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The Reign of Louis XIV MAIN IDEA
WHY IT MATTERS NOW
POWER AND AUTHORITY After a century of war and riots, France was ruled by Louis XIV, the most powerful monarch of his time.
Louis’s abuse of power led to revolution that would inspire the call for democratic government throughout the world.
TERMS & NAMES • Edict of Nantes • Cardinal Richelieu • skepticism • Louis XIV
• intendant • Jean Baptiste Colbert • War of the Spanish Succession
SETTING THE STAGE In 1559, King Henry II of France died, leaving four
young sons. Three of them ruled, one after the other, but all proved incompetent. The real power behind the throne during this period was their mother, Catherine de Médicis. Catherine tried to preserve royal authority, but growing conflicts between Catholics and Huguenots—French Protestants—rocked the country. Between 1562 and 1598, Huguenots and Catholics fought eight religious wars. Chaos spread through France. TAKING NOTES Following Chronological Order Use a time line to list the major events of Louis XIV’s reign. 1643
Religious Wars and Power Struggles In 1572, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in Paris sparked a six-week, nationwide slaughter of Huguenots. The massacre occurred when many Huguenot nobles were in Paris. They were attending the marriage of Catherine’s daughter to a Huguenot prince, Henry of Navarre. Most of these nobles died, but Henry survived. Henry of Navarre Descended from the popular medieval king Louis IX, Henry
was robust, athletic, and handsome. In 1589, when both Catherine and her last son died, Prince Henry inherited the throne. He became Henry IV, the first king of the Bourbon dynasty in France. As king, he showed himself to be decisive, fearless in battle, and a clever politician. Many Catholics, including the people of Paris, opposed Henry. For the sake of his war-weary country, Henry chose to give up Protestantism and become a Catholic. Explaining his conversion, Henry reportedly declared, “Paris is well worth a mass.” In 1598, Henry took another step toward healing France’s wounds. He declared that the Huguenots could live in peace in France and set up their own houses of worship in some cities. This declaration of religious toleration was called the Edict of Nantes. Aided by an adviser who enacted wise financial policies, Henry devoted his reign to rebuilding France and its prosperity. He restored the French monarchy to a strong position. After a generation of war, most French people welcomed peace. Some people, however, hated Henry for his religious compromises. In 1610, a fanatic leaped into the royal carriage and stabbed Henry to death.
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Making Inferences How did Richelieu’s actions toward Huguenots and the nobility strengthen the monarchy?
Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu After Henry IV’s death, his son Louis XIII reigned. Louis was a weak king, but in 1624, he appointed a strong minister who made up for all of Louis’s weaknesses. Cardinal Richelieu (RIHSH•uh•LOO) became, in effect, the ruler of France. For several years, he had been a hard-working leader of the Catholic church in France. Although he tried sincerely to lead according to moral principles, he was also ambitious and enjoyed exercising authority. As Louis XIII’s minister, he was able to pursue his ambitions in the political arena. Richelieu took two steps to increase the power of the Bourbon monarchy. First, he moved against Huguenots. He believed that Protestantism often served as an excuse for political conspiracies against the Catholic king. Although Richelieu did not take away the Huguenots’ right to worship, he forbade Protestant cities to have walls. He did not want them to be able to defy the king and then withdraw behind strong defenses. Second, he sought to weaken the nobles’ power. Richelieu ordered nobles to take down their fortified castles. He increased the power of government agents who came from the middle class. The king relied on these agents, so there was less need to use noble officials. Richelieu also wanted to make France the strongest state in Europe. The greatest obstacle to this, he believed, was the Hapsburg rulers, whose lands surrounded France. The Hapsburgs ruled Spain, Austria, the Netherlands, and parts of the Holy Roman Empire. To limit Hapsburg power, Richelieu involved France in the Thirty Years’ War.
Writers Turn Toward Skepticism
▲ Cardinal Richelieu probably had himself portrayed in a standing position in this painting to underscore his role as ruler.
As France regained political power, a new French intellectual movement developed. French thinkers had witnessed the religious wars with horror. What they saw turned them toward skepticism, the idea that nothing can ever be known for certain. These thinkers expressed an attitude of doubt toward churches that claimed to have the only correct set of doctrines. To doubt old ideas, skeptics thought, was the first step toward finding truth. Montaigne and Descartes Michel de Montaigne lived during the worst years of
the French religious wars. After the death of a dear friend, Montaigne thought deeply about life’s meaning. To communicate his ideas, Montaigne developed a new form of literature, the essay. An essay is a brief work that expresses a person’s thoughts and opinions. In one essay, Montaigne pointed out that whenever a new belief arose, it replaced an old belief that people once accepted as truth. In the same way, he went on, the new belief would also probably be replaced by some different idea in the future. For these reasons, Montaigne believed that humans could never have absolute knowledge of what is true. Another French writer of the time, René Descartes, was a brilliant thinker. In his Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes examined the skeptical argument that one could never be certain of anything. Descartes used his observations and his reason to answer such arguments. In doing so, he created a philosophy that influenced modern thinkers and helped to develop the scientific method. Because of Absolute Monarchs in Europe 163
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this, he became an important figure in the Enlightenment, which you will read about in Chapter 6.
Louis XIV Comes to Power The efforts of Henry IV and Richelieu to strengthen the French monarchy paved the way for the most powerful ruler in French history—Louis XIV. In Louis’s view, he and the state were one and the same. He reportedly boasted, “L’état, c’est moi,” meaning “I am the state.” Although Louis XIV became the strongest king of his time, he was only a fouryear-old boy when he began his reign. Louis, the Boy King When Louis became king in 1643
Louis XIV 1638–1715 Although Louis XIV stood only 5 feet 5 inches tall, his erect and dignified posture made him appear much taller. (It also helped that he wore high-heeled shoes.) Louis had very strong likes and dislikes. He hated cities and loved to travel through France’s countryside. The people who traveled with him were at his mercy, however, for he allowed no stopping except for his own comfort. It is small wonder that the vain Louis XIV liked to be called the Sun King. He believed that, as with the sun, all power radiated from him.
RESEARCH LINKS For more on Louis XIV, go to classzone.com
after the death of his father, Louis XIII, the true ruler of France was Richelieu’s successor, Cardinal Mazarin (MAZ•uh•RAN). Mazarin’s greatest triumph came in 1648, with the ending of the Thirty Years’ War. Many people in France, particularly the nobles, hated Mazarin because he increased taxes and strengthened the central government. From 1648 to 1653, violent antiMazarin riots tore France apart. At times, the nobles who led the riots threatened the young king’s life. Even after the violence was over, Louis never forgot his fear or his anger at the nobility. He determined to become so strong that they could never threaten him again. In the end, the nobles’ rebellion failed for three reasons. Its leaders distrusted one another even more than they distrusted Mazarin. In addition, the government used violent repression. Finally, peasants and townspeople grew weary of disorder and fighting. For many years afterward, the people of France accepted the oppressive laws of an absolute king. They were convinced that the alternative—rebellion— was even worse.
Louis Weakens the Nobles’ Authority When Cardinal Mazarin died in 1661, the 22-year-old Louis took control of the government himself. He weakened the power of the nobles by excluding them from his councils. In contrast, he increased the power of the government agents called intendants, who collected taxes and administered justice. To keep power under central control, he made sure that local officials communicated regularly with him. Economic Growth Louis devoted himself to helping France attain economic, political, and cultural brilliance. No one assisted him more in achieving these goals than his minister of finance, Jean Baptiste Colbert (kawl•BEHR). Colbert believed in the theory of mercantilism. To prevent wealth from leaving the country, Colbert tried to make France self-sufficient. He wanted it to be able to manufacture everything it needed instead of relying on imports. To expand manufacturing, Colbert gave government funds and tax benefits to French companies. To protect France’s industries, he placed a high tariff on goods from other countries. Colbert also recognized the importance of colonies, which provided raw materials and a market for manufactured goods. The French government encouraged people to migrate to France’s colony in Canada. There the fur trade added to French trade and wealth.
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Recognizing Effects What effects did the years of riots have on Louis XIV? on his subjects?
mercantilism: the economic theory that nations should protect their home industries and export more than they import
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After Colbert’s death, Louis announced a policy that slowed France’s economic progress. In 1685, he canceled the Edict of Nantes, which protected the religious freedom of Huguenots. In response, thousands of Huguenot artisans and business people fled the country. Louis’s policy thus robbed France of many skilled workers.
The Sun King’s Grand Style In his personal finances, Louis spent a fortune to surround himself with luxury. For example, each meal was a feast. An observer claimed that the king once devoured four plates of soup, a whole pheasant, a partridge in garlic sauce, two slices of ham, a salad, a plate of pastries, fruit, and hard-boiled eggs in a single sitting! Nearly 500 cooks, waiters, and other servants worked to satisfy his tastes. Louis Controls the Nobility 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 great king dress. Only four would be allowed the honor of handing Louis his slippers or holding his sleeves for him. Meanwhile, outside the bedchamber, lesser nobles waited in the palace halls and hoped Louis would notice them. A kingly nod, a glance of approval, a kind word— these marks of royal attention determined whether a noble succeeded or failed. A duke recorded how Louis turned against nobles who did not come to court to flatter him:
Analyzing Primary Sources How did Louis’s treatment of the nobles reflect his belief in his absolute authority?
full of errors, SaintSimon’s memoirs provide valuable insight into Louis XIV’s character and life at Versailles.
PRIMARY SOURCE He looked to the right and to the left, not only upon rising but upon going to bed, at his meals, in passing through his apartments, or his gardens. . . . He marked well all absentees from the Court, found out the reason of their absence, and never lost an opportunity of acting toward them as the occasion might seem to justify. . . . When their names were in any way mentioned, “I do not know them,” the King would reply haughtily. DUKE OF SAINT-SIMON, Memoirs of Louis XIV and the Regency
Having the nobles at the palace increased royal authority in two ways. It made the nobility totally dependent on Louis. It also took them from their homes, thereby giving more power to the intendants. Louis required hundreds of nobles to live with him at the splendid palace he built at Versailles, about 11 miles southwest of Paris. As you can see from the pictures on the following page, everything about the Versailles palace was immense. It faced a huge royal courtyard dominated by a statue of Louis XIV. The palace itself stretched for a distance of about 500 yards. Because of its great size, Versailles was like a small royal city. Its rich decoration and furnishings clearly showed Louis’s wealth and power to everyone who came to the palace. Patronage of the Arts Versailles was a center of the arts during Louis’s reign.
Louis made opera and ballet more popular. He even danced the title role in the ballet The Sun King. One of his favorite writers was Molière (mohl•YAIR), who wrote some of the funniest plays in French literature. Molière’s comedies include Tartuffe, which mocks religious hypocrisy. Not since Augustus of Rome had there been a European monarch who supported the arts as much as Louis. Under Louis, the chief purpose of art was no longer to glorify God, as it had been in the Middle Ages. Nor was its purpose to glorify human potential, as it had been in the Renaissance. Now the purpose of art was to glorify the king and promote values that supported Louis’s absolute rule. Absolute Monarchs in Europe 165
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The Palace at Versailles Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles was proof of his absolute power. Only a ruler with total control over his country’s economy could afford such a lavish palace. It cost an estimated $2.5 billion in 2003 dollars. Louis XIV was also able to force 36,000 laborers and 6,000 horses to work on the project.
Many people consider the Hall of Mirrors the most beautiful room in the palace. Along one wall are 17 tall mirrors. The opposite wall has 17 windows that open onto the gardens. The hall has gilded statues, crystal chandeliers, and a painted ceiling.
It took so much water to run all the fountains at once that it was done only for special events. On other days, when the king walked in the garden, servants would turn on fountains just before he reached them. The fountains were turned off after he walked away.
The gardens at Versailles remain beautiful today. Originally, Versailles was built with: • 5,000 acres of gardens, lawns, and woods • 1,400 fountains
SKILLBUILDER: Interpreting Visuals 1. Analyzing Motives Why do you think Louis XIV believed he needed such a large and luxurious palace? Explain what practical and symbolic purposes Versailles might have served. 2. Developing Historical Perspective Consider the amount of money and effort that went into the construction of this extravagant palace. What does this reveal about the way 17th-century French society viewed its king?
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Louis Fights Disastrous Wars Under Louis, France was the most powerful country in Europe. In 1660, France had about 20 million people. This was four times as many as England and ten times as many as the Dutch republic. The French army was far ahead of other states’ armies in size, training, and weaponry. Attempts to Expand France’s Boundaries In 1667, just six years after Mazarin’s
Recognizing Effects How did Louis’s wars against weaker countries backfire?
death, Louis invaded the Spanish Netherlands in an effort to expand France’s boundaries. Through this campaign, he gained 12 towns. Encouraged by his success, he personally led an army into the Dutch Netherlands in 1672. The Dutch saved their country by opening the dikes and flooding the countryside. This was the same tactic they had used in their revolt against Spain a century earlier. The war ended in 1678 with the Treaty of Nijmegen. France gained several towns and a region called Franche-Comté. Louis decided to fight additional wars, but his luck had run out. By the end of the 1680s, a Europeanwide alliance had formed to stop France. By banding together, weaker countries could match France’s strength. This defensive strategy was meant to achieve a balance of power, in which no single country or group of countries could dominate others. In 1689, the Dutch prince William of Orange became the king of England. He joined the League of Augsburg, which consisted of the Austrian Hapsburg emperor, the kings of Sweden and Spain, and the leaders of several smaller European states. Together, these countries equaled France’s strength. France at this time had been weakened by a series of poor harvests. That, added to the constant warfare, brought great suffering to the French people. So, too, did new taxes, which Louis imposed to finance his wars. War of the Spanish Succession Tired of hardship, the French people longed for
peace. What they got was another war. In 1700, the childless king of Spain, Charles II, died after promising his throne to Louis XIV’s 16-year-old grandson, Philip of Anjou. The two greatest powers in Europe, enemies for so long, were now both ruled by the French Bourbons. Other countries felt threatened by this increase in the Bourbon dynasty’s power. In 1701, England, Austria, the Dutch Republic, Portugal, and several German and Italian states joined together to prevent the union of the French and Spanish thrones. The long struggle that followed is known as the War of the Spanish Succession. The costly war dragged on until 1714. The Treaty of Utrecht was signed in that year. Under its terms, Louis’s grandson was allowed to remain king of Spain so long as the thrones of France and Spain were not united. The big winner in the war was Great Britain. From Spain, Britain took Gibraltar, a fortress that controlled the entrance to the Mediterranean. Spain also granted a British company an asiento, permission to send enslaved Africans to Spain’s American colonies. This increased Britain’s involvement in trading enslaved Africans.
▼ The painting below shows the Battle of Denain, one of the last battles fought during the War of the Spanish Succession.
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Debt of the Royal Family, 1643–1715 2,000 1,800
Livres (in millions)
1,600 1,400 1,200
In addition, France gave Britain the North American territories of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and abandoned claims to the Hudson Bay region. The Austrian Hapsburgs took the Spanish Netherlands and other Spanish lands in Italy. Prussia and Savoy were recognized as kingdoms. Louis’s Death and Legacy Louis’s last years
were more sad than glorious. Realizing that his wars had ruined France, he regretted the suffer600 ing he had brought to his people. He died in 400 bed in 1715. News of his death prompted 200 rejoicing throughout France. The people had had enough of the Sun King. 0 1643 1648 1661 1683 1699 1708 1715 Louis left a mixed legacy to his country. On A livre is equal to approximately $10.50 the positive side, France was certainly a power in 1992 U.S. dollars. Source: Early Modern France 1560–1715 to be reckoned with in Europe. France ranked SKILLBUILDER: Interpreting Charts above all other European nations in art, litera1. Comparing How many times greater was the royal ture, and statesmanship during Louis’s reign. In debt in 1715 than in 1643? addition, France was considered the military 2. Synthesizing What was the royal debt of 1715 equal leader of Europe. This military might allowed to in 1992 dollars? France to develop a strong empire of colonies, which provided resources and goods for trade. On the negative side, constant warfare and the construction of the Palace of Versailles plunged France into staggering debt. Also, resentment over the tax burden imposed on the poor and Louis’s abuse of power would plague his heirs—and eventually lead to revolution. Absolute rule didn’t die with Louis XIV. His enemies in Prussia and Austria had been experimenting with their own forms of absolute monarchy, as you will learn in Section 3. 800
TERMS & NAMES 1. For each term or name, write a sentence explaining its significance. • Edict of Nantes • Cardinal Richelieu • skepticism • Louis XIV • intendant • Jean Baptiste Colbert • War of the Spanish Succession
USING YOUR NOTES
CRITICAL THINKING & WRITING
2. Which events on your time
3. What impact did the French
6. SUPPORTING OPINIONS Many historians think of Louis XIV
line strengthened the French monarchy? Which weakened it?
religious wars have on French thinkers?
as the perfect example of an absolute monarch. Do you agree? Explain why or why not.
4. How did Jean Baptiste Colbert
7. RECOGNIZING EFFECTS How did the policies of Colbert
intend to stimulate economic growth in France? 5. What was the result of the War
of the Spanish Succession?
and Louis XIV affect the French economy? Explain both positive and negative effects. 8. SYNTHESIZING To what extent did anti-Protestantism
contribute to Louis’s downfall? 9. WRITING ACTIVITY POWER AND AUTHORITY Write a
character sketch of Louis XIV. Discuss his experiences and character traits.
CONNECT TO TODAY CREATING AN ORAL PRESENTATION Research to find out what happened to Versailles after Louis’s death and what its function is today. Then present your findings in an oral presentation.