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Absolutism in France

Absolutism in France

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Absolutism in France

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  1. Absolutism in France

  2. Background Information • In 1559, King Henry II of France died • Had 4 sons • 3 of the 4 sons ruled, one after the other, but all were terrible kings • The real power behind the throne in this period was their mother, Catherine de Medici • Growing conflict between Catholics and French Protestants called Huguenots began to tear the country apart • Between 1562 and 1598, the Huguenots and Catholics fought in 8 religious wars, causing chaos to spread throughout France

  3. Henry of Navarre • In 1589 both Catherine and her last son died with no direct heir • Prince Henry of Navarre was married to Catherine and Henry II’s daughter • A Huguenot • Became Henry IV, the first king of the Bourbon dynasty of France • He was a fearless leader and a clever politician

  4. Henry of Navarre, cont’d. • Because Henry was a Protestant, the Catholics of France opposed Henry • For the sake of his war-torn country, Henry chose to give up Protestantism and convert to become a Catholic • He used his power to declare that Huguenots could live in France in peace, and even allowed them to set up their own places of worship in certain cities • This act of tolerance was called the Edict of Nantes

  5. Henry of Navarre, cont’d. • Henry relied heavily on advisors to help him rule France well and return it to prosperity • Restored the French monarchy to a position of strength from almost utter ruin • Most people of France welcomed the peace after so many generations of constant fighting (with the English, the Spanish, and decades of religious wars) • Some hated Henry for compromising on religion and allowing Protestantism to thrive in France • In 1610, a religious fanatic jumped into the royal carriage and stabbed Henry to death

  6. Louis XIII • Henry IV’s son Louis became King Louis XIII upon his father’s death • Louis was a weak king, partly because he was so young when he took the throne (he was 9 when his father was killed) • In 1624, he appointed a very strong Catholic cardinal to help him rule the country • Cardinal Richelieu • “The Three Musketeers”

  7. Louis XIII, cont’d. • Cardinal Richelieu became the ruler of France for all intents and purposes • Richelieu had begun his career as a priest and cardinal with very strong moral convictions, but he also was very ambitious – very rarely to morality and political ambition go well together • He enjoyed the power of an absolute monarch

  8. Louis XIII, cont’d. • Richelieu took 2 steps to increase the power of the Bourbon monarchy (and by extension, his own power) • He moved to weaken the Huguenots: he believed that the Protestants were constantly working to overthrow their Catholic king. He did not take away the Huguenots right to worship, but he did forbid their cities from having walls. • He worked to weaken the power of the nobles by ordering them to take down their fortified castles. He also increased the power of government agents who came from the middle class, who often resented the power of the nobles. They naturally wanted to limit the power of the nobles, so they were the perfect agents of a government who wanted to decrease the nobles’ power.

  9. Louis XIII, cont’d. • The French also wanted to limit the power of the Habsburg empire • Both had claims to land in Spain and the Holy Roman Empire • France consistently stepped in as an ally to any and all countries who were fighting against the Habsburgs to lessen the family’s control of Europe

  10. Louis XIV, The Sun King • Louis XIV ascended to the throne at the age of 4 when his father died in 1643 • He became the most powerful ruler of all of Europe during this period • “L’etatc’estmoi:” I am the state

  11. Louis XIV, cont’d. • Because he was only 4 when he became king, Louis XIV relied on another powerful cardinal to rule for him: Cardinal Mazarin • Mazarin was not popular with the people of France, particularly the nobles, because he raised taxes and increased the power of the central government • From 1648 – 1653, violent anti-Mazarin riots tore France apart • The nobles went so far as to threaten the life of the king • Louis never forgot his fear or anger at the nobility because of the riots and he swore they would never have the power to threaten him again

  12. Louis XIV, cont’d. • The nobles’ rebellions failed for 3 reasons: • The nobles distrusted each other more than they distrusted Mazarin – they were all suspicious of one another and refused to work together • The government used its power to repress the uprisings through brute force • Peasants and townspeople grew tired of disorder and fighting • As a result of the uprisings, the people of France were forced to accept the oppressive laws that Louis and his advisors enacted

  13. Louis XIV, cont’d. • In 1661 Cardinal Mazarin died and Louis, now 22 years old, took control of the government himself • His first step was to weaken the power of the nobles by excluding them from his government councils • He increased the power of his appointed government agents called intendants • Intendants collected taxes and administered justice in the towns in the name of the king • To maintain absolute control, Louis required regular communication with the intendants, ending any kind of autonomy for the towns

  14. Louis XIV, cont’d. • Louis wanted to make sure that France could be the strongest economy in all of Europe • His minister of finance was crucial to this goal: Jean Baptiste Colbert • Colbert believed in the theory of mercantilism • An economic policy under which nations try to increase their wealthy and power by obtaining large amounts of gold and silver, and by selling more goods than are imported • Makes a country more self-sufficient

  15. Louis XIV, cont’d. • In order to expand manufacturing, Colbert gave government funds and tax benefits to French companies • He placed a high tariff on goods from other countries • A tax that must be paid on imported goods • Colbert recognized the importance of colonies • Provided raw materials • Market for manufactured goods • The French government encouraged people to migrate to France’s colony in Canada, where the fur trade added to French trade and wealth

  16. Louis XIV, cont’d. • One of Louis’s decisions backfired and slowed the economy of France • In 1685, Louis canceled the Edict of Nantes • Thousands of Huguenots fled France • Robbed France of many skilled workers and consumers

  17. Louis XIV, cont’d. • Louis surrounded himself with the finest luxuries • Every morning, the chief valet woke Louis at 8:30. Outside the curtains of Louis’s canopy bed stood at least 100 of the most privileged nobles at court. They were waiting to help the king dress. Only 4 would be allowed the honor of handing Louis his slippers or holding his sleeves for him. • Outside the bedchamber, lesser nobles waited in the palace halls and hoped that Louis noticed them. A kingly nod, a glance of approval a kind word – these marks of royal attention determined whether a noble succeeded or failed.

  18. Louis XIV, cont’d. • This sounds silly, but it had a purpose besides showing off his wealth • Having the nobles at court increased royal authority in 2 ways: • It took them from their homes, giving more power to the intendants • It made the nobility totally dependent on Louis

  19. Louis XIV, cont’d. Louis held his court at his grand palace, just outside of Paris, called Versailles

  20. Louis XIV, cont’d. • Versailles was a center of the arts during Louis’s reign • He was a patron of all kinds of art • Painting • Sculpture • Opera • Plays • Literature • The purpose of art was no longer to glorify God (Medieval period) or human potential (Renaissance), now the goal was to glorify the king and promote values that supported Louis’s rule

  21. Louis XIV, cont’d. Under Louis, France was the most powerful country in Europe In 1660, France had about 20 million people, which was 4 times as many people as England The French army was also more advanced than others in size, training, and weaponry

  22. Louis XIV, cont’d. • Louis was constantly looking to expand France’s boundaries • Waged wars with many of his small neighbors • Spanish Netherlands • Dutch Netherlands • As a result of his constant warfare, a Europe-wide alliance had formed to stop France • Smaller countries banded together to match France’s strength • At the same time, France experienced a series of poor harvests, which meant the French people were going hungry • The poor harvests combined with the constantly rising taxes in order to pay for France’s wars spelled disaster for the average French citizen

  23. Louis XIV, cont’d. • At this point, France was engaged in the War of Spanish Succession • A costly war that dragged on for nearly 15 years • The French did not win, and the people had paid for another losing war in taxes, lives, and patience • Louis spent the last years of his life more sad than glorious • He realized his wars had ruined France • He regretted the suffering he had brought to his people • When he died in 1715 the people of France rejoiced

  24. Louis XIV, cont’d. • Louis left a mixed legacy • Definitely a strong power in Europe • Ranked above all other European nations in art, literature, and state building • The military leader of western Europe • Developed a strong empire of colonies throughout the world, which provided perfect opportunities for trade and brought in much needed resources • But . . .

  25. Louis XIV, cont’d. • France’s constant warfare and the construction of Versailles put the country in severe debt • The citizens resented the tax burdens they were forced to bear • The citizens believed that Louis had abused his power and that his heirs would continue his abuses (which they did . . .)