Louis François Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, duc de Richelieu  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Louis François Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, 3ème duc de Richelieu (13 March 1696 – 8 August 1788) was a French soldier, diplomat and statesman. Joining the army, he participated in three major wars and eventually rose to the rank of Marshal of France.

He was the son of Armand Jean de Vignerot du Plessis, 2nd duc de Richelieu, who in turn was a great-nephew of the prominent French statesman, Cardinal de Richelieu who had dominated France in the early Seventeenth century.

Political career and intrigue

His real public career began ten years after his service in the Rhine campaign. After the wars, he plunged again into court intrigue. Initially, He was the best friend of King Louis XV of France, whom he had known since the King was a child. The relationship later cooled a little, however, when he opposed Louis's mistress, Madame de Pompadour.

After de Pompadour's death in 1764, his position in court was restored and he developed an amiable friendship with the King's last mistress, Madame du Barry. However, he was again not welcome at court when Louis' grandson, Louis XVI, succeeded to the throne in 1774. This was due to the fact that the new Queen, Marie Antoinette, disliked both Madame du Barry and Richelieu's nephew, the overly ambitious Duc d'Aiguillon.


The duke was such a renowned womaniser that it is said Choderlos de Laclos based the character Valmont in Les Liaisons dangereuses on him.

He was married three times. At the age of fourteen, against his will, he was forced to marry Anne Catherine de Noailles. In 1734, as a result of the intrigues of Voltaire, he married Marie Élisabeth Sophie de Lorraine, the daughter of Anne Marie Joseph de Lorraine. She became the mother of his heir, Louis Antoine Sophie de Vignerot du Plessis. When he was eighty-four years old, he married as his third wife an Irish lady.

Mme de Polignac and the Marquise de Nesle fought a duel over him. In 1729, he began an affair with Émilie du Châtelet, and although it ended, they continued to be frequent correspondents for over a decade. He was also the lover of the famous courtesan and novelist Claudine Guérin de Tencin, he had another affair with Charlotte Aglaé d'Orléans, the daughter of the regent of France, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, and with her first cousin Louise Anne de Bourbon.

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