The Cardinal works into the night
To realize his dream:
To keep the nobles in their place,
Make royalty supreme.
He knows it’s time for government
To grow and centralize,
And when the nobles sober up
They won’t believe their eyes.
And at his feet
Delightful pet he calls Gazette
Provides his inspiration.
He spreads the map of Europe out
And studies its repair,
Especially in ways that might
Reduce the Hapsburg share,
With here a war and there a plot
And now and then a coup..
His opposition? Well, he might
Assassinate a few.
While on his knees
The Cardinal’s best Eminence Grise,
Provides his inspiration.
This poem by Gail White won The Lyric Magazine’s Roberts Memorial Prize for 2022. White, the resident poet and cat lady of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, writes: “I’d love to know the names of all 14 of his cats. I’m a believer!”
In a post entitled ‘The Cardinal liked cats – in 1642 he had fourteen!‘, the Eminence Rouge blog states: ‘Here are some of the names of the fourteen favourite felines: Racan (poet and Academician), Gazette (indiscrete), Rubis sur l’Ongle (scratchy), Pyrame & Thysbe (lovers who slept with paws entwined), Serpolet (loved sunning himself), Felimare (tiger-striped), Soumise (submissive, R’s favourite), Lucifer (jet black), Ludovic le Cruel (rat-killer), Ludoviska (rat-catcher’s Polish mistress), Mimi-Paillon (‘straw’ angora), Mounard le Fougueux (‘ardent’, quarellsome,capricious,worldy), Perruque (fell from Racan’s wig), and Gavroche (gastro-angora).’ (Note: this totals 14 if ‘Pyrame & Thysbe’ is the name of one cat that sleeps holding its own paws.)
However in the comments posted by readers of that blog there is scepticism about the story. One writes: ‘Elizabeth Wirth Marwick, The Young Richelieu (Chicago, 1983), says she has been unable to find contemporary documentation on cats, but that he had canaries and warblers, and also 12 small dogs were boarded at Rueil. She wonders if lap-dogs have been turned into cats in the telling. (p. 242, n. 124) But that would be a bizarre change to make.’
A further comment is: ‘I always did think this was true, but now it’s looking more and more likely to me that Richelieu never had cats. I can’t find a source anywhere for all this oft-repeated “information” on the web; people just seem to be copying one another. The earlier comment about the 1938 biographer who was unable to find contemporary documentation is significant. Katharine Macdonogh, in her 1999 book Reigning Cats and Dogs, A History of Pets at Court Since the Renaissance, states on page 124 that the story is a myth, and that it was invented by Paradis de Moncrief, a “toady” at the court of Louis XV.’
Gail White’s books ASPERITY STREET and CATECHISM are available on Amazon. She is a contributing editor to Light Poetry Magazine. “Tourist in India” won the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award for 2013. Her poems have appeared in the Potcake Chapbooks ‘Tourists and Cannibals’, ‘Rogues and Roses’, ‘Families and Other Fiascoes’, ‘Strip Down’ and ‘Lost Love’.
Painting: Charles Édouard Delort (1841-1895): La distraction de Richelieu (The cardinal’s leisure), in the public domain.