace between France and Spain. The marriage of Louis XIV to the Spanish princess Marie-Thérèse in 1660 sealed the peace.

As both a father figure and political mentor, Mazarin prepared Louis XIV to govern France by tutoring him in the craft of kingship and by providing the king with loyal advisors and able ministers, such as Michel Le Tellier and Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who would serve the crown after Mazarin's death. Mazarin died 9 March 1661 in the palace of Vincennes on the outskirts of Paris, leaving a legacy of a stronger, more stable France in domestic and international politics. Upon the death of his beloved first minister, godfather, and tutor, Louis XIV announced that he would name no other first minister, marking the clear advent of his personal rule as king.

See also Anne of Austria ; Colbert, Jean-Baptiste ; France ; Fronde ; Louis XIII (France) ; Louis XIV (France) ; Mantuan Succession, War of the (16271631) ; Pyrenees, Peace of the (1659) ; Richelieu, Armand-Jean Du Plessis, cardinal ; Thirty Years' War (16181648) ; Westphalia, Peace of (1648) .


Bergin, Joseph. "Cardinal Mazarin and his Benefices." French History 1 (1987): 326.

Bonney, Richard. "Cardinal Mazarin and the Great Nobility during the Fronde." English Historical Review 96 (1981): 818833.

. Political Change in France under Richelieu and Mazarin 16241661. Oxford and New York, 1978.

Bonney, Richard, ed. Society and Government under Richelieu and Mazarin. Basingstoke, U.K., 1988.

Dethan, Georges. The Young Mazarin. London, 1977. Translation of Mazarin et ses amis (Paris, 1981).

Goubert, Pierre. Mazarin. Paris, 1990.

Treasure, Geoffrey. Mazarin: The Crisis of Absolutism in France. London and New York, 1995.

Sara E. Chapman

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Mazarin, Jules (Giulio Mazarini; 1602–1661)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Mazarin, Jules (Giulio Mazarini; 1602–1661)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . (December 17, 2017).

"Mazarin, Jules (Giulio Mazarini; 1602–1661)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from

Jules Mazarin

Jules Mazarin

The French statesman Jules Mazarin (1602-1661) was the chosen successor of Richelieu. He governed France from 1643 until his death and laid the foundations for the monarchy of Louis XIV.

Jules Mazarin was born Giulio Mazarin on July 14, 1602, at Pescina, a village in the Abruzzi, Italy. He began his career as a soldier and diplomat in the service of the Pope. In this capacity he met Cardinal Richelieu in 1629 and decided to transfer his allegiance to him. He earned Richelieu's regard by acting in the French interest rather than the Pope's in certain treaty negotiations. He went to France as papal nuncio in 1636 and was naturalized as a French subject in 1639. In 1641 Richelieu persuaded the Pope to make Mazarin a cardinal, though he was not a priest.

Before Richelieu died in December 1642, he recommended Mazarin to Louis XIII as his successor, and the king accepted. Louis XIII died in May 1643, and the regent for the 5-year-old Louis XIV was his widow, Anne of Austria. The nobility welcomed the change. Anne was known to have been Richelieu's enemy, and Mazarin, though acknowledged as his nominee, was universally regarded as soft, ingratiating, and harmless. To everyone's utter astonishment, Anne confirmed Mazarin as first minister, and it soon became clear that she was in love with him. It is possible, though there is no proof, that later they were secretly married. They remained intimate friends and allies to the end of Mazarin's life.

Mazarin's task was to maintain the royal authority established by Richelieu and to win the war against France and Spain that he had started. Austria was humbled at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648; the war with Spain dragged on until 1659. The maintenance of royal authority was the most difficult task. Nobles who had reluctantly given way to Richelieu would not accept his successor, who was despised as a lowborn foreigner and thought to be weak-willed. The country was bitter at the taxes imposed by Richelieu to support the war, and its mounting resentment found dangerous expression in the Parliament of Paris, whose opposition was supported by all classes in the city.

To suppress the defiance that immediately arose in Paris, Mazarin had to call on the Prince de Condé, a cousin of the King and a very successful general. Finding himself indispensable, Condébecame intolerably greedy and arrogant, and Mazarin finally had him and his friends arrested. The result was that the civil war that had already broken out became much worse, and several times it appeared as if Mazarin could not survive.

This war was called the Fronde, a name used to this day in France to denote irresponsible opposition. Paris, led by its Parliament, had rebelled in 1648. When this revolt was settled a year later, it was soon followed by the break with Condé. More humane than Richelieu, Mazarin imprisoned his enemies but did not put them to death, and as a result he could not make himself feared. The Fronde dragged on until 1653, but in the end, thanks to his own cleverness, the Queen's loyalty, and the mistakes of his enemies, Mazarin was completely victorious.

For the rest of his life Mazarin was the unchallenged master of France. His final triumph came with the Peace of the Pyrenees in November 1659. France had finally defeated Spain and was rewarded with territorial acquisitions and the fateful marriage of Louis XIV to a Spanish princess. When Mazarin died on March 9, 1661, he had accomplished his task as he saw it. He had also accumulated a colossal fortune for himself.

In some ways Mazarin was a worthy successor to Richelieu. Behind a mask of affability, he was equally resolved to tolerate no opposition; his method of eliminating it was more devious and much less bloody but equally effective. As far as any man could have done, he fulfilled Richelieu's declared purpose of making "the king supreme in France, and France supreme in Europe." But, unlike Richelieu, he took no interest in the economic or cultural development of France. Once the Fronde was over, the country simply stagnated. The recovery that came in the 1660s was essentially the work of Jean Baptiste Colbert, whom Mazarin had picked out and recommended to the King.

Further Reading

There is no adequate biography of Mazarin. James Breck Perkins, France under Mazarin, with a Review of the Administration of Richelieu (1886), and Arthur Hassell, Mazarin (1903), contain biographical information, but both are dated. For an excellent general history of the period see John Laugh, An Introduction to Seventeenth Century France (1954).

Additional Sources

Treasure, G. R. R. (Geoffrey Russell Richards), Mazarin: the crisis of absolutism in France, London; New York: Routledge, 1995. □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Jules Mazarin." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Jules Mazarin." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . (December 17, 2017).

"Jules Mazarin." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from

Mazarin, Jules

Jules Mazarin (zhül mäzärăN´), 1602–61, French statesman, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, b. Italy. His original name was Giulio Mazarini. After serving in the papal army and diplomatic service and as nuncio at the French court (1634–36), he entered the service of France and made himself valuable to King Louis XIII's chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu, who brought him into the council of state. Although he had received only minor orders and had never been ordained a priest, he was raised to cardinal upon the recommendation of Louis XIII (1641). After the deaths of Richelieu (1642) and Louis XIII (1643), Mazarin was the principal minister of the regent Anne of Austria. The theory that Mazarin was secretly married to the widowed queen has been widely credited. He won favorable terms for France in the Peace of Westphalia (1648), but his attempts to raise money through taxation and his centralizing policy provoked the troubles of the Fronde (1648–53), during which he was several times forced to leave France. After the defeat of the Fronde, Mazarin was securely in control of France. By clever diplomacy he strengthened the crown and negotiated the favorable Peace of the Pyrenees at the end of the war with Spain (1659).

See J. B. Perkins, France under Mazarin (1886); A. Hassall, Mazarin (1903, repr. 1970); W. F. Church, The Impact of Absolutism in France (1969).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Mazarin, Jules." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Mazarin, Jules." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 17, 2017).

"Mazarin, Jules." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from