Louis XV., 1715-1774
Domestic Policy
Louis XIV., 1661-1715
the Economy

France under Louis XIV. : Domestic Policy

LOUIS XIV., born 1638, inherited the crown of France in 1643, while still in infancy. Early in his youth he had experienced the political influence of the mob (the FRONDE, 1648-1653) and of royal "advisors" and "ministers", many of whom had ruled France over the last decennia, the kings being reduced to mere figureheads. Louis XIV. was intent to change all that. In 1660 he took sole control of political power, had the current man in power, Superintendent of Finances, FOUQUET, arrested and jailed for good.
Louis XIV., the sun king, is quoted to have said L'ETAT, C'EST MOI. The translation is problematic, because l'etat translates to both the state and the estates. It is the estates Louis XIV. disempowered by refusing to call for them to assemble, thus ruling absolute, hence ABSOLUTISM.
Louis XIV. had the palace of VERSAILLES built, where he moved from Paris. Versailles was the largest palace Europe had seen so far. Here the king and his COURT, the creme of France's nobility, lived. Public life focussed on the person of the king, every part of his life, his rising, washing, being clothed, combed, every meal, was the focus of public attention. Yet Louis XIV found the time to regularly escape and to devote his time to politics.
Ruling absolute Louis XIV. had disempowered the nobility. By exempting them from taxes and keeping the better of them busy in court life, he kept them in good mood and distracted them from becoming politically ambitious.

In his administration, Louis XIV. attempted to keep every political area under his personal control. Louis ruled through secretaries, their offices becoming the nuclei of permanent branches of state administration.
COLBERT, superintendent of finances, was a genius. He is regarded the father of MERCANTILISM, a policy intended to lead the ailing economy not only to recover, but to extend under state protection. Colbert was successful beyond imagination.
Yet, Louis XIV.s policy was also costly beyond imagination. The construction of Versailles and similar palaces contributed to that, even more the STANDING ARMY Louis XIV. introduced. Hitherto, armies were dissolved right after a peace treaty was signed, and new armies assembled when a new war began. A standing army provided the advantage that a force permanently trained was on stand-by, ready to strike any time. The 30 years war had proven, that military power was more important than legitimate political claims.
Colbert, by improving France's revenue, had achieved considerable progress, his policy being imitated all over Europe. Yet Louis XIV. had spent even more than came in, he left behind a state whose finances were more than precarious.
In the national synod of 1682, the French church accepts BOSSUET's FOUR GALLICAN ARTICLES, which limit papal authority and define the authority of the princes; in fact it is the French (Gallican) church's acceptance of absolutism. Louis XIV., from the beginning of his reign, had taken action against the Huguenots, closed down churches, had protestants arrested or harrassed. After Colbert's death - Colbert was regarded a protector of the protestants - Louis openly turned against protestantism, claiming himself to be the protector of Catholicism. In the EDICT OF FONTAINEBLEAU in 1685 Louis XIV. revoked the EDICT OF NANTES, causing tens of thousands of HUGUENOTS to emigrate, among them many craftsmen and merchants, whose absence was felt in France's economy; it took years to fill that gap. Military expeditions into France's protestant regions, the so-called DRAGONNADES, forced the local population to either convert to Catholicism or emigrate. In the Cevennes region of southern France, Huguenots known as the CAMISARDS rebelled in 1702-1705.
In his long reign, Louis XIV. failed to educate a successor, to install lasting institutions.

Louis XIV. was widely admired, all kings and princes of Europe looked at him and his Versailles court as a model, imitated his palace and lifestyle. His state bureaucracy, the standing army, Colbert's mercantilist policy equally were adapted, although not without alteration.
Absolute government under Louis XIV. had achieved much for the Kingdom of France, but, by risking even more, lead to a relatively disappointing overall progress.

Biographies from chateauversailles
Camisards, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Biography of Louis XIV, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Biography of the Duc de Saint-Simon, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Biography of Madame de Maintenon, from Dr. Pavlac's Women's History Site
La Cour de Louis XIV, by J.B. Ayoub
La monarchie absolue et son declin : Le Grand Siecle et le Siecle des Lumieres, from BNF
Les Camisards, English version
Biography of Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, from Catholic Encyclopedia; here a French-language biography
DOCUMENTS The Duc de Saint Simon : the Court of Louis XIV., from the Medieval Sourcebook
Louis XIV, Letter to the Town Officers and People of Marseilles, (August 26, 1664), from Hanover Historical Texts Project
Accounts of Louis XIV., by Saint Simon and Mme de Savigne, from Hanover Historical Texts Project
Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, (October 22, 1685, also called Edict of Fontainebleau), from Hanover Historical Texts Project
two portraits of the sun king, from assumption.edu
Louis XIV et l'avenement de l'absolutisme, several French-language source texts posted by cliotexte, scroll down
Duc de Saint-Simon, Memoirs of Louis XIV and his court and of the regency, from Project Gutenberg, full text
The Duchess of Orleans : Versailles Etiquette, 1704, from the Modern History Sourcebook
Louis XIV, Pere de ces sujets (Memoir pour 1662), from GECH
Painting : Louis XIV., 1678, from BNF
Texts and documents on the Camisards, from Les Camisards, in French
Extracts from Bossuet's Work on Kingship, from Hanover College
Extracts from Bossuet's Politics Taken From the Very Words of Scripture, 1679, from CUNY
Image of bishop Bossuet, from CUNY
Jean Domat (1625-1696) : On Social Order and Absolute Monarchy (1697), from CUNY
Letter by Thomas Bureau on the Dragonnades, 1685, from HST 17789 - Religions et Societes en Europe Moderne, Prof. Claire Dolan, at Univ. Laval, in French
Medal : Massacre of Huguenots in the Cevennes, 1673, from Medal Web (Collection Benjamin Weiss)
French Medals, 17th Century, from Medal web, Collection Benjamin Weiss
REFERENCE Mark Bryant, Partner, Matriarch, and Minister : Mme de Maintenon of France, Clandestine Consort, 1680-1715, pp.77-106 in : Clarissa Campbell Orr, Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815. The Role of Consort, Cambridge : UP 2004, KMLA Lib.Sign. 940.09 076q

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on February 22nd 2006

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