One part history, one part legend, and one part Alexandre Dumas:"" such is the reputation of Richelieu that the author seeks to correct in this fully-researched biography, an appropriate successor to his Helmet of Navarre (1965), the story of Henry IV. Against the background of seventeenth century France, Richelieu appears as a man of his time, successful because his ambition and cunning were applied to advancing the ""right idea,"" the idea of absolute kingship. Mr. Wilkinson makes no apology for Richelieu as a churchman, noting that ""being a high-ranking cleric was...simply another road to the center of power;"" he does seem to justify some of the Cardinal's bloodier deeds by citing instances of his beneficence. On the whole, however, this is a balanced treatment which frequently uses Richelieu's own words to reveal his character. It's skillfully organized and briskly written, and conveys a clear understanding of complex events and characters. (The many-faceted portrait of Louis XIII is outstanding.) Children who need to know will find what they need, and children who want to know will want to know even more.