Power and the Cardinal

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Cardinal de Richlieu  (Source:the author)

Cardinal de Richlieu (Source:the author)

This eye-popping rose is called Cardinal de Richlieu, released in 1847. I’ve chosen this rose as an entree to think about power, because it’s namesake was one of the most powerful man in the whole of French history.

He was born 1585, to a minor aristocratic family, and died in 1642. In between became what we would now call the prime minister and was second only to the king in terms of power. He received both military and theological training as part of his education, and was ordained a bishop at twenty one.

It was through the patronage of Marie de Medici that he secured his entrée into the echelons of power. He was reknown for his ruthless crushing of rebellions, for example the death of 20 000 Hugenots, and for his intense ambition. By many accounts he was someone that you loved or hated.

It is hard to match such a beautiful flower to such a man. The loveliness of it slatey purple petals is in many ways unsurpassed. He is a perfect example of what Starhawk called ‘Power over’ in an early book called Dreaming the Dark. He was characteristic of his times, which did not value independence, free thinking, or creativity.

Few of us will ever wield a fraction of the power Cartnal had. Most of us find ourselves enmeshed in systems of power that Are not of our own making. Rules and regulations govern nearly every aspect of our lives. Some of them are good, there to protect us, such as food safety standards. Others are needlessly draconian, such as the power of the ACT government to cancel my driving license if I forget to pay a parking fine.

We really only have complete power over one thing. Our minds. I baulk at this. I baulk like an angry toddler. But I suspect that it’s true. However difficult or seemingly impossible it feels to me, what I think is the only power that I really have.

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