Sunday, April 05, 2009

Richlieu, France - June 2, 2008

While chugging along the D749 toward our campsite for the night, my neurotic co-pilot suddenly commanded "Turn off here!" and, if 50 years of servitude had taught me anything, I knew better than to ask questions. Thus we came to Richelieu, a strange little town in the middle of nowhere.
The fourth of five children, Armand Jean du Plessis de
Richelieu was born in Paris in 1585 to Francois du Plessis. Armand was destined to have a momentous impact on France in particular, Europe in general and the future dynamics of global politics throughout subsequent history. His meteoric rise from minor nobility to Bishop at age 21, next to Cardinal and then to all-powerful First Minister for Louis XIII in 1624, is the stuff of storybooks. In actuality of course, he is depicted as a serious bad-ass in Alexander Dumas' "Three Musketeers".
Anyway, after he had made his pile (and a lot of enemies along the way) he acquired a huge tract of land in the Indre-et-Loire department, built an expansive park, a grandiose palace - the largest in France until the Palace of Versailes was built some decades later -
and, to top it off, an entire town to house his court. Even Obama would have been impressed!
The palace was demolished following the revolution but the town remains to memorialize this talented, but devious and ruthless politician.
In fitting style, Richelieu built one of the earliest rectilinear towns with rigorous precision, in which every dimension was set out in fathoms. The result is a curious, time-warped and somewhat souless community.
More views here.

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