European Enlightenment revolves around the idea of freedom, of liberating people from false beliefs, false religion and from arbitrary authority (Hooker pp). Today the idea of liberation is common to international politics, yet the concept is rooted in Luther's idea of freedom (Hooker pp).
By 1616, Cadinal Richelieu had risen through the ranks to become France's Secretary of State of foreign affairs and by 1924, had gone on to head the royal council as prime minister of France (Cardinal pp). He had an analytical mind and relied on reason and a strong will to govern others and use political power effectively (Cardinal pp). His political views were well-defined early in his career, believing that everyone had a purpose to play in the system of society, each making their unique contributions: "the clergy through prayer, the nobility with arms under the control of the king, and the common people through obedience...believed in the divine right of the king...to promote peace and order in society" (Cardinal pp).
Richelieu believed that the church should be assigned a more practical role and that the state should be above everything, that religion was a mere instrument to promote the policies of the state (Cardinal pp). When he rose to power, King Louis VIII had not solidified his authority in France, the monarchy's rule being threatened by political corruption, an independent nobility, and the power of the Protestant group, the Huguenots (Cardinal pp). In 1627, Richelieu set out to help secure the crown's authority through force and political repression, and by 1631, had crushed Huguenot resistance, punished the rebel nobles, and replaced his enemies in government, as well as expanded the king's authority in the provinces by using royal agents called intendants (Cardinal pp). He insisted that the king apply the law with severity, or else the state would not survive, and emphasized rigorous punishment for even small crimes, declaring that this would forestall greater ones (Cardinal pp). It is through this reasoning that he provided his sovereign a rationale for the harsh rule used to strengthen and maintain the state authority (Cardinal pp).
During his service as prime minister, Cardinal Richelieu helped France to become the leading European power, and also supported the French navy and the establishment of French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean (Cardinal pp). He was a great patron of the arts, supported promising writers, founded the French Academy, and rebuilt the Sorbonne in Paris (Cardinal pp). Richelieu is regarded by many historians as the founder of French unity, and the individual who released France from its medieval nature (Cardinal pp).
Coligny, 1519-1572, was a French Protestant leader who had come to the French court at an early age (Coligny pp). In 1544, during the Italian Wars, he was promoted colonel general of infantry and in 1552 became admiral of France (Coligny pp). In 1559, he made a public profession of his conversion to Protestantism and argued the Protestant cause with Catherine de Medici at the time of the conspiracy of Amboise, 1560 (Coligny pp). Together with Louis I de Conde, he commanded the Huguenots after the murder of Protestants at Vassy in 1562, and also in the second of the Wars of Religion, 1567-1568 (Coligny pp). In 1568, he became the sole leader of a third war, nominally as adviser to the young Henry of Navarre, later King Henry IV of France (Coligny pp). Although defeated at Moncontour, he was victor at Arnay-de-Duc, 1570, and negotiated the Treaty of Saint-Germain that same year (Coligny pp). Once reconciled with Catherine and King Charles IX in 1571, he became the king's favorite adviser, and proposed that to weaken Catholic Spain, France should aid the Low Countries, that were in rebellion against the Spanish rule (Coligny pp). Catherine, however, feared war with Spain, and also feared Coligny's influence on the king which threatened her own hold on the king (Coligny pp). Catherine and Henri de Guise ordered Coligny's assassination, and although he escaped, on August 24, 1572, he was murdered in the massacre of Huguenots instigated by Catherine (Coligny pp). During the Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre, Coligny was dragged from his bed, stabbed half to death, then thrown from his window, and while still alive, his head was cut-off and then sent to Rome as a present to the Pope by the Guises (Gaspard pp). The Catholic Priest, Le Labourer, once said of Gaspard of Coligny, "He is probably one of the greatest men ever to come out of France, and if I were to venture to say more, I would say that he was the most loyal to his country" (Gaspard pp).
Religion was not nor ever had been a personal preference during this period European culture, it was the very basis of society (Reformation pp). Although there were several factors that played a part in the Reformation, it was "the reordering of religion and the sundering of the social unity that it had once provided to European culture was the most significant development of the sixteenth century" (Reformation pp).