Richelieu and French Foreign Policy, 1630–42

  • David J. Sturdy
Part of the European History in Perspective book series (EUROHIP)


If the Day of Dupes enabled Richelieu to consolidate his power in government, it also freed him to develop a bon Français policy in the international sphere, relatively, although not completely, free from the ideological constraints to which the now-discredited pro-Spanish lobby had attempted to subject him. For the time being his motives in foreign policy were primarily defensive. The war in Germany was swinging in favour of the Habsburgs in the late 1620s, and although the Spanish were experiencing setbacks against the Dutch Republic (in 1628 the Dutch captured the Spanish treasure fleet and in 1629 took s’Hertogenbosch), their control of Flanders presented a permanent danger to the northern frontier of France. In formal terms France adopted a policy of neutrality towards these conflicts, although it had signed treaties with the Dutch and Danes to subsidise these states in their struggles against the Habsburgs. When it came to regions which Richelieu deemed crucial to the security of France, however, he did commit troops even though no declarations of war were made. One such region was Savoy and northern Italy; hence his intervention in the Valtelline and Mantua as described earlier. Another such area was Lorraine.


Foreign Policy French Government Imperial Force French Army Dutch Republic 
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  1. 2.
    For an assessment of the imperial position in 1630, see R. G. Asch, The Thirty Years War: The Holy Roman Empire and Europe, 1618–48 (London, 1997), pp. 92–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    A summary of the treaty and extracts from its terms are in M. Roberts (ed.), Sweden as a Great Power, 1611–1697 (London, 1968), pp. 136–7.Google Scholar
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    On this subject, see P. Castagnos, Richelieu face à la mer (Rennes, 1989).Google Scholar
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    Outlines are in R. J. Knecht, Richelieu (London, 1991), chap. 7; Asch, Thirty Years War, pp. 117–33Google Scholar
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    J. I. Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477–1806 (Oxford, 1995), pp. 528–31.Google Scholar
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    Contemporary opinions for and against Richelieu’s foreign policy are discussed in W. F. Church, Richelieu and Reason of State (Princeton, 1972), pp. 372–415.Google Scholar

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© David J. Sturdy 2004

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  • David J. Sturdy

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