From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Consecrated as a bishop in 1608, he later entered politics, becoming a Secretary of State in 1616. Richelieu soon rose in both the Church and the state, becoming a cardinal in 1622, and King Louis XIII's chief minister in 1624. He remained in office until his death in 1642; he was succeeded by Jules Cardinal Mazarin.
The Cardinal de Richelieu was often known by the title of the King's "Chief Minister" or "First Minister". As a result, he is considered to be the world's first Prime Minister, in the modern sense of the term. He sought to consolidate royal power and crush domestic factions. By restraining the power of the nobility, he transformed France into a strong, centralized state. His chief foreign policy objective was to check the power of the Austro-Spanish Habsburg dynasty. Although he was a cardinal, he did not hesitate to make alliances with Protestant rulers in attempting to achieve this goal. His tenure was marked by the Thirty Years' War that engulfed Europe.
As an advocate for Samuel de Champlain and of the retention of Québec, he founded the Compagnie des Cent-Associés and saw the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye return Quebec City to French rule under Champlain, after the settlement had been captured by the Kirkes in 1629. This in part allowed the colony to eventually develop into the heartland of Francophone culture in North America.
Richelieu was also famous for his patronage of the arts; most notably, he founded the Académie française, the learned society responsible for matters pertaining to the French language. Richelieu is also known by the sobriquet l'Éminence rouge ("the Red Eminence"), from the red shade of a cardinal's vestments and the style "eminence" as a cardinal.
He is also a leading character in The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, père and its subsequent film adaptations, portrayed as a main antagonist, and a powerful ruler, even more powerful than the King himself, though events like the Day of the Dupes show that in fact he very much depended on the King to keep this power.