Father Joseph, the confidential friend of Cardinal Richelieu, whose real name was Francois Leclerc du Tremblay, born in Paris, Nov. 4, 1577, died at Rueil, Dec. 18, 1638. He was the son of an eminent functionary, and his mother belonged to the Lafayette family. In his youth he saw much of society of different countries, and also something of warfare, having served in the army under an assumed name. Entering the priesthood, he attained great eminence in the order of Capuchin friars. His tact, intelligence, and activity attracted the attention of Richelieu, who employed him as his secretary and as his agent in many diplomatic negotiations. The immense work of the cardinal was performed by Father Joseph, who became indispensable to him, and was intimately associated with the most confidential and important transactions of the period. To an enthusiastic religious zeal, which caused him to send missionaries to England, Canada, and the East, and to advocate a crusade against the Turks, he added a consummate shrewdness and a wonderful capacity for incessant labor. Richelieu used to say that no statesman in Europe could grapple with the astute Capuchin friar, and deplored his death as a great calamity.
The king prevailed upon the pope to make Joseph cardinal, but the latter died before the dignity was tendered to him. Owing to his immense influence over the cardinal and in public affairs, he was treated with great regard, though his cat-like and mysterious manner and his occasional outbursts of rudeness and wrath were repulsive. He is the reputed author of a Latin poem in favor of a crusade against the Turks, and of other writings, the most remarkable being manuscript memoirs in 4 vols, (in the national library in Paris), purporting to be a history of Louis XIII. in 1634-'6, but narrating events down to near the end of 1638; it gives authentic documents of several treaties, and interesting information about Wallenstein (in whose removal from command in 1629 Father Joseph was instrumental at Vienna), about the project of making a free state out of the Netherlands, and in respect to other schemes and incidents. Ranke submitted in 1860 a report on these memoirs to the French academy of moral and political sciences.
Gerome has painted a celebrated picture of Father Joseph, called L'Eminence grise.