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Chocolate and The Rebirth of Conquest

“This great pride that appears in all of their writings and among their familiar discourses; will lose itself in the sweetness & in the delicateness of our language, that they are constrained to receive with our Empire.” [Ce grand orgueil que paroist dans tous leurs escrits & parmy leurs discours familiers; va se perdre dans la douceur & dans la delicatesse de nostre langue, qu’ils sont contraints de recevoir avec nostre Empire.] –René Moreau

As the first book about chocolate published in France until 1671 (the publication date of Philippe Dufour’s first treatise), Moreau’s Of chocolate: a curious discourse divided into four parts gives us a look into the early use of chocolate in French culture and more importantly, the goals of the French Monarchy. Although he was the physician to King Louis XIII and later XIV, Moreau’s prefaces read less as an introduction to a scientific treatise and more as an introduction to a book of military strategy.

While the body of the book, including the introduction and four sections of Colmenero’s work, as well as a rare translation of Bartholomé Marradón’s 1618 “Dialogue” (Interlocutores)* open a conversation about the medical uses of chocolate and the preparation thereof, the medical use of the substance only appears in the epistle in an allusion to the Grand Cardinal's work among the sick in the city of Lyon. The rest of Moreau’s words that open his treatise on chocolate are directed to extending the political arm of the French monarchy into Spain and praising the Richelieu brothers--the aforementioned Grand Cardinal of Lyon and the Eminent Cardinal of Luçon--for their work as high ranking Catholic leaders and servants of the King.

In fact, Moreau dedicates his translation to his Grand Eminence, the Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu; that is, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu, otherwise known simply the Cardinal de Richelieu. Moreau invokes Richelieu's lesser-known brother Alphonse-Louis du Plessis, the the Grand Cardinal of Lyon, because his questions about chocolate prompted the writing of the volume. These two brothers both had great influence in the 17th-century, but early in his career as priest and advisor to Louis XIII, Armand-Jean would become known as the “red eminence,” advocating the destruction of domestic factions to create a centralized form of government later known as absolute monarchy. Alphonse-Louis, for his part, was renowned for his humility, his attention to the sick and poor, and for his excessive consumption of chocolate, which some said was his only vice. While Alphonse-Louis originally asked for information concerning chocolate, most of Moreau’s epistle focuses on his brother’s specialty—political power—and not on the curative properties of chocolate.

Moreau’s dedication to these well-established brothers and his own appointment as professor of medicine to the king in Paris gives him the credibility to write upon subjects ranging from medicine to foreign conquest. Furthermore, he roots his research by invoking those who have seen the substance being prepared in the Indies, namely Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma (see 6/12 blog post). This being said, Moreau’s epistle relates to Colmenero’s research and refutation of Turices’ writings on the medicinal uses of chocolate solely by praising Alphonse-Louis for his work among the sick and contagious people of the plague.

In a twist of fate, Moreau dates his epistle to October of 1642 and Armand-Jean, the Red Eminence, died in December of the same year. The final publication was released in 1643, the first year of the reign of Louis XIV. It is safe then to assume that Armand-Jean never saw the purpose to which Moreau believed the translation could be put. But Alphonse-Louis lived until 1653 and perhaps had chocolate to thank for his longevity. In fact, during his long appointment as Cardinal of Lyon, he ministered in person to those afflicted with the plague of 1638--perhaps with chocolate?--and officiated over Louis XIII’s funeral in 1643. Both brothers’ service, the one in government orchestration and the other ministering to the sick, placed them in good standing with the royal family. Moreau's book good not have had more illustrious dedicatees if it had been the king himself.

As Moreau was a professor of medicine and the king’s doctor, he held great respect for the soldiers of France and believed that just as “the arms of our soldiers for the establishment and for the aggrandizement of our monarchy,” his translation would help France defeat the uprisings of the Castilian people and increase the power of the monarchy. Moreau believed that an effective way to give the French monarchy power over the Spanish was through appropriating their knowledge through translation. For his purposes, Moreau targets the chocolatical knowledge of the Spanish doctors Ledesma and Marradón. The power of translation partially resides in the fact that the only accessible copy of Marradón’s writings is the French translation by Moreau. We trust Moreau to have translated with integrity, but he could have fabricated the whole discourse, giving him complete power over the words and our perception of Marradón. (To Be Continued...)

* The “Interlocutores” appears at the end of the volume Dialogo del vso del tabaco (Seville, 1618). A copy of this text in Spanish is said to belong to the Museo Galileo, but its inaccessibility make Moreau’s translation the scholarly source of Marradón’s wisdom.

Works Cited

Moreau, René. Of chocolate: a curious discourse divided into four parts. [Du chocolate: discours curieux divise en quatre parties. Par Antoine Colmenero de Ledesma medecin & chirurgien de la ville de Ecija de l’Andalouzie. Traduit d’espagnol en françois sur l’impression faite a madrid l’an 1631. & esclaircy de quelques annotations. Par René Moreau…Plus est adjouste un dialogue touchante le mesme chocolate] Paris: Chez Sebastien Cramoisy, imprimeur ordinaire du Roy, 1643.

Marradón, Bartholomé. Dialogo del vso del tabaco, los daños y provechos que el tiempo y experiencia en descubietto de sus efectos, y del chocolate y otras bevidas que en estos tiempos se vsan: interlocutores vn medico con vn indiano y vn ciudadano / compuesto por Bartolome Marradon. Seville: Gabriele Ramos Vejarano, 1618.

O'Connell, Daniel Patrick. "Armand-Jean Du Plessis, Cardinal Et Duc De Richelieu." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

"Diversité Des Marques D’imprimeurs: L’exemple Des Cramoisy." BiblioMab: Le Monde Autour Des Livres Anciens Et Des Bibliothèques. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.

"Richelieu, Alphonse-louis Du Plessis De from the McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia." McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia Online. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

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