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His Red Eminence

Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu

By Laurel A. Rockefeller





His Red Eminence is a work of narrative history based on events in the life of Cardinal Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu and constructed using primary and secondary historical sources, commentary, and research.

Consulted sources appear at the end of this book. Interpretation of source material is at the author’s discretion and utilized within the scope of the author’s imagination, including names, events, and historical details.

Some portions of this book are suggested by available data but cannot be absolutely proven by the available data. This is in no small part due to Richelieu’s own careful efforts to protect his privacy and avoid specific events and details of his life from becoming part of the historical record, a prudent measure given the dangerous political environment he lived and worked in.



Check out these related biographies from the Legendary Women of World History Series

Catherine de Valois

Mary Queen of the Scots, the Forgotten Reign



Discover the entire Legendary Women of World History biography series and more at www.laurelarockefeller.co.uk



©2019 by Laurel A. Rockefeller. All rights reserved.





Easter Egg Alert



Anne Rochefeuille quotes The Doctor in Chapter Ten (Confessions) with three little words from “Deep Breath.” Can you spot them?

In Chapter Twelve (Partings and Testaments), Cardinal Richelieu’s foreign policy towards the Hapsburgs is described referencing a famous scene from series 9. Can you name the episode and quote what the Doctor says at the end of that scene when the Doctor completes his task?







For Peter whose Richelieu launched the scholarship that is this biography. May I someday hear these chapters in your magnificent voice.







Table of Contents

Introduction

A Good Man?

Chapter One: A Meeting of Souls

Chapter Two: Father Armand

Chapter Three: Bishop of Luçon

Chapter Four: Exile

Chapter Five: The King’s Spy

Chapter Six: 1622

Chapter Seven: 1623

Chapter Eight: Dawn of The First Ministry

Chapter Nine: La Rochelle

Chapter Ten: Confessions

Chapter Eleven: The Day of Dupes

Chapter Twelve: Partings and Testaments



Prayers in Latin And Their Translations

Featured Songs with Their Translations

Timeline

Suggested Reading and Bibliography

End Notes



Introduction



In history and in literature, few churchmen have captured the collective imagination of our cultures better than Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu. Best known as simply “Cardinal Richelieu,” he is the ultimate bad guy to fans of Alexandre Dumas’ best-selling novel, “The Three Musketeers.” Though many of the world’s finest actors have stepped into the cardinal’s vestments, few have played him better than Peter Capaldi in the BBC’s recent series, “The Musketeers,” a role that lasted one season. No, it wasn’t because of any deficit on the part of the production (The Musketeers ran for three seasons). Rather, “The Musketeers” had the bad luck of filming just as Matt Smith was ready to hand the key to the TARDIS off to the next doctor: life-long Whovian Peter Capaldi! With a filming schedule to try the stamina of a twenty-year-old, let alone that of the then fifty-five-year-old Capaldi on Doctor Who, it was simply impossible for Peter Capaldi to play both The Doctor and Richelieu at the same time. As a Whovian I am thrilled that Peter Capaldi became the Twelfth Doctor (Capaldi is largely the reason I watch Doctor Who), but as a fan of historical dramas, I cannot help but to regret the timing. For indeed, it is the Capaldi version of Richelieu that captures my imagination and makes me want to get to know the real man he was with the same fervour I otherwise reserve for learning and writing about inspiring women across history.



What follows is a narrative version of what we know about Cardinal Richelieu, along with some speculation about what Richelieu skilfully kept out of the historical narrative. Controlling what others could and did know about him, his motives, and actions was vitally important for any successful politician living in 17th and 18th century France, but especially for Richelieu. This was a time when people were casually and often very quickly beheaded, often innocent of any provable crime. Counting both Marie de Medici and Queen Anne of Austria among his most vicious enemies, Richelieu was surrounded by people quick to exploit the slightest perceived misstep to humiliate and hopefully terminate his life as quickly and painfully as possible.

If we are to take as true the theory presented in “Hell Bent” (Doctor Who, series 9) that one can reconstruct what is forgotten by the hole it leaves behind, then it is certain to this author and historian that Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu maintained a perhaps life-long close relationship with a woman who challenged him, helped him, and grounded him. The rumours of a perhaps very well-educated mistress (a misnomer as having a “mistress” requires one also have a wife) are certainly numerous enough. Was she his friend, his lover, his colleague of sorts, or perhaps even a woman he married without the required Catholic rites to make it official? In this narrative, all of these are explored.

What is certain to me is that Richelieu was a far more passionate, tender, and loving man than history credits him. He was a man of wisdom and foresight who loved the written word, helped create France’s first newspaper, and readily patronized writers and artists of all sorts—even and especially those whose creations he personally disliked. He collected and curated all manners of diverse arts regardless of his personal opinions about a given work, seeing a cultural value in them essential to his vision for France. He built modern France, sometimes quite literally thanks to his patronage of architect Jacques Lemercier. Many of these Richelieu-Lemercier buildings in both Poitou and Paris are still standing, protected as essential heritage sites by the French government, including his tomb at his beloved Sorbonne.

Although today we tend to call him “Richelieu” as matter of habit, Dr Aurore Chéry, associate researcher at the LARHRA, University of Lyon, France explained to me how in his own time he was known by numerous variations of his given name, family name, and the geographical referent “de Richelieu” or “Richelieu” depending on who the speaker was and how well the speaker knew him and/or his family. Just as the Rockefellers of the United States are comprised of numerous lineages, the du Plessis family also existed and exists across numerous lineages. When we call the good cardinal “Richelieu” we are distinguishing him from other du Plessis, distinctions often not necessary to make among those who knew him personally.



Fans of my best-selling “Legendary Women of World History” series should find this book familiar in style, format, and voice. Indeed, the only true departure this biography makes from the (currently) nine biographies in the LWWH is that in this biography my focal subject is a man and not a woman. This was not by design. Great effort was taken to write about a contemporary woman to Richelieu into whose story I could integrate his. Sadly, those efforts in this one case failed. The more I worked the more I could not find my imagination captured by any of the specific ladies I researched. It is not that 17th century France lacks inspiring women; no doubt it does. But no one I looked at held my attention nearly as well as any of the women whose stories fill the pages of the Legendary Women of World History books. If I am not inspired, you will not be inspired either.



Therefore, I am walking into new ground with this work. For the light of His Red Eminence outshines them all for me. Here was a man unlike any other in Renaissance/Early Modern France. Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu changed the world in powerful ways we still feel today, ways dare I say are equal to that of the greatest ladies whose stories I normally tell.



Thank you, Peter Capaldi, for capturing my imagination with your brilliance as you played him. This book wouldn’t exist without you.





“A Good Man?”



Dreams of red fill my heart

Where once the dry bones of history lay.

The dazzling red velvet cappa magna.

The zucchetto covering his crown.

The sly words spoken in secret.

The blood spilled by his word.



Long ago there lived a cardinal made villainous by a book

An adventurous novel made of cloaks and corsets, swords and pistols.

A Scot whose voice echoes with the ages as he plays the cardinal on screen.

Black leather to make a good man seem villainous.



Who was the real man behind these veils?



The First Minister of France?

A dutiful son?

A man of peace who led armies to victory on the battlefield?

Was he simply the French version of David Beaton or Thomas Wolsey,

Rightfully hated and despised as Dumas teaches us to regard him?



Or was he something more?



A reluctant priest.

His majesty’s servant.

A diplomat.

A good man.



Chapter One: A Meeting of Souls



“The king welcomes to his court the seigneur de Richelieu!” announced the herald in the king’s throne room in the Louvre. With a nod from the king, footmen opened the heavy wooden doors to admit the twenty-eight-year-old courtier to the king’s presence.

Henri du Plessis de Richelieu kneeled before the king and queen on their thrones, “Thank you for receiving me in person, Your Majesties!”

“The love and loyalty given to us and our predecessor King Henri III by you and your family is well remembered, as was your father’s sacrifice on our behalf during the final days of the wars of religion,” acknowledged King Henri. “How long has it been?”

“Sixteen years, Your Majesty,” replied Henri de Richelieu.

“François was a good man!” affirmed the king. “What may I do for his eldest son?”

“My family is still crippled with near bankruptcy, Sire. All of it my father’s debts, most of those incurred in defence of the crown. There is a possible source of revenue through which we may yet survive, but I need your majesty’s help in securing it,” explained Henri de Richelieu.

“Of what do you speak?”

“The bishopric of Luçon which you granted to us in recompense for our losses. No bishop holds the seat. I wish to nominate my younger brother Armand to it—if you would be so kind as to appoint him and secure from the pope the dispensation he needs to take it.”

“How old is your brother?” asked the king.

“Twenty, almost twenty-one, Your Majesty.”

“What does he do now?”

“Having completed his studies at the College of Navarre he is now at the Sorbonne where he is studying theology. Already I hear reports that he stands to become one of the best and brightest churchmen in your realm. He only needs permission from you and from the pope to ascend the bishopric once he graduates.”

“Very well, then! I will sign the order as soon as it is ready.”

Henri de Richelieu bowed deeply, “Merci beaucoup, Votre Majesté.”



Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu rode steadily and resolutely through the streets of Rome, the foul stench from the lack of popular sewers filling his nostrils as he passed through one of the poorer neighbourhoods as he followed the Via Francigena. Clad in a simple black shirt, trousers, and leather doublet, one would never know the youth held some of the oldest of noble bloodlines in all of France. Though at one time the family held massive estates and wealth, decades of religious warfare bankrupting the family meant his upbringing was no more luxurious than that of the typical Parisian craftsman. He would not have an education at all if not for his mother’s wisdom and frugality since his father’s death, wisdom that allowed him to study at the College of Navarre starting at the age of nine and now university at the Sorbonne. He did love learning! If his mission was successful, he could finish his religious studies, assume his post in Luçon and maybe, just maybe, live a quiet and comfortable life in the shadow of his brothers. It was better than the military, at least, especially given the fragility of his health. Sick soldiers tended to be dead soldiers in no short order!

Ignoring most of the pilgrimage sites along his route through the city, he found at last a small religious house known for offering rooms to pilgrims for a very small fee. Guiding his horse into its barn and offering it some fresh food he found inside, Armand knocked upon the house’s large door.

A Franciscan friar opened the door, “Salve. Can I help you?”

“Salve, Frater. May I stay here tonight?”

“Tu modo Gallico?”

“Je vien de Paris. J'étudie à la Sorbonne.”

The Friar smiled and opened the door for him, “Entre.”

Armand bowed respectfully, “Merci.”



Entering the house, Armand found himself guided to a small room upstairs with only a bed, a chair, an end table, pitcher of clean water, and wash basin, and a stoneware cup for drinking. Armand put his small bag containing his change of clothes upon the bed, keeping the protective case containing his precious letters from King Henri on his person as protectively as he kept his money purse. Following the friar downstairs again, he accepted a simple meal mostly consisting of a bowl of stew, a baguette, and cup of modest wine. Keeping to himself, he dined silently, then headed up to his room, changed into his dressing gown, and fell fast asleep.



Morning came. Dressing quietly, Armand collected his belongings from his room before heading downstairs for a baguette with some butter and jam. Grateful, he left a full livre with the friar he met before and continued on his way.

Six hours later, Armand sat quietly in the antechamber to the pope’s secretary’s office, grateful for the time to meditate and pray. At length he received the long hopeful document: his dispensation to become bishop upon completing his studies at the Sorbonne. Ready at last, Armand headed for home.

Seven uneventful days passed. Reaching Lyon, Armand’s health turned fragile once more. As much as he wanted to reach Paris this week, his body simply could not keep up the pace he put himself through. Reaching a small convent, Armand rang the bell.

“May I help you?” asked the sister.

“Armand-Jean du Plessis. I am returning to Paris from Rome. May I stay here a few days?”

The sister opened the gate for him, “Of course! You are welcome here—as long as you do not make trouble for yourself among the sisters.

Armand bowed as he led his horse through the gate, “I would not dream of causing you any more inconvenience than necessary.”



The sister led Armand to a modest cell reserved for visiting priests and monks. Putting his belongings inside, Armand could not help but to wonder if his home in Luçon would be just like this once he assumed his post. Grateful, he followed the sister to a common room where the sisters were gathering for their evening meal, noticing at once a young woman who seemed to sit separately from the others, as if her presence was distasteful to them. Armand turned to his guide, “Who is that?”

“The Huguenot? Sister Catherine. She says she’s converted, but no one believes that. Her grandparents died during the great massacre of 1572. She’s an odd one and not disposed towards doing what she is told. Stay away from her lest her fiendish ideas lead you away from the true religion!” warned the sister as she sat down to join the others.

Intrigued, Armand sat down next to Sister Catherine, “Bonsoir, soeur Catherine.”

“Bonsoir, monsieur,” answered Catherine as three sisters entered the room to serve dinner. “I take it you’ve already been warned to avoid me.”

“How did you guess?”

“They always do.”

“Why?”

“Why else? I’m different.”

“Are you really an Huguenot?”

“The sisters would you like you to think so.”

“Are they right?”

“Right and wrong are not nearly so clear-cut and sharp as some think. What appears right and good in one context becomes the reverse in another. People are too quick to judge on too little information,” explained Sister Catherine.

Armand smiled, “You sound complicated. I like complicated.”

“Do you?”

“I do! Complicated means you are thinking, not simply doing what you are told.”

“Which is a cardinal sin for which I have been beaten and whipped many times. They seem to think I think I am better than God and can only learn humility through the cane.”

“Clearly, you don’t. But I can see where perhaps they might not understand. Being a student at the Sorbonne they don’t mind if I ask questions and debate philosophy. Ironically enough, I’m being encouraged to do so.”

“You are fortunate. It beats getting hit for an inquisitive mind. Calvinists are no different towards women aspiring to be more than housewives and mothers. Why do you think I’m here?”

“If you need someone to talk to, maybe discuss things with, I expect to be here a few days. You are welcome to talk to me, if you like,” offered Armand.

Sister Catherine smiled at him, “Thank you! I might just do that. I’ll be in the library after breakfast and morning prayers. Join me there if you like.”



The next morning Armand strolled into the library, finding Sister Catherine exactly where she promised to be. Armand sat down beside her, “What are you reading?”

“The Gospel of Saint John,” she replied simply.

Armand took the heavy Bible from her and read aloud, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

“Do you understand this?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Your priest explained it to you then?”

“I don’t need a priest, not for something as simple as this. Besides, the day a man can best me at understanding something so simple as the Gospel of John is the day I renounce my French blood and call myself English,” teased the sister playfully, provoking a shy smile from Armand.

“Who are you?”

“I was born with the name ‘Anne.’ Most of my family, including my parents and two older sisters are Calvinists. People here assume that since I was raised protestant before coming to the convent that I never converted to Catholicism,” confessed Sister Catherine.

“I asked you about that before, but you never answered.”

“Because there is no simple way to answer it. I am neither papist nor anti-papist. To me, the differences between the Catholic religious path and the Calvinist path is in detail. Substantively, they are no more different than two breeds of dogs. I don’t really care which dog I’m around, so long as the dog doesn’t bite me.”

“An interesting way of thinking about it,” giggled Armand thoughtfully. “My professors would absolutely love you in class.”

“Except for that pesky detail that I am a woman. I doubt they would approve of a female student,” frowned Anne.

Armand met her eyes, “How do you do that?”

“What?”

“Challenge me to change how I think about the world. You’re better at this than my professors, a natural philosopher.”

“I have the fresh lashings and bruises to prove it.”

Armand embraced her, “…’and when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.’ Luke 23, verses 33 and 34.”

“You are a remarkable man. Rumour has it your name is Armand and you will be a bishop someday.”

“If all goes according to plan, yes. And yes, I am Armand. Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu, at your service, Mademoiselle. My older brother Henri is the seigneur de Richelieu. Fortunately for me, King Henri IV likes him and likes our family as much as King Henri III did.”

“Have you met the king?”

“Me? No! But I hear he is a good man.”

“A good man or a good man for an Huguenot?”

Armand laughed, “What a sharp wit and keen mind you have, Anne! Should I call you Anne or Catherine?”

“Anne when there’s no one else around to listen. Sister Catherine when the others can hear us.”

“You avoid the other sisters, don’t you?”

“Wouldn’t you in my place?”

“In a heartbeat. Have you considered leaving?”

“Leaving a convent is an excommunicable offense, remember?”

“Unless dismissed from one,” replied Armand flippantly. Pausing to think for a moment, his eyes flashed with understanding, “It takes some power to dismiss a nun and annul her vows to the Holy Church, to essentially allow her to leave without any sort of penalty—but a bishop can!”

“If only there was a bishop who knew of my suffering and cared enough to help me,” hinted Anne, her thoughts synchronized with Armand’s.

“The bishop of Luçon might have the authority to do it—once invested of course,” suggested Armand.

“Is that where you will be serving?”

“Yes! But not for several months. I still need to finish seminary.”

“What are you focusing on—besides the essentials you need for ordination?”

“Theology. I like the philosophical side of this, the theory part. I like looking at the big picture and I want to understand the world.”

“Me too!”

“I guessed that. There does seem to be a sameness between us, doesn’t there?”

“We are more the same than you know, Armand. I was born seeing visions. I am far more similar to Saint Hildegard von Bingen than I am these half-wits.”

Armand laughed, “No pride in that description of yourself, right?”

“I am not ashamed, regardless of what these people think. What is it with the Roman Catholic church and its need to guilt and shame everyone about everything? It’s illogical!” cried Anne quietly, grateful to finally have someone safe to talk to.

Without thinking Armand kissed her, playfully at first then suddenly realizing there was something deeper behind it. Innocently he kissed her and held her close, “What is it about you that touches my soul and stimulates my mind so easily? Why do I suddenly feel like I will die if I do not have you in my life?”

“Do I dare dream you just said that?” whispered Anne.

“You feel the same?”

“Yes! God help me! Yes!”

“What should I do? If you are gifted with visions from God, then tell me what God wants me to do!”

“We must know if this is real or if this is from the devil!”

“How?”

“Come to my cell … tonight and unseen. Whatever happens will be God’s Will.”

“And if I come to know you as a man knows his wife? What then? That too risks excommunication!”

“I don’t think we have a choice in this. It is predestined for us. In my mind I see us together—not just one life being together in all things, but many. The faces change as quickly as those on a deck of cards being shuffled. But each time I know it is you and it is me. I do not understand! But I do know we must let things happen as they are meant to. Coming to my room does not mean sex—or it doesn’t have to mean that. We can talk freely and without prying ears. You can touch me and see with me what I see. We can even read by candlelight if you like!”

“A secret Bible study at midnight? What are the chances of that?”

“May I remind you that many protestants in France still do! Wars of religion do not stamp out a faith. All they can do is force into underground!”

“And at great cost to everyone, including my family,” remembered Armand.

“What say you about meeting quietly tonight?” asked Anne.

“I will be there.”

Two hours after sunset and after the final meal of the day Armand crept quietly from his cell, the hood of his black cloak covering his face and wavy, dark hair. Finding the door to Anne’s cell unlocked he quietly entered and locked the door behind him. Anne knelt beside a candle, her back turned towards him, her auburn hair released from its Benedictine veil and spilling onto her shoulders, wavy from recent un-braiding. Armand knelt beside her and crossed himself, “Anima Christi, sanctifica me. Corpus Christi, salva me. Sanguis Christi, inebria me. Aqua lateris Christi, lava me. Passio Christi, conforta me. O bone Iesu, exaudi me. Intra tua vulnera absconde me. Ne permittas me separari a te. Ab hoste maligno defende me. In hora mortis meae voca me. Et iube me venire ad te, Ut cum Sanctis tuis laudem te in saecula saeculorum. Amen.”

Anne turned and looked at him with a friendly smile, “You really are a Catholic, Armand.”

“Unapologetically! I believe in the Church. I believe in the leadership of the pope. My faith guides me in all things.”

“As does mine—except for some reason I cannot accept the idea that there is one and only one path to God for all of humankind, let alone the entire universe. Must the sparrow worship by the same prayers said by the pope? Must the people in the New World or the Far East be damned to hell simply because they worship differently and know the divine by other names and through other methods? This idea by Calvin of ‘the Elect’ is the first thing I have a problem with. The second thing I have a problem with is the pope’s demand that we all worship the same way or be damned to hell. For me, there is no chosen people, no one way to God. God made us each unique. Logically, that means the path each living creature takes to God must also be individual.”

“You are a wonder to me, Anne. I have never heard anyone of any faith talk like you! I shouldn’t like you at all—and yet I do. You fascinate me. I want to hear more, understand you, know you!”

“How do you want to know me, now we are in private?”

Armand kissed her, rising her up off the floor. Able to look at her at last he noticed she was not wearing the coarse woollen under-dress of a Benedictine nun, but a far finer night gown with a short lace collar at the neck tied together with a silken cord. At the front of the gown the upper section was slit from her collar down to almost her waist thanks to her smaller than normal breasts. Armand noticed the slim gap in the fabric created by the slit and smiled nervously, “What should I do?”

“Whatever instinct tells you to.”

“How do I know my instincts are not the instructions of the devil?”

“Do you really think the devil is here, tempting you to evil? That sounds far more like the paranoia I hear from protestants. Why assume the devil is everywhere? Why not assume it is God who guides our instincts? Why not assume people are Good?”

Armand untied Anne’s gown at the collar, “Is that the work of God?”

“Yes. What more does your heart tell you to do?”

Armand untied his cloak from his neck. The heavy leather and wool fell behind him as he started to unfasten the buttons securing his doublet. Anne watched him quietly. With some care he eased himself out of the doublet and folded it neatly. Anne untied Armand’s shirt at the collar and caressed his chest beneath it. Armand took her hands, “You approve of me?”

“I do.”

Armand looked at her chest, “May I?”

“Yes. Follow your instincts and do what you like!”

Armand kissed her lips, “You are a remarkable woman!” Quietly, he slipped his hand under the night gown and caressed her breasts. Anne closed her eyes to attend better to the sensation, her breathing changing accordingly. “Do you like that?”

“Yes.”

“Should I?”

“Yes! Follow your instincts, Armand. Hear your own inner voice. Not that of the church. Just yours!”

Quietly Armand laid her down on the bed. Slowly he let his lips touch her breast. Anne smiled at him. Armand continued to explore, letting his lips and fingers connect with her body experimentally. Anne’s fingers danced through his hair approvingly. Finally, at length, he stopped, “I dare not touch you more!”

“Do you want to?”

Armand sat up, “I can’t just—you could be excommunicated! Maybe to you that is a small thing, but to me, it is everything! How can I damn your soul for eternity?! You are still under vows!”

“Vows you can nullify!”

“Not until I finish school. By then I will be under the same vows and with the same rules restricting me. Bishops are no more allowed lovers than nuns are!”

“What about popes?”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you know how many cardinals and popes have ignored their vows to celibacy, vows that were not even mandatory until the Second Lateran Council? In the last two hundred years celibacy is the exception to the rule for priests! Everyone knows that! You think the sisters in this convent who are so quick to condemn me for my intellect and love of learning are genuinely celibate? Most of their lovers are priests and sometimes much higher in the church. Walk discretely around this place and you will see how openly these good catholic women flaunt their vows. Even the vow of poverty is almost a joke. There are places in this humble little convent whose luxuries likely rival those in the Louvre itself!” Anne sat up, though she did not cover up her chest, “Armand I am not trying to criticize you or chastise you. Far from it.”

Armand took her hands and kissed them, “I know. You speak the truth. You are open and honest with me. You refuse to lie to me. I am not sure you could ever lie to me, even to save my feelings. Not even to save your life, come to think of it.”

Anne put his hand back on her bare breast, “Touch me because you want to touch me. Bed me because the love inside you overflows and your mind and heart and soul tell you that you are ready to receive the many blessings my body and soul offer you!”

“I feel torn between what I want to do and what I feel I should do, Anne.”

“Do no more than you feel is right and good. I will not leave your side, regardless of what happens next,” reassured Anne.

“I want to do what is right, Anne, for both of us. Starting with I want to get you out of this horrible convent.”

“Do you want to see what they have done, Armand?”

“Yes.”

Respecting Armand’s dilemma, Anne turned her back on him as she slowly and carefully pulled her nightgown off, revealing dozens of bruises and whip-cut-wounds across her back and thighs, “How bad does it look?”

Armand embraced her gently from behind, his tears raining down upon her skin, “Words cannot convey my grief and outrage.”

“Do you want me to put my clothes back on?”

“Not yet.”

“Then what?”

“Lay down upon your stomach on the bed,” instructed Armand instinctively. Closing his eyes, he started to pray, his hands lightly moving across her skin to every wound and every bruise, “Salve, Regina, mater misericordiae: vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve. Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae. Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle. Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte. Et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsilium ostende. O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria. Amen.

Memorare, O piissima Virgo Maria, non esse auditum a saeculo, quemquam ad tua currentem praesidia, tua implorantem auxilia, tua petentem suffragia, esse derelictum. Ego tali animatus confidentia, ad te, Virgo Virginum, Mater, curro, ad te venio, coram te gemens peccator assisto. Noli, Mater Verbi, verba mea despicere; sed audi propitia et exaudi. Amen.” As Armand prayed a light flowed out of his hands along with a warmth that penetrated into Anne’s skin as he massaged her. Anne’s breathing quickened as she felt the energy reach into her injuries and the pain of them lessen.

As Armand’s voice echoed with the final cadence of the second prayer, Anne turned over to face him, “This is why I wanted you here tonight, Armand. Though perhaps the sight of my nakedness pleases you, I wanted to know if you are who I thought you are.”

“I do not understand.”

“Were the kisses to my lips from your heart?”

“Yes. There was no guile in them, no flattering or manipulation,” affirmed Armand.

“This is very hard to explain; especially given the way I’ve been punished for the slightest perceived heresy. I am not like other people. A kiss to or from my lips is not a simple kiss. It activates something inside my soul that allows hidden gifts from God in other people to come out. When you kissed me and I kissed you a power flowed through my body into you, allowing something very special that God gave you to come forward and out of the shadows.”

“Your wounds – they are better now, aren’t they?”

“By God’s grace and through you, my body is starting to heal rapidly,” affirmed Anne.

“And if I were to make love to you?”

“Your power to help and heal would increase. The more you touch me, the more you love me, the more you make love to me, the greater the power and the greater good you are able to do for others.”

“You know more than you are saying.”

“Yes.”

“Will you tell me?”

“In time.”

“I am glad to see you being cautious,” smiled Armand as he retied the neckline to his shirt and fetched his doublet off the floor.

“Shall I dress?”

Armand worked at rebuttoning his doublet, “For now, my darling. But only for now.”

Anne pulled her nightgown back over her head, her healing muscles protesting slightly. Tying up the neck again, she fetched Armand’s cloak and draped it over his shoulders, “Will you breakfast with me in the morning?”

Armand fastened the cloak and took her hands, “Yes! I do not think it will take me long to be ready for more with you. All the same, I am glad we did not make love tonight. I do not think my Catholic conscience could handle moving so fast! I need time to adjust to this, to you! But rest assured, I am on this journey now with you. I will not stop it. You probably have me for the rest of your life, Anne!” Armand kissed her passionately and devotedly, “Good night!”





Chapter Two: Father Armand



Three days later, Armand packed and saddled his horse to depart. Helping Anne up into the saddle in front of him, he mounted up and started their departure. Reaching the gate, he found it barred, the abbess blocking the way, “Where do you think you are going?”

“Back to the Sorbonne,” replied Armand.

“Not with her, you are not!” asserted the abbess.

“Sister Catherine is leaving your cloister. She will never bother you again,” asserted Armand.

“On whose authority?”

“On the authority of His Excellency, the Bishop of Luçon.”

The abbess laughed, “You know the bishop of Luçon? You are a boy! Parisian probably by the sound of your accent.”

“If you say so.” Armand pulled a transfer order out from beneath his cloak and handed it to her, “This authorizes me to take her.”

“There is no seal on this order.”

“That’s because I keep it in Luçon. I do not travel to Italy with it! Now please, let us pass. You don’t want her here. She doesn’t want to be here. I don’t want her here. You lose nothing and gain everything putting her in my custody.”

“You will accept full responsibility for this trouble maker?”

“Yes.”

“So be it, Your ‘Excellency!’ On your head!” snarled the abbess as she unbarred the gates.

“I will never forget your ‘kindness,’ Sister,” grinned the bishop of Luçon menacingly as he and Anne passed through the gates, never to return.

Anne guided Armand through the streets of Lyon, surprised both by her sudden deliverance from the horrors of the convent and the need to find something inconspicuous to wear on such a short notice. Taking Armand through the city streets, Armand and Anne found what they were looking for: a shop called “Le Brush et La Robe.”

Armand entered first, greeting the lady who appeared to be tending the shop, “Bonjour, Madame. Je cherche Mademoiselle Louise Rochefeuille. Est-ce que vous la connais?”

“Je suis elle.”

“Dieu merci!” sighed Armand with relief.

“What is this about?” asked Louise. In reply, Anne stepped down off the bishop’s horse and into the shop. Louise glared at her, “What are you doing here?”

“Leaving.”

“Then why aren’t you gone?”

“The dress I came into the convent with no longer fits. I was hoping you might help me with a dress – a loan if you require it. I will find something else once we reach Paris and return whatever you give me back to you.”

“I will give you a dress, though I cannot see any recompense for it in my future.”

“My brother is in favour at court. Do this for us and I can arrange for the queen to see the dress you provide us. Would that be worth something to you, Mlle Rochefeuille?” asked Armand.

“That is acceptable,” replied Louise flatly.

“Good. I will wait for you while you sort out what to give her. We will leave as soon as you are ready.”



An hour later, Anne emerged from the shop in a proper corset, chemise, bodice, and skirt. Modest and certainly not suitable for Paris, but it suited Anne well and showed off her pretty breasts pleasingly. Armand blushed, “You look amazing!”

Anne put his hand on her chest, “Does that mean you want something?”

“I do!” confessed Armand. “But not until we are far away from Lyon. I’ve had enough of its vicious attitudes. Haven’t you?”

Anne mounted the horse, “More than enough!”

Mounting the horse himself Armand took the reins and nudged it back to the road to Paris and to home.

“Armand-Jean, where have you been?” cried Henri as he embraced his brother warmly. “I was so worried about you. I thought you had fallen ill again on me!”

Armand-Jean held his brother tightly, “I have missed you, Henri. Alas, the road home was slower, more difficult than I thought.”

“Oh? What happened?”

Armand beckoned his brother into his room. Anne stood up from his bed. Armand took her hand, “Anne Rochefeuille may I introduce you to Henri du Plessis, Seigneur de Richelieu, my oldest brother.”

Anne curtsied deeply, “Je suis heureuse de faire de votre reconnaissance, Seigneur Richelieu.”

“What is this?” asked Henri as he admired Anne’s figure. “Has my brother taken a lover just months before he is to take his vows? You haven’t reconsidered Luçon, have you?”

“Of course not! Why would I? She is my friend, my equal, my trusted companion. She brings out the best in me and I in her,” smiled Armand quietly.

“Where … when did you meet her?”

“Two weeks ago, when I rested in a convent in Lyon. I rescued her from the sisters.”

“There’s more to this story than you are saying, Armand.”

“Always.”

“Is she your lover?”

“If she were, do you think I would tell you or anyone else? I would never betray a trust like that.”

“Petit frère, you continue to surprise me! I always thought you were too studious and serious to form any sort of lasting attachments, especially with an attractive young lady!”

“Why? I’m still French! Do you think me incapable of lusting after beautiful women? I’m entering the priesthood because you asked me to and because our family needs it. Dismiss me from that duty and I’ll marry her that very day—assuming it would please Mademoiselle Rochefeuille?” asked Armand as his eyes met hers.

“It would, if Roman Catholic bishops were free to marry,” affirmed Anne.

“Don’t fall in love, Armand! You can’t afford it!” warned Henri as he noticed the way Armand looked at Anne. “Enough talk! I’m thirsty! Let’s get some wine and some dinner!” proposed Henri as he led them both towards his favourite public house for some good food and plenty of delicious wine.



Two hours later, Henri released Armand and Anne from his company in favour of a comfortable bed to sleep off the wine and brandy he consumed. With their duty to the seigneur complete, Armand quietly held Anne’s hand as they walked back to his room, his heart and body in good spirits from drinking deeply, but his spirit very sober. As they reached his room, Armand quietly unbuttoned his doublet and unfastened the collar to his shirt. Anne embraced him sweetly, wrapping her arms under the doublet and triggering it to fall to the ground. Armand held her tightly, pressing his cheek against hers affectionately, “I love you.”

“You’ve always loved me.”

“You knew?”

“God gave me the ability to sense time. I feel its currents, both past and future. My ability to sense emotions and intensions informs the present,” explained Anne. “You fell in love with me the moment you set eyes upon me in the library. Maybe something about a woman reading the Bible appeals to you?”

Armand laughed nervously, “Maybe. If I had felt ready that night in your room in the convent, would you have consented to giving yourself to me?”

“I am already yours, Armand. I’ve been yours since the moment the Word was spoken by God!”

Armand met her eyes, “But would you have given yourself to me. Would you have let me?”

“’Let you’ means that only a man’s desires matter. I am no one’s tool. My body belongs to me. Married or not, I decide when and where to bestow my gifts,” clarified Anne.

Embarrassed, Armand broke the embrace, “I see.”

“Why do you feel rejected?”

“I’m not?”

Anne took his hand and returned him to her embrace, “No! Not at all. I will not ‘let’ you use my body to satisfy your lust. But I will express my love for you that way if you feel ready to express yours physically as well.”

Armand kissed her shyly, “I’m ready.”

Anne unlaced her bodice, revealing her corset which she also unlaced and removed suggestively, “I am yours to love and cherish all the years of your life and beyond.”

Armand pulled off his shirt nervously before returning to her embrace, kissing her lips sweetly, “I love you, Anne. Whatever is to come, I want to be with you. Let my heart, my spirit, and especially my body belong only to you for all the days of my life!”

“At last you are ready!” smiled Anne as she felt the truth of his words in her soul. Understanding the importance that he lead her in their journey together, she yielded to his needs as he kissed her, caressed her, and adored her. Almost laughing, she enjoyed his awkward eagerness as he laid her down and found his way to her, each sensation as new to her as it was for him.

After a few minutes, Armand smiled at her, “Are you pleased?”

“Please tell me this not the only time you are going to do that!”

“You want more?”

“Much more.”

“How much more?”

“As much as you can give me tonight,” smiled Anne romantically.

Shyly he held her and kissed until he found himself able to obey her desire. Eagerly, hungrily he repeated his touch, his lovemaking until the morning light broke into his room without either of them sleeping more than a few minutes at a time. A divine light glowed through her to him. Quietly in the pleasure he gave to her, she touched his brow and caressed the crown of his head, light and warmth flowing out of her hands into his brain, even as she kissed him. An angelic light glowed around them, triggered by his lovemaking. Anne opened her eyes suddenly, aware of what was happening to them. Accepting it, she let herself fall asleep with him until they were both ready to rise for the day.



The ordination of priest is one of the Roman Catholic Church’s most celebrated and esteemed sacraments. In a rich and lavish ceremony lasting nearly three hours and attended by everyone he loved, Armand took his vows of celibacy and service, committing himself to God’s work. At the proper times and with the proper ritual fanfare, he showed his humility to God by lying face down upon the floor before kneeling before the presiding bishop who then laid hands upon his head and prayed a special prayer of ordination. He received from the bishop the symbols of priesthood: the stole and the chasuble. The bishop anointed his hands with oil and then gave him the chalice and special plate used to bless the wine and the bread and turn them into the blood and body of Jesus Christ. So invested, he then conducted his very first mass as a priest, taking special pleasure when Anne received the host from his hand in support of him.

A celebratory reception followed full of food and wine—especially good red wine which Father Armand drank deeply. Feeling timid, Anne avoided the many devout Catholics swarming around Armand, her absence soon felt inside his heart. Spotting her sitting alone in the corner, Father Armand excused himself from those pressing close to him and sat down beside her, “You seem to make a habit of this, Anne.”

“You were busy. I did not think you would notice if I did not join the good Catholics flattering you.”

“When would I not notice the lack of my best friend?”

“You have started your path now. What need do you have of me? Who am I but some heretic who sees things, knows things that set me apart from everyone else?”

“Who are you? Anne, how can you not know that? You have done so much to get me here.”

“I have done nothing but put you in danger. I am a heretic. By the law, I deserve to die.”

“You don’t mean that. Anne, please! Tell me what is wrong.”

“I feel afraid.”

“Tell me.”

“Wouldn’t you rather enjoy your party?”

“No,” asserted Father Armand. Anne shook her head with bewilderment. Armand held her, “There are very few people I truly trust and fewer still I can honestly say that I love. I have never lied to you, Anne. I do not think I can lie to you any more than you can lie to me. Believe me then when I say that I love you.”

“But your vows!”

“Is that what is bothering you? The vows I said today?” Anne looked down and away from him full of fear and guilt and shame. “That’s it, isn’t it?” Anne nodded. “Do you fear you have lost me or lost some part of me to the Church?”

Anne rose, “Pay me no mind, Father. Surround yourself with those who believe as you do!” Her heart in agony, Anne fled the church and went home to Armand’s room, her home for the last fourteen months. Laying on the bed she loosened and took off her bodice, loosened her corset, and cried herself to sleep.

An hour later Anne woke to find Father Armand sitting on the bed next to her, a worried smile upon his face, “Alone at last with you. I should have come at once, but my guests would not allow it.”

“I ruined your party.”

“What party? There is no party without you within arm’s reach. Everything else is duty.”

“Why do you waste your time with me, Armand? You are such a good and devoted Catholic and I am not!”

“You are letting your fears overcome your reason and judgement.”

“I don’t want anything to change between us!”

“It won’t—at most this means living in different places, but we’ve always been prepared for that.”

“Prove it!” demanded Anne.

“I thought you would never ask,” smiled Father Armand as he kissed her lips. Quietly he hitched up her skirts and freed himself of his vestments. Confidently, he poured himself into her, “Nothing has changed for us, Anne. You are mine and I am yours.” Armand kissed her lips, “If I have to make love to you day and night for the rest of my life to convince you how I feel about you, I will. I am not the first priest to bed a woman, though I have perhaps set a new record for how soon after the ordination service I have broken that particular vow—even for a Frenchman.”

“I am surprised you did.”

“Don’t doubt me! Don’t doubt me and don’t underestimate me.”

“I still don’t understand why you want me.”

“Why do I want you? Is my love for you and your love for me not enough?”

“It’s not reasonable, no. Not for you.”

Armand met her eyes, “Then try this: what if I believe in you, even when what you say and what you perceive differs from what the Bible and what the Church teaches? What if when you say you sense an ancient universe around us teaming with life some part of me is able to sense that with you and know you are telling me the truth? What if I agree with you that God made you for me and me for you? What if everything you say and feel and do also resonates in my heart? Anne, I can no more turn my heart against you or turn my face away from you than I can cut off my right hand. Without you I feel incomplete. Spend too many days away from the joys of your touch in private and I feel anxious and alone. There was absolutely no way I was going to keep that vow of celibacy. I need to make love to you sometimes. I think you feel the same which is why you were so upset at the party. You were afraid I was never going to make love to you again. Have I at least allayed that fear?”

“Yes.”

“Good! Now—since I left my official party, what you think about a private celebration in here together?”

“How long does this party in here last?”

“As long as you want!”



Weeks and months passed. In April, 1607 in a grand ceremony in Luçon in western France, Father Armand was invested as bishop, his Anne faithfully attending the service and receiving mass from him. In private, Anne blessed him with power that flowed through her each time he pleased her in bed, a quiet and holy light and warmth penetrating his mind, heart, and soul from her hands and body. Honouring his Catholic convictions, she let God reveal to him the changes she could sense came from each small regeneration: the improvements to his health and strength, the way he could better empathize with others and feel from people what they needed from God, the improved intelligence and ability to understand what he read, but most of all the way he could heal with his touch – if he could control it. Control was a different matter, one she knew he was not ready to learn about, but did not need to learn about –not yet. As a healer, he was still an infant needing the nourishment of her mind, heart, body, and soul before any sort of conscious controls would be possible. Understanding his needs for her and for God, Anne let Armand guide her in how best to provide for his needs with no more ambition for life than to see him grow into everything she knew God wanted for him. She felt as joyful to caress him when he put his lips to her breast as she was to debate theology or politics with him. As long as he loved her, she cared not.



1608 arrived with dizzying swiftness. Upon taking up residency in the Bishop’s Mansion near Luçon Cathedral, Bishop du Plessis set about working at once, his months of waiting to officially take up residence making him eager to get started in the work God set forth for him.



“Bon anniversaire, votre excellence!” proclaimed Anne as she arrived at Luçon Cathedral and walked to the altar where she noticed Bishop du Plessis praying.

Armand rose and held her tightly, pressing his cheek to hers in a lingering embrace, “I have missed you! I haven’t seen you since the week of my investiture. How is my family?”

“They send their love.”

Armand kissed her lips, “Words cannot convey how much I have missed you and how happy I am to see you.”

Anne touched his chin, “This is new! I’ve never kissed you with facial hair before.”

Armand blushed self-consciously even as he continued to kiss her, “What you think? Is the moustache uncomfortable for you?”

“I love the new look! It suits you. You look like a bishop now.”

“And the way it feels as I touch you?”

“It feels like I am finally kissing the real Armand.”

“Don’t say that unless you mean it in your heart.”

“I never do! You look exactly the way I knew you would.”

Armand met her eyes and kissed her lips again, “Thank you.” Anne pressed her cheek against his affectionately. Armand relished the touch before breaking it and taking her hand to walk with her from the church to the mansion, “One small thing has to change. I cannot be as brazen about showing my feelings for you. A bishop who is not respected is not obeyed. My congregation cannot know how much you mean to me or how thoroughly I have broken that one particular priestly vow. They are certain to blame you for any perceived vices. I would not have your reputation destroyed over who and what God made us to be and the needs we possess for each other accordingly.”

“You must lead in this dance of our relationship, Armand. Show me how I can serve you best and I will do as you ask. As long as your feelings for me remain tender and undiminished, I will follow where you lead.”

Armand opened the front door to his house and lead her into the multi-functional common room which served as a communal dining space, living room, even small ballroom if need be, “Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you, the faith you have in me? I never feel so trusted nor so competent to as when you are with me or when you write to me.” Walking with her through, he guided her to the modest guest quarters adjacent to his own, considerably larger, bedroom, “It is my conviction that friendship is the medicine for all misfortune, but ingratitude dries up the fountain of all goodness.” Opening the door for her he pointed to the space under the comfortable, double-sized bed where her belongings were already stashed. “In this room and in my bedroom next to it, you and I are everything we have ever been to each other. These two rooms are sanctuary for us where we can be truest to who we are. Here and only here, I am Armand and you are my Anne. Out there we will dine together, debate philosophy, religion, and politics to our hearts’ content, and read books together. But in these two rooms and only in these two rooms do I dare touch you in any sort of personal fashion. On many levels I do not like it, but it is what must be. We both know that.”

Anne took his hand and knelt before him in supplication. Bowing her head, she kissed the ring given to him as part of his investiture, “Yes, Your Excellency.”

“Do you know how strange that looks and feels coming from you? You playing the good Catholic when I know you so well! I cannot decide if I want to laugh at you or throw you on the bed and make love to you right now!” Anne eyed him with impish playfulness. “As it stands, I do not have time right now for what I want to do here. I actually have some business with you that must be taken care of first.”

Anne allowed Armand to help her back to her feet, “Oh? What business?”

“Come to my office and I will show you,” beckoned Bishop du Plessis as he led the way to his modest office on the other side of the commons area from his bedroom and the guest quarters. Moving behind his desk, he shuffled some papers, skimmed the one he wanted, and then handed it to her, “This is for you! I could have sent it to Richelieu by messenger but there was no one I trusted with something so valuable. It’s your official dispensation and removal from the Benedictines. It guarantees you a free life outside of religious orders and in fact bans you from ever going into one again – with or without your consent. Which means you cannot be admitted into residency at one for either health or retirement reasons. Finally, it absolves you of all sins or alleged sins, including heresy, committed during your tenure among the Benedictines. You cannot be excommunicated nor can you be executed by the church, even for later heresies. I have a letter from Pope Paul V confirming this protection that stays here in Luçon and at the Vatican along with the copies of this same dispensation. My official seal and signature as bishop is on all three copies, making this dispensation legally enforceable. Sister Catherine officially no longer exists. You are fully and completely Mademoiselle Anne Rochefeuille.”


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