Sunday, April 9, 2023


Richelieu's End

Identifying himself with a persona which was simultaneously princely, sacerdotal, political and literary, Cardinal Richelieu comported himself as though he were a demigod.  But the wretched man had to play his part in a body which disease had rendered so repulsive that there were times when people could hardly bear to sit in the same room with him.  He suffered from tubercular osteitis of his right arm and a fissure of the fundament, and was thus forced to live in the fetid atmosphere of his own suppuration.  Musk and civet disguised but could not abolish this carrion odor of decay.  Richelieu could never escape from the humiliating knowledge that he was an object, to all around him, of physical abhorrence....

Between the rotting body of the actual man and the glory of the persona, the gulf was unbridgeable....That dreadful stench, those worms battening on the living corpse, seemed poetically just and appropriate.  During the Cardinal's last hours, when the relics had failed to work and the doctors had given him up, an old peasant woman, who had a reputation as a healer, was called to the great man's bedside.  Muttering spells, she administered her panacea -- four ounces of horse dung macerated in a pint of white wine.  It was with the taste of excrement in his mouth that the arbiter of Europe's destinies gave up the ghost.

                                                    -- Aldous Huxley, The Devils of Loudun

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