French revolutionabsolutism Essay

This essay has a total of 2944 words and 20 pages.


French revolutionabsolutism





French Absolutism and The French Revolution

During the period between 1589 through 1783, the French Monarchy had risen to

its height of absolute power and then was destroyed by the French Revolution. The reigns

of Henry IV, Louis XIII, Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI each contributed to the

strengthening of the French Monarchy as well as the destruction. Class struggles were a

major problem throughout the reigns of each king. France was broken into three estates

that were; the clergy, the nobility, and the common people. They were each striving for

more power. The enlightenment had also caused problems. Before the enlightenment

people had accepted things as they were, but by the end of the enlightenment people

decided to change their forms of government. The idea that life would be better if things

would change became reality. This was a threat to the power of the king. The different

policies of the kings also affected the rise and fall of the French Monarchy.

The combination of class struggles, the enlightenment, and different policies of the kings

were major contributing factors in the rise and fall of the French Monarchy.

The first of the kings to deal with these problems was King Henry IV, who was an

honorble ruler. Henry IV was king of France between 1589 and 1610. He was supported

by Spain and the pope, however, the league refused to accept a Protestant king of France

and many Catholic nobles deserted the royal army. Henry won many victories over the

league and in 1593 he defeated his enemies and announced that he was converting to

Catholicism, but he did not forget his Protestant roots. In 1598, he issue the Edict of

Nantes, which gave partial religious freedom to the Huguenots. This sowed the seeds for

religious toleration in France. His leading minister, Maximilien de Sully, reorganized the

finances and promoted the economic healing of France after years of civil war. Things

such as agriculture, manufacturing, and commerce were encouraged. Taxes on the

peasants were reduced, and taxes on the other groups were raised. He wiped out nobles

that were advising him and made a small cabinet, ensuring an absolute ruler. Sully

replaced royal officers, for those managed by local representative bodies. Henry's

religious principle and political advantage gave him a special place in French history.

Under his rule the king became more powerful. He assured that the position of the king

would be absolute. He cut off the ties with nobles and others that were a threat to the

king. He restored order and prosperity to the kingdom. The economy improved as well.

He supported overseas trade and built a highway system in France to promote commerce.

By evenly distributing the tax burden of the peasants he successfully lessened the class

conflict. According to him if the lower classes aren't happy then the upper classes will be

more unhappy. The religious conflict of Catholics and Protestants was stopped with the

issueing of the Edict of Nantes. Henry IV was a great ruler and did many honorable

things for France.

Louis XIII, the son of Henry IV, ruled France from 1610 to 1643. During this

period France became a strong power in Europe. He became ruler of France at the age of

four, and his mother served as regent during his minority years, however, she was weak

and selfish. The first years of his rule were filled with anarchy and disorder. Louis XIII

could not trust anyone. He was constantly on the look out for courtiers and nobles.

Throughout the kingdom it was rumored that he was an imbosol, although he was a smart

guy, yet he helped these rumors spread. When Cardinal Richileiu came into power, from

1624-1642, he made France the strongest power in Europe. He promised the king,"...to

employ all my efforts and all the authority which it might please you to give me, to ruin

the Huguenot party, to lay low the pride of the nobility, and to raise your renown amoung

foreign nations to the point at which it ought to be," Richilieu succeeded in doing this. In

1627, Richilieu destroyed the fortresses of the Huguenots. He also built a barrier to

deprive them of the sea. The Huguenots, in turn, were reduced from a powerful political

party to a religious body. Richilieu leveled the castles of the nobles. Many individuals

were executed for conspiring against the king. Districts were created in France and the

middle class was put in charge of these districts. They were called intendants. The jobs

of the intendants was to collect taxes, raise armies, and spy on the nobles. He tried to

collect money from the nobles, but failed so he squeezed the money from the peasants,

who were already tax-burdened. He starts to wage war on neighboring countries,

especially the German Hapsburgs. Louis's rule had occassional religious differences

between the Catholics and Huguenots, and many conspiracies against Richilieu. During

his rule reign unity and religious peace were secured and France was raised to the first

power in Europe.

Louis XIV was ruler of France from 1643 to 1715. He was known as the Sun

King. Louis imposed absolute rule on France and fought a lot of wars trying to dominate

Europe. His reign was the longest in European history and was marked by flourishing

French culture. He said,"The State is I," meaning that whatever he said, France was to

do. Cardinal Jules Mazarin ruled as regent for Louis until he reached his legal age. Louis

was given a weak education and was taught about court ceremonies, war, and kingship.

His early life was very scary. He had been kidnapped many times, and everyone was

trying to influence him. When Louis grew older he remembered these things and found it

crirical to bring stability and reform to France. He also got a deep suspicion of the

nobility. When Cardinal Mazarin died in 1661, Louis shocked France by not naming

another first minister. He decided to rule alone with Jean Colbert as his financial advisor.

Colbert encouraged industry and foriegn exports and rebuilt the French navy. After all

that had happened to Louis during his childhood he proved to be a hardworking king.

Louis had an idea to build a palace at Versailles, which became the showplace of Europe.

He spent millions to turn it into a marvelous building filled with gold and emeralds. It

was meant to awe people, so that when people went there they would be intimidated by

him. It was the social place to be in Europe and other countries wanted to go there as

well. The nobles were now trying to win the favor of the king. They had to spend time

every year at Versailles. The extravagance of the court meant a heavy burden of tax for

the common, who were reduced to a misery so great that they eventually rose up in

rebellion.This helps ideas of enlightenment, which came into full effect under Louis XVI.

To crush power, Louis XIV had the Parlement de Paris made up of judges. They

registered kings edicts and had them written down. Louis had a passion for fame and

a desire to increase French territory. He ignored the oppurtunities to gain an empire in

America and got France into wars that ruined the country financially and paved the way

for the outbreak of the French Revolution. The first wars he had France fight in brought

some land, but in the end other European countries were becoming allies against him.

People began to feel that life would be better if things would change. Louis wanted to

prevent any recovery of the Hapsburg dynasty's power. While battling, Louis had been

denying religious liberty to the Huguenots and tightening control over his Catholic clergy.

He was determined to force the Huguenots to convert, so he revoked the Edict of Nantes.

Protestantism became illegal again. This had a negative effect on France. religious

persecution and violence rose again. Many Huguenots fled. Louis had his own economic

policies, which he hoped would make France self-sufficient. He made many internal

improvements so that they didn't need to rely on England. He had canal constructions,

built roads, and expanded trade overseas. He also made a merchant fleet. Aside from

economical policies he also modernized the army, and it became the most powerful army.

At his death in 1715, France had many problems. France was in debt, they had new

enemies, there were lots of casualities, and they gained no new land. There was

controvery over who would be king. Louis had a lot of illegitimate children. The

Parlement de Paris nullified Louis XV as king.

Louis XV, who was king from 1715 to 1774, whose failure to give strong

leadership and badly needed reforms contributed to the crisis that brought on the

French Revolution. Duke of Orleans was regent until Louis was old enough to rule.

The Duke tried to restore power to the nobles. He strengthened the Parlement de

Paris by replacing middle classmen with nobles, althought the middle classmen that had

jobs in the Parlement were more like nobles because they had money and their sons

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