Many have heard about Duke, but what exactly? Who is the famous Duke de Richelieu and why is there a monument to this man in the very center of Odessa?
The surname Richelieu is familiar to everyone from the novel by Alexandre Dumas “The Three Musketeers”. And this is not a fictional character, in reality there was Cardinal Richelieu, who was a prominent political figure in France in the 17th century.
And our Duke de Richelieu was his great-nephew, the fifth and last Count de Richelieu.
Life before Odessa
Armand Emanuel du Plessis Richelieu was born on September 14, 1766. In 1783 he was already the chamberlain of Louis XVI. In 1789, when the French Revolution began, the Duke went to Austria and thus escaped from the guillotine. In Vienna, he meets Prince de Lin, a friend of Grigory Potemkin and Empress Catherine II. And under his influence and his recommendations, Richelieu went to Russia. De Richelieu took part in the capture of Ishmael, was awarded the St. George Cross and personalized weapon. After Ishmael, he was sent to command a regiment in the Volyn province. In 1796, the Duke rose to the rank of Major General, resigned and left for Vienna. And already in 1797, Paul I appoints him commander of the Life Cuirassier regiment, he served in this position until December 1, 1800, after which he returned to Vienna. During the service, the Duke de Richelieu becomes a friend of Alexander I. After the death of Paul I, Alexander I comes to the throne and asks the count to return to the service. In 1803, upon arrival in St. Petersburg, he received an offer to become the mayor of Odessa.
Duke of Richelieu, mayor of Odessa
In March 1803 Richelieu arrives in Odessa, at that time, the city had been without a mayor for the last two years. There was practically no production, there were no large houses and cobbled streets. The Duke of Richelieu asked Alexander I for trade privileges – Porto-free (the port territory had the right to import and export goods duty-free). Thanks to his merits, already in 1805, he retained the post of mayor of Odessa, and also became the Kherson military governor. Under Richelieu and duty-free trade, Orthodox, Catholic, Old Believer churches, a synagogue, a market, a theater, the first city hospital, the Noble Institute, and the Commercial Gymnasium were built in Odessa in 11 years. The volume of grain sales increased, and animal husbandry and winemaking enterprises began to develop. De Richelieu brought the acacia to the city, in those days in Odessa there was a problem with water, but local residents found means to water these wonderful trees, because of which the city became famous.
During the reign of the count, he did not create a huge bureaucratic apparatus, he fully supervised all the affairs that took place in the city. De Richelieu signed out famous architects, thanks to whom the city was improved and acquired a European look. The population of the city grew rapidly, workshops and new shops were opened.
But in 1812 two troubles came – the first was Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. Richelieu and residents of the city collected two million rubles in donations, as well as provisions and horses, to help the front. The second trouble came to the city itself. Since August 1812, the worst plague epidemic took place in Odessa. Drastic measures were taken to prevent the spread of the disease. The count was not afraid to enter the plague barracks, communicate with the population and even dig graves. In the early days of the epidemic, Richelieu takes tough measures, which later came to a complete closure of the city and a ban on citizens from leaving their homes. During the year, this disease claimed more than two thousand people, almost every 9th resident of the city.
In 1814, the Duke left Odessa, at the direction of Alexander I went to the Congress of Vienna, and then became Prime Minister of France under King Louis XVIII.
During his management of Odessa, the city’s population increased 5 times and reached 35 thousand people, the number of houses in the city reached 2600, more than half of the trade turnover of ports located on the Black and Azov seas fell on our city. Ordinary residents of Odessa simply called the Duke “Duke”, because in translation from French “Duke” means – Duke.
4 years after the count’s departure, Alexander I visited Odessa. He was so delighted with the city and its successes that he awarded the Count Richelieu the highest order of the Russian Empire – the Order of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called.
The Duke of Richelieu died in Paris at the age of 55 in 1822 and was buried in the Sorbonne church.
In 1828, a monument to this famous mayor of the city was opened.
This was the first monument in Odessa. Odessans of all generations love and honor the memory of Armand Emanuel du Plessis, Duke de Richelieu.