Retz et Mazarin: polémique et politique dans les "Mémoires" de Retz

Translated title of the contribution: Retz and Mazarin: controversy and politics in the "Memoirs" of Retz

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This paper analyses the significance of the image of Mazarin in Retz’s Memoirs. Critics have often considered the caricature of the Cardinal as a means for Retz to obliterate the contradictions of his own ‘heroic mythology’, especially by reinforcing the opposition between his supposed aristocratic ethics and the Machiavellianism attributed to Mazarin. Indeed criticism of Mazarin’s hypocrisy, dissimulation and incompetence – an inverted mirror for Princes – enables
Retz, by contrast, to give a flattering image of himself in keeping with the antagonistic nature of his defence. Yet the latter cannot conceal the fact that there are significant similarities between Retz and Mazarin, for Retz’s criticism of the Cardinal coexists with praise of the author’s own skill in political realism. The Memoirs thus rehabilitate not only the notion of honest dissimulation as a means to protect oneself, but also the very Machiavellianism attributed to Mazarin. In combining nostalgia for heroic ideals with political realism (Retz and Mazarin being, in turn, in opposition to and in competition with each other), the comparison between these two enemies proves to be a key element in the missing self-portrait of Retz in his Memoirs, providing insights into his polemical narrative and political ideas.
Translated title of the contributionRetz and Mazarin: controversy and politics in the "Memoirs" of Retz
Original languageFrench
Pages (from-to)235-245
Number of pages11
JournalStudi francesi
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2013


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