Colbert began as the private asset manager of Cardinal Mazarin and became his right hand. With a virtuosity unprecedented for his time, he handled bills, dossiers and correspondence, making him the best-informed man in France – a fact he unscrupulously exploited on his way up.
He became Finance Minister in 1661 and within a few years he held an incredible wealth of power in his hands. He was “Minister” for Construction, Finance, Trade and Transport, the Navy, the Colonies, etc. Only Louis XIV stood above him and the army remained outside from his grip.
His economic policy, called mercantilism or Colbertism, is still valid today. The most important goal was to increase the wealth of the respective ruler.
In order to avoid expensive imports, he strengthened the production in France by the establishment of manufactories and the simultaneous settlement of foreign specialists. He also lowered export duties and reformed the tax system. In this way he ensured a surplus in the finances and made France the richest state of its time.
However, when Colbert dared to reproach the Sun King for spending too much on the court, he fell out of favour and lost all his posts.
His last words were supposedly related to Ludwig: “If I had done as much for God as for this man, I would have been saved tenfold”.