Absolutism: A case study in France


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Absolutism: A case study in France

  1. 1. Absolutism Case Study: France
  2. 2. Absolutism • Sovereign power and ultimate authority rest in the hands of the monarch who claims divine right
  3. 3. Divine-Right Monarchy • Idea established by Bishop Jacques Benin Bossuet (1627-1704) • Politics Drawn from the Words of the Scripture • Government divinely ordained so people can live with order • God establishes kings and through them rules over people • Since kings get power from God, they are only responsible to Him
  4. 4. Bishop Jacques Benin Bossuet God established kings as his ministers
  5. 5. Jean Domat (1625-1696): On Social Order and Absolute Monarchy • It is a further consequence of these principles that, since all people do not do their duty and some, on the contrary, commit injustices, for the sake of keeping order in society, injustices and all enterprises against this order must be repressed: which was possible only through authority given to some over others, and which made government necessary. • This necessity of government over people equal by their nature, distinguished from each other only by the differences that God established among them according to their stations and professions, makes it clear that government arises from His will; and because only He is the natural sovereign of men, it is from Him that all those who govern derive their power and all their authority, and it is God Himself Whom
  6. 6. Foundations of French Absolutism • Attempt by royal ministers to keep France from falling into anarchy while it is ruled by boy kings • See Fronde Rebellion in your textbook!
  7. 7. France under Louis XIII (1610-1643) • Ruled by Cardinal Richelieu as minister (16241642) – Strengthened monarchy – Eliminated political and military rights gained by Huguenots under Henry IV, but allowed them to maintain religious rights – Excluded provincial nobles who insisted their land should be independent from central government – Created a network of spies and crushed conspiracy – Increase taille in failed attempt to reform the economy – Incurred huge debt during the Thirty Years War
  8. 8. Louis XIV, the Sun King, inherits throne at four years old • Mother Anne of Austria appointed regent • She appoints Cardinal Mazarin Chief Minister – Puts down rebellion by the Fronde further centralizing royal authority
  9. 9. • At 23, Louis rules as king in his own right – Established a conscientious routine and almost never deviated from it – Built Palace of Versailles to show his glory and nobility – Created a lavish court at Versailles, competition between nobles for his affections – Relied on professional bureaucrats and ministers instead of nobility – Worked to eliminate regional courts and laws – Gained control over local politics through bribery if necessary
  10. 10. “One king, one law, one faith” • October 1685, issues Edict of Fontainbleau which revoked the Edict of Nantes and closed protestant churches and schools • Many French Huguenots sought asylum in Germany  greater economic trouble
  11. 11. Edict of Fontainbleau, 1685 • God having at last permitted that our people should enjoy perfect peace, we, no longer absorbed in protecting them from our enemies, are able to profit by this truce (which we have ourselves facilitated), and devote our whole attention to the means of accomplishing the designs of our said grandfather and father, which we have consistently kept before us since our succession to the crown. • And now we perceive, with thankful acknowledgment of God's aid, that our endeavors have attained their proposed end, inasmuch as the better and the greater part of our subjects of the said R.P.R. have embraced the Catholic faith. And since by this fact the execution of the Edict of Nantes and of all that has ever been ordained in favor of the said R.P.R. has been rendered nugatory, we have determined that we can do nothing better, in order wholly to obliterate the memory of the troubles, the confusion, and the evils which the progress of this false religion has caused in this kingdom, and which furnished occasion for the said edict and for so many previous and subsequent edicts and declarations, than entirely to revoke the said Edict of Nantes, with the special articles granted as a sequel to it, as well as all that has since been done in favor of the said religion.
  12. 12. • Under Chief Finance Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert, attempted to strengthen economy through strict adherence to mercantilism – Worked to improve the quality of French goods – Established new luxury industries – Increased tariffs on imported goods – Built roads and canals – Rather than strengthen the economy, most of the money collected by Colbert was used to finance Louis’s many wars
  13. 13. Wars of Louis XIV • Spent 2/3 if his reign engaged in foreign war to increase French lands and power, – Most famous = War of Spanish succession, planned to put his grandson Philip on Spanish throne following the death of Charles II – Treaty of Utrecht 1713 of Rasatt in 1714 made Philip of Bourbon Philip V of Spain, but eliminated his right to the French throne for him and his successors
  14. 14. Life at Versailles • Versailles served many practical purposes – Home to Princes of the Blood – Residence for the king and his ministers – Kept nobility engaged in myriad activities so they couldn’t plot against him – Full of daily ceremony to inspire awe and keep people busy
  15. 15. Paris and Versailles (France)
  16. 16. Duc de Saint-Simon • He availed himself of the frequent festivities at Versailles, and his excursions to other places, as a means of making the courtiers assiduous in their attendance and anxious to please him; for he nominated beforehand those who were to take part in them, and could thus gratify some and inflict a snub on others. He was conscious that the substantial favours he had to bestow were not nearly sufficient to produce a continual effect; he had therefore to invent imaginary ones, and no one was so clever in devising petty distinctions and preferences which aroused jealousy and emulation… It was another distinction to hold his candlestick at his coucher; as soon as he had finished his prayers he used to name the courtier to whom it was to be handed, always choosing one of the highest rank among those present....
  17. 17. • Not only did he expect all persons of distinction to be in continual attendance at Court, but he was quick to notice the absence of those of inferior degree; at his lever, his coucher, his meals, in the gardens of Versailles (the only place where the courtiers in general were allowed to follow him), he used to cast his eyes to right and left; nothing escaped him, he saw everybody. If any one habitually living at Court absented himself he insisted on knowing the reason; those who came there only for flying visits had also to give a satisfactory explanation; any one who seldom or never appeared there was certain to incur his displeasure. If asked to bestow a favour on such persons he would reply haughtily: "I do not know him"; of such as rarely presented themselves he would say, "He is a man I never see"; and from these judgements there was no appeal.
  18. 18. • He loved splendour, magnificence, and profusion in all things, and encouraged similar tastes in his Court; to spend money freely on equipages and buildings, on feasting and at cards, was a sure way to gain his favour, perhaps to obtain the honour of a word from him. Motives of policy had something to do with this; by making expensive habits the fashion, and, for people in a certain position, a necessity, he compelled his courtiers to live beyond their income, and gradually reduced them to depend on his bounty for the means of subsistence. This was a plague which, once introduced, became a scourge to the whole country, for it did not take long to spread to Paris, and thence to the armies and the provinces; so that a man of any position is now estimated entirely according to his expenditure on his table and other luxuries. This folly, sustained by pride and ostentation, has already produced widespread confusion; it threatens to end in nothing short of ruin and a general overthrow.
  19. 19. • With an almanac and a watch, you could be three hundred leagues from here and say what he was doing". The King's day was timed down to the last minute so that the officers in the service of the monarch could plan their work as accurately as possible. From the rising ceremony to the retiring, he followed a strict schedule, as did all the members of the Court, all regulated like clockwork. • http://m.en.chateauversailles.fr/history/versaillesduring-the-centuries/living-at-the-court/a-day-inthe-life-of-louis-xiv
  20. 20. Finally… • Did not meet with the Estates General ever during his 72 year reign
  21. 21. Questions 1. What steps were taken by the French monarchs and/or their regents to centralize royal authority? 2. How did Louis XIV’s highly ritualized life support order and increase his power? 3. Cerate a Venn diagram comparing the government systems of France and England prior to 1750.