The Winners and Losers of the Seventeenth Century France
During Louis XIV 72 year reign, France became a dominant power in Europe. Many countries envied France’s success in industry and agriculture. Louis chose Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683) to administer the government of France. He helped in reviving trade and economy of France. “Colbert’s fiscal reforms were so successful that in less that six years a debt of 22 million French pounds had become a surplus of 29 million. Colbert achieved that astonishing feat not by raising taxes but by increasing the efficiency of their collection” (Kishlansky, pg 508). Colbert organized factories and systems of productions, trading companies and colonies, which were known as mercantilism. The main idea of this was to build up the nation’s supply of gold by exporting goods to other lands and by earning goods in return.
With all this power, Louis XIV wanted to strengthen France by controlling its economy as well. He believed that there should only be no more then one religion and that religious unity was essential for absolute control. Therefore in 1685, Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes, which meant limiting toleration to Huguenots. He destroyed Huguenot schools and churches and took away their civil rights. Many of these Huguenot were exiled from France, which led these people to settle in Holland, England and America. Louis XIV had a strong desire to increase his kingdom that he also took control of the military actions of the state. By doing so, the French armies were able to gain some territory in Germany and the surrounding areas.
By establishing absolute control over every aspect of the government, Louis epitomized the “absolute monarchy”. As king, he controlled the economics, religion, foreign and domestic policies and military exploits of France. Louis did take that statement “I am the state” into great termination. He definitely ran the state and acted as if the state was there to serve him, he lived an extravagant life. He built a magnificent palace at Versailles, which was surrounded by great art and beautiful landscaping. “His residence at Versailles was the most glittering court of Europe, renowned for its beauty and splendor. It was built on a scale never seen before, and Louis took personal interest in making sure it was fit for a king” (Kishlansky, pg.508).
Louis XIV, France’s Sun King, had the longest reign in European history (1643-1715). During this time he brought absolute monarchy to its full potential, established a glittering court at Versailles and fought most of the European countries in four wars which were the First Dutch War (1667-1668), the Second Dutch War (1672-1678), the War of the League of Augsburg (1681-1697) and the Fourth War- War of the Spanish Succession. Although his reign had some negative aspects on balance, Louis’ reign was primary a benefit to France. I believed that he was truly a great and powerful king because he always insisted on his beliefs as being a god given ruler.
Cardinal Richelieu was another winner in the Seventeenth century in France. Richelieu was Louis XIII chief minister. Richelieu’s goal was to establish the supremacy of the king and French domination of the European continent. He achieved these objectives by destroying fortified castles of the French nobles, which had long been a symbol of their independence. Richelieu defeated the Huguenots and took away many of the military and political privileges granted them by Edict of Nantes. “They were allowed to maintain their religion, but not their special status. They would have no privileges other than to be subjects of the king of France. Richelieu’s program was a vital prelude to the development of absolute monarchy in France (Kishlansky, pg.507).” Richelieu involved France in Thirty Years War, supporting the Protestants in order to weaken the domination of the Spanish Habsburgs and establish French control on the continent. “Richelieu provided his sovereign a rationale for the harsh rule he knew to be requisite with strengthening and maintaining the authority of the French State.” (http://www.lucidcafe.com/library/95sep/richelieu.html)
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