Armand Jean du Plessis was born in Paris
on September 9, 1585. He took the name Richelieu from the name of his family's estate.
From the time he was born he set out on a military career. However, in 1601 at 22 he switch
to theology and became the Roman Catholic bishop of Locon, a city near La Rochelle
in western France. He became a representative to the Estates-General in 1614, and soon
won the favor of the Queen Mother Marie de Medicis. Richelieu's powerful, analytical
intellect was characterized by a reliance on reason, strong will, the ability to govern
others and use political power effectively. By 1622 he became a cardinal and in 1624
the Chief or Prime Minister of King Louis XIII. Cardinal Richelieu became the most
powerful person in France, in part because Louis was a weak king and in part because
Richelieu was so strong. He had control of almost every facet of French politics,
from the daily activities of the court to foreign policy and affairs. His dual role as
head of the church in France and Prime Minister, allowed him to control the direction
of the government.
In 1627, Richelieu granted a charter to the "Company of One Hundred Associates".
It was under this charter that the company was granted full title to land in the New
France. The French devised a scheme of "Land Grants" to persons of means. For
gentleman of France who had served their country well, grants of land were made in New France,
which Acadia was part. With these land grants came certain obligations. The system known
as the "Seigneurial System" obligated the "Seigneur" to bring settlers
out of France to New France who were given portions of the land grant for providing
services to the Lord or Seigneur. The services were helping the Seigneur develop his
land, building churches, or government buildings. In return the settlers, such as Francois
Girouard, were given passage to Acadia, and a stipend by contract, that warranted a portion
of land granted for the settler to farm on his own.
Cardinal Richelieu has been admired by many historians for his intelligence and
energy. During his service as prime minister he helped France become the leading power in
Europe. He supported the French navy and the establishment of French colonies in Africa and the
Caribbean. Richelieu was also a great patron of the arts. He rebuilt the Sorbonne in Paris,
supported promising writers and founded the French Academy. Many French historians consider
Richelieu as the founder of French unity, as well as the person who released France
from its medieval nature.