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Initially no more than a deacon with much to atone for, Mazarin succeeded his mentor, Cardinal Richelieu, in 1642 as the chief minister of France. During his 18 years in this position, he amassed a vast fortune.
In his will in 1661, Mazarin left 2 million livres of his fortune to build the College of the Four Nations, in addition to an annuity to house 60 fellows selected from the "four nations", namely the regions of Piedmont, Alsace, Flanders and Artois. He also donated his library to the college.