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Section 4: France and Authoritarianism

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    France and Cardinal Richelieu

     

    Richelieu’s successful policies leading to the consolidation of royal power, centralization of the state, and strengthening of the international position of France paved the way for the authoritarian rule of Louis XIV.

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

    Identify Cardinal Richelieu’s main goals and his successes and failures in achieving them

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

    • Cardinal Richelieu was a French clergyman, nobleman, and statesman, serving as King Louis XIII’s Chief Minister (sometimes also called First Minister) from 1624. He sought to consolidate royal power and strengthen France’s international position.
    • Although initially Richelieu was closely affiliated with Marie de Médicis, Louis XIII’s mother, and did not enjoy the king’s trust, his role as a successful mediator in the power struggle between Louis and Marie helped him reach the position of the king’s principal minister.
    • Cardinal Richelieu’s policy involved two primary goals: centralization of power in France and opposition to the Habsburg dynasty.
    • Richelieu’s decisions to suppress the influence of the feudal nobility and levy taxes targeted mostly at the commoners made him a hated figure among both the nobility and the peasantry.
    • Richelieu was instrumental in redirecting the Thirty Years’ War from the conflict of Protestantism versus Catholicism to that of nationalism versus Habsburg hegemony, which allowed France to emerge from it as the most powerful state in continental Europe.
    • Richelieu’s tenure was a crucial period of reform for France. At home, local and even religious interests were subordinated to those of the whole nation and the king. Internationally, France triumphed over declining Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. Richelieu’s successes were extremely important to King Louis XIV’s absolute monarchy.

    Key Terms

    • Huguenots: Members of a French Protestant denomination with origins in the 16th or 17th centuries. Historically, they were French Protestants inspired by the writings of John Calvin in the 1530s. The majority endorsed the Reformed tradition of Protestantism.
    • Peace of Alais: A treaty negotiated by Cardinal Richelieu with Huguenot leaders and signed by King Louis XIII of France in 1629. It confirmed the basic principles of the Edict of Nantes, but differed in that it contained additional clauses, stating that the Huguenots no longer had political rights and further demanding that they relinquish all cities and fortresses immediately. It ended the religious warring while granting the Huguenots amnesty and guaranteeing them tolerance.
    • Council of Trent: Council held between 1545 and 1563 in Trent and Bologna, northern Italy. It was one of the Roman Catholic Church’s most important ecumenical councils. Prompted by the Protestant Reformation, it has been described as the embodiment of the Counter-Reformation. It issued condemnations of what it defined to be heresies committed by Protestantism and, in response to them, key statements and clarifications of the church’s doctrine and teachings.
    • Battle of Lens: A 1648 French victory against the Spanish army in the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648). It was the last major battle of the war and was critical to the eventual triumph of the French over the Spanish Habsburgs.
    • Thirty Years’ War: A series of wars in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648. Initially a war between various Protestant and Catholic states in the fragmented Holy Roman Empire, it gradually developed into a more general conflict involving most of the great powers.

    Cardinal Richelieu

    Cardinal Richelieu (1585–1642), was a French clergyman, nobleman, and statesman, serving as King Louis XIII’s Chief Minister (sometimes also called First Minister) from 1624. He sought to consolidate royal power and crush domestic factions. By restraining the power of the nobility, he transformed France into a strong, centralized state. His chief foreign policy objective was to check the power of the Austro-Spanish Habsburg dynasty and ensure French dominance in the Thirty Years’ War that engulfed Europe. Although he was a cardinal, he did not hesitate to make alliances with Protestant rulers in attempting to achieve his goals.

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    Engraved portrait of Cardinal Richelieu by Robert Nanteuil (1657), Bibliothèque nationale de France

    Richelieu was also famous for his patronage of the arts. Most notably, he founded the Académie Française, the learned society responsible for matters pertaining to the French language.

    Rise to Power

    Richelieu was consecrated bishop in April 1607. Soon after he returned to his diocese in 1608, he was heralded as a reformer. He became the first bishop in France to implement the institutional reforms prescribed by the Council of Trent. Richelieu advanced politically by faithfully serving the Queen-Mother’s favorite, Concino Concini, the most powerful minister in the kingdom. In 1616, he was made Secretary of State responsible for foreign affairs. Like Concini, the bishop was one of the closest advisers of Louis XIII’s mother, Marie de Médicis. The queen had become Regent of France when nine-year-old Louis ascended the throne. However, her policies, and those of Concini, proved unpopular with many in France. In 1617, in a plot arranged by
    Charles de Luynes, King Louis XIII ordered that Concini be arrested, and killed should he resist. Concini was consequently assassinated and Marie de Médicis overthrown. With the death of his patron, Richelieu also lost power. He was dismissed as Secretary of State, removed from the court, and banished to Avignon.

    In 1619, Marie de Médicis escaped from her confinement. The king and de Luynes recalled Richelieu, believing that he would be able to reason with the queen. Richelieu succeeded in mediating between the king and his mother, and after de Luynes’ death in 1621, he began to rise to power quickly. Crises in France, including a rebellion of the Huguenots, rendered Richelieu a nearly indispensable adviser to the king. In 1624, as a result of court intrigues, Cardinal Richelieu took the place of the king’s principal minister.

    Goals and Policies

    Cardinal Richelieu’s policy involved two primary goals: centralization of power in France and opposition to the Habsburg dynasty (which ruled in both Austria and Spain). Shortly after he became Louis’s principal minister, he was faced with a crisis in Valtellina, a valley in northern Italy. To counter Spanish designs on the territory, Richelieu supported the Protestant Swiss canton of Grisons. This early decision to support a Protestant canton against the pope was a foretaste of the purely diplomatic power politics he would espouse in his foreign policy.

    To further consolidate power in France, Richelieu sought to suppress the influence of the feudal nobility. In 1626, he abolished the position of Constable of France and ordered all fortified castles razed, excepting only those needed to defend against invaders. Thus, he stripped the princes, dukes, and lesser aristocrats of important defenses that could have been used against the king’s armies during rebellions. As a result, most of the nobility hated Richelieu.

    Another obstacle to the centralization of power was religious division in France. The Huguenots, one of the largest political and religious factions in the country, controlled a significant military force, and were in rebellion. Moreover, the king of England, Charles I, declared war on France in an attempt to aid the Huguenot faction. The conflict ended with the 1629
    Peace of Alais, which permitted religious toleration for Protestants to continue, but the cardinal abolished their political rights and protections.

    Before Richelieu’s ascent to power, most of Europe had become enmeshed in the Thirty Years’ War. France was not openly at war with the Habsburgs, who ruled Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, so subsidies and aid were provided secretly to their adversaries. In 1629, Emperor Ferdinand II subjugated many of his Protestant opponents in Germany. Richelieu, alarmed by Ferdinand’s growing influence, incited Sweden to intervene, providing money. In the meantime, France and Spain remained hostile due to Spain’s ambitions in northern Italy—a major strategic item in Europe’s balance of powers. Military expenses placed a considerable strain on the King’s revenues. In response, Richelieu raised the salt tax and the land tax. The former was enforced to provide funds to raise armies and wage war. The clergy, nobility, and high bourgeoisie were either exempt or could easily avoid payment, so the burden fell on the poorest segment of the nation. This resulted in several peasant uprisings that Richelieu crushed violently.

    Richelieu was instrumental in redirecting the Thirty Years’ War from the conflict of Protestantism versus Catholicism to that of nationalism versus Habsburg hegemony. Through the war, France effectively drained the already overstretched resources of the Habsburg empire and drove it inexorably towards bankruptcy. The defeat of Habsburg forces at the Battle of Lens, and their failure to prevent French invasion of Catalonia, effectively spelled the end for Habsburg domination of the continent. Indeed, in the subsequent years it would be France, under the leadership of Louis XIV, who would attempt to fill the vacuum left by the Habsburgs in the Spanish Netherlands and supplant Spain as the dominant European power.

    Legacy

    Richelieu died of natural causes in 1642. His tenure was a crucial period of reform for France. Earlier, the nation’s political structure was largely feudal, with powerful nobles and a wide variety of laws in different regions. Local and even religious interests were subordinated to those of the whole nation and of the embodiment of the nation—the king. Equally critical for France was Richelieu’s foreign policy, which helped restrain Habsburg influence in Europe. Richelieu did not survive to the end of the Thirty Years’ War. However, the conflict ended in 1648, with France emerging in a far better position than any other power, and the Holy Roman Empire entering a period of decline.

    Richelieu’s successes were extremely important to Louis XIII’s successor, King Louis XIV. He continued Richelieu’s work of creating an absolute monarchy. In the same vein as the cardinal, he enacted policies that further suppressed the once-mighty aristocracy and utterly destroyed all remnants of Huguenot political power. Moreover, Louis took advantage of his nation’s success during the Thirty Years’ War to establish French hegemony in continental Europe. Thus, Richelieu’s policies were the requisite prelude to Louis XIV becoming the most powerful monarch, and France the most powerful nation, in all of Europe during the late 17th century.

    Cardinal Mazarin and the Fronde

    Cardinal Mazarin, for years de facto ruler of France, continued earlier anti-Habsburg policies, was critical to establishing the Westphalian order of sovereign states, and laid the foundation for Louis XIV’s absolutism.

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

    Discuss Cardinal Mazarin’s goals during his tenure as regent

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

    • Cardinal Jules Mazarin was an Italian cardinal, diplomat, and politician who served as the Chief Minister to the King of France from 1642 until his death in 1661. He functioned essentially as the co-ruler of France alongside the queen during the regency of Anne, and until his death effectively directed French policy alongside the monarch, Louis XIV.
    • Mazarin continued Richelieu’s anti-Habsburg policy and laid the foundation for Louis XIV’s expansionist policies. He was critical to the negotiations of the Peace of Westphalia, which left France the most powerful state in continental Europe.
    • Towards Protestantism at home, Mazarin pursued a policy of promises and calculated delay to defuse armed insurrections and keep the Huguenots disarmed. However, the Huguenots never achieved any protection.
    • As the Crown needed to recover from its expenditures in the recent wars, the increase of taxes contributed to already growing social unrest. The attempt to curb existing liberties resulted in a series of civil wars known as the Fronde.
    • Although Mazarin and the king confronted the combined opposition of the princes, the nobility, the law courts (parlements), and most of the French people, they won out in the end. The Fronde was divided into two campaigns, that of the parlements and that of the nobles, and its collapse only strengthened the absolute monarchy.
    • Mazarin, as the de facto ruler of France, played a crucial role establishing the Westphalian principles that would guide European states’ foreign policy and the prevailing world order.

    Key Terms

    • League of the Rhine: A defensive union of more than fifty German princes and their cities along the River Rhine, formed in August 1658 by Louis XIV of France and negotiated by Cardinal Mazarin (then de facto prime minister of France), Hugues de Lionne, and Johann Philipp von Schönborn (Elector of Mainz and Chancellor of the Empire).
    • Peace of Westphalia: A series of peace treaties signed between May and October 1648 in the Westphalian cities of Osnabrück and Münster. These treaties ended the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the independence of the Dutch Republic.
    • Thirty Years’ War: A series of wars in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648. Initially a war between various Protestant and Catholic states in the fragmented Holy Roman Empire, it gradually developed into a more general conflict involving most of the great powers.
    • Jansenism: A Catholic theological movement, primarily in France, that emphasized original sin, human depravity, the necessity of divine grace, and predestination. The movement originated from the posthumously published work of the Dutch theologian Cornelius Jansen, who died in 1638. It was opposed by many in the Catholic hierarchy, especially the Jesuits.
    • Edict of Nantes: An edict signed probably in 1598 by King Henry IV of France that granted the Calvinist Protestants of France (also known as Huguenots) substantial rights in the nation, which was, at the time, still considered essentially Catholic. It separated civil from religious unity, treated some Protestants for the first time as more than mere schismatics and heretics, and opened a path for secularism and tolerance. In offering general freedom of conscience to individuals, the Edict offered many specific concessions to the Protestants.
    • The Fronde: A series of civil wars in France between 1648 and 1653, occurring in the midst of the Franco-Spanish War, which had begun in 1635. The king confronted the combined opposition of the princes, the nobility, the law courts (parlements), and most of the French people, yet won out in the end. It was divided into two campaigns, that of the parlements and that of the nobles.

    Cardinal Mazarin

    Cardinal Jules Mazarin was an Italian cardinal, diplomat, and politician who served as the Chief Minister to the King of France from 1642 until his death in 1661. After serving in the papal army and diplomatic service and at the French court, he entered the service of France and made himself valuable to King Louis XIII’s chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu, who brought him into the council of state. After Richelieu’s death, Mazarin succeeded him as Chief Minister of France. At the time of King Louis XIII’s death in 1643, his successor, Louis XIV, was only five years old,  and his mother, Anne of Austria, ruled in his place until he came of age. Mazarin helped Anne expand the limited power her husband had left her. He functioned essentially as the co-ruler of France alongside the queen during the regency of Anne, and until his death Mazarin effectively directed French policy alongside the monarch.

    Portrait of Cardinal Mazarin

    Portrait of Cardinal Mazarin

     

    Policies

    Mazarin continued Richelieu’s anti-Habsburg policy and laid the foundation for Louis XIV’s expansionist policies. During the negotiations of the Peace of Westphalia, which concluded the Thirty Years’ War, Mazarin (together with the queen) represented France with policies that were French rather than Catholic. The terms of the peace treaties ensured Dutch independence from Spain, awarded some autonomy to the various German princes of the Holy Roman Empire, and granted Sweden seats on the Imperial Diet and territories to control the mouths of the Oder, Elbe, and Weser rivers. France, however, profited most from the settlement. Austria, ruled by the Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand III, ceded all Habsburg lands and claims in Alsace to France and acknowledged her de facto sovereignty over the Three Bishoprics of Metz, Verdun, and Toul. Moreover, eager to emancipate themselves from Habsburg domination, petty German states sought French protection. This anticipated the formation of the 1658 League of the Rhine, leading to the further diminution of Imperial power. The League was designed to check the House of Austria in central Germany. In 1659, Mazarin made peace with Habsburg Spain in the Peace of the Pyrenees, which added Roussillon and northern Cerdanya—as French Cerdagne—in the far south, as well as part of the Low Countries, to French territory.

    Towards Protestantism at home, Mazarin pursued a policy of promises and calculated delay to defuse armed insurrections and keep the Huguenots disarmed. For six years they believed themselves to be on the eve of recovering the protections of the Edict of Nantes, but in the end they obtained nothing. Mazarin was also more consistently an enemy of Jansenism, more for its political implications than out of theology.

    The Fronde

    As the Crown needed to recover from its expenditures in the recent wars, the increase of taxes contributed to already growing social unrest. The nobility refused to be taxed, based on their old liberties or privileges, and the brunt fell upon the bourgeoisie.
    The Fronde began in January 1648, when the Paris mob used children’s slings (frondes) to hurl stones at the windows of Mazarin’s associates. The insurrection did not start with revolutionary goals but aimed to protect the ancient liberties from royal encroachments and to defend the established rights of the parlements—courts of appeal rather than legislative bodies like the English parliaments. The movement soon degenerated into factions, some of which attempted to overthrow Mazarin and reverse the policies of his predecessor, Cardinal Richelieu, who had taken power for the Crown from great territorial nobles, some of whom became leaders of the Fronde.

    In May 1648, a tax levied on judicial officers of the Parlement of Paris provoked not merely a refusal to pay but also a condemnation of earlier financial edicts and a demand for the acceptance of a scheme of constitutional reforms framed by a united committee of the parlement (the Chambre Saint-Louis), composed of members of all the sovereign courts of Paris. The military record of what would be known as the First Fronde (the Fronde Parlementaire) is almost blank. In August 1648, Mazarin suddenly arrested the leaders of the parlement, whereupon Paris broke into insurrection and barricaded the streets. The royal faction, having no army at its immediate disposal, had to release the prisoners and promise reforms, and on the night of October 22 it fled from Paris. However, France’s signing of the Peace of Westphalia allowed the French army to return from the frontiers and put Paris under siege. The two warring parties signed the Peace of Rueil (1649) after little blood had been shed.

    The peace lasted until the end of 1649. In January 1650, an armed rebellion (the onset of what would know known known as the Second Fronde or
    the Fronde des nobles) followed the arrests of several nobles by Mazarin. By April 1651, after a series of battles, the rebellion collapsed everywhere. A few months of hollow peace followed and the court returned to Paris. Mazarin, an object of hatred to all the princes, had already retired into exile. His absence left the field free for mutual jealousies, and for the remainder of the year anarchy reigned in France.

    In December 1651, Mazarin returned to France with a small army. The war began again, but this time some leaders of the rebellion were pitted against one another. After this campaign the civil war ceased, but in the several other campaigns of the Franco-Spanish War that followed, two great soldiers leading the Fronde were opposed to one another: Henri, Viscount of Turenne, as the defender of France and Louis II, and Prince de Condé as a Spanish invader. In 1652, an insurrectionist government appeared in Paris. Mazarin, feeling that public opinion was solidly against him, left France again. Although in exile, he was not idle, and reached an agreement with Turenne. Turenne’s forces pursued Condé’s, who in 1653 fled to the Spanish Netherlands. Louis XIV, now of age to claim his throne, re-entered Paris in October 1652 and recalled Mazarin in February 1653. The last vestiges of resistance in Bordeaux fizzled out in the late summer of 1653.

    Statue of Louis XIV crushing the Fronde revolt

    “Louis XIV Crushes the Fronde” by Gilles Guérin, 1654

    The Fronde represented the final attempt of the French nobility to battle the king, and they were humiliated. The Fronde facilitated the emergence of absolute monarchy.

     

    Legacy

     

    Following the end of the Thirty Years’ War, Mazarin, as the de facto ruler of France, played a crucial role establishing the Westphalian principles that would guide European states’ foreign policy and the prevailing world order. Some of these principles, such as nation-state sovereignty over its territory and domestic affairs and the legal equality among states, remain the basis of international law to this day. The French people suffered terribly in the Fronde, but the wars achieved no constitutional reform. The liberties under attack were feudal, not of individuals, and the Fronde in the end provided an incentive for the establishment of royalist absolutism, since the disorders eventually discredited the feudal concept of liberty.
    Royal absolutism was reinstalled without any effective limitation.  On the death of Mazarin in 1661, Louis XIV assumed personal control of the reins of government and astonished his court by declaring that he would rule without a chief minister.

     

    The Sun-King and Authoritarianism

     

    Throughout his reign, Louis XIV, known as the Sun King, consolidated royal power and centralized the state by financial, administrative, and legal reforms as well as by a sophisticated system of controlling the French aristocracy.

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

    Describe Louis XIV’s views on royal power and how he expanded his own authority

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

    • At the time of King Louis XIII’s death in 1643, Louis XIV was only five years old. His mother, Anne of Austria, was named regent, but she entrusted the government to the chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin. Mazarin’s policies paved the way for the authoritarian reign of Louis XIV.
    • Louis began his personal reign with administrative and fiscal reforms. National debt was quickly reduced through more efficient taxation, although reforms imposing taxes on the aristocracy were late and of limited outcome.
    • Louis and his administration also bolstered French commerce and trade by establishing new industries in France and instituted reforms in military administration that curbed the independent spirit of the nobility by imposing order at court and in the army.
    • Louis also attempted uniform regulation of civil procedure throughout legally irregular France by issuing a comprehensive legal code, the “Grande Ordonnance de Procédure Civile” of 1667, also known as the Code Louis. One of his most infamous decrees was the Code Noir, which sanctioned slavery in French colonies.
    • Louis also attached nobles to his court at Versailles and thus achieved increased control over the French aristocracy. An elaborate court ritual by which the king observed the aristocracy and distributed his favors was created to ensure the aristocracy remained under his scrutiny.
    • Following consistent efforts to limit religious tolerance, Louis XIV issued the Edict of Fontainebleau, which revoked the Edict of Nantes and repealed all the privileges that arose therefrom.

    Key Terms

    • cuius regio, eius religio: A Latin phrase that literally means “Whose realm, his religion,” meaning that the religion of the ruler was to dictate the religion of those ruled. At the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, which ended a period of armed conflict between Roman Catholic and Protestant forces within the Holy Roman Empire, the rulers of the German-speaking states and Charles V, the emperor, agreed to accept this principle.
    • Declaration of the Clergy of France: A four-article document of the 1681 Assembly of the French clergy promulgated in 1682, which codified the principles of Gallicanism into a system for the first time in an official and definitive formula.
    • Edict of Fontainebleau: A 1685
      edict issued by Louis XIV of France, also known as the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The Edict of Nantes (1598) had granted the Huguenots the right to practice their religion without persecution from the state.
    • Code Noir: A decree originally passed by France’s King Louis XIV in 1685 that defined the conditions of slavery in the French colonial empire, restricted the activities of free black persons, forbade the exercise of any religion other than Roman Catholicism, and ordered all Jews out of France’s colonies.
    • Gallicanism: The belief that popular civil authority—often represented by the monarchs’ authority or the state’s authority—over the Catholic Church is comparable to the pope’s.

    The Sun King

    At the time of King Louis XIII’s death in 1643, Louis XIV was only five years old. His mother, Anne of Austria, was named regent in spite of her late husband’s wishes. Anne assumed the regency but entrusted the government to the chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin, who helped her expand the limited power her husband had left her. He functioned essentially as the co-ruler of France alongside Queen Anne during her regency, and until his death effectively directed French policy alongside the monarch. In 1651, when Louis XIV officially came of age, Anne’s regency legally ended. However, she kept much power and influence over her son until the death of Mazarin. On the death of Mazarin in 1661, Louis assumed personal control of the reins of government and astonished his court by declaring that he would rule without a chief minister.

    Portrait of Louis XIV, King of France

    Portrait of Louis XIV, King of France

     

    Reforms

    Louis began his personal reign with administrative and fiscal reforms. In 1661, the treasury verged on bankruptcy. To rectify the situation, Louis chose Jean-Baptiste Colbert as Controller-General of Finances in 1665. Colbert reduced the national debt through more efficient taxation. Excellent results were achieved, and the deficit of 1661 turned into a surplus in 1666. However, to support the reorganized and enlarged army, the panoply of Versailles, and the growing civil administration, the king needed a good deal of money, but methods of collecting taxes were costly and inefficient. The main weakness of the existing system arose from an old bargain between the French crown and nobility: the king might raise without consent if only he refrained from taxing the nobles. Only towards the close of his reign, under extreme stress of war, was Louis able, for the first time in French history, to impose direct taxes on the aristocracy. This was a step toward equality before the law and toward sound public finance, but so many concessions and exemptions were won by nobles and bourgeois that the reform lost much of its value.

    Louis and Colbert also had wide-ranging plans to bolster French commerce and trade. Colbert’s administration established new industries, encouraged domestic manufacturers and inventors, and invited manufacturers and artisans from all over Europe to France. This aimed to decrease foreign imports while increasing French exports, hence reducing the net outflow of precious metals from France.

    Louis also instituted reforms in military administration and, with the help of his trusted experts, curbed the independent spirit of the nobility by imposing order at court and in the army. Gone were the days when generals protracted war at the frontiers while bickering over precedence and ignoring orders from the capital and the larger politico-diplomatic picture. The old military aristocracy ceased to have a monopoly over senior military positions and rank.

    Louis also attempted uniform regulation of civil procedure throughout legally irregular France by issuing a comprehensive legal code, the “Grande Ordonnance de Procédure Civile” of 1667, also known as the Code Louis. Among other things, it prescribed baptismal, marriage, and death records in the state’s registers, not the church’s, and also strictly regulated the right of the Parlements to remonstrate. The Code Louis played an important part in French legal history as the basis for the Napoleonic code, itself the origin of many modern legal codes.
    One of Louis’s most infamous decrees was the Grande Ordonnance sur les Colonies of 1685, also known as the Code Noir (“black code”). It sanctioned slavery and limited the ownership of slaves in the colonies to Roman Catholics only. It also required slaves to be baptized.

    Centralization of Power

    Louis initially supported traditional Gallicanism, which limited papal authority in France, and convened an Assembly of the French clergy in November 1681. Before its dissolution eight months later, the assembly had accepted the Declaration of the Clergy of France, which increased royal authority at the expense of papal power. Without royal approval, bishops could not leave France and appeals could not be made to the pope. Additionally, government officials could not be excommunicated for acts committed in pursuance of their duties. Although the king could not make ecclesiastical law, all papal regulations without royal assent were invalid in France. Unsurprisingly, the pope repudiated the declaration.

    Louis also attached nobles to his court at Versailles and thus achieved increased control over the French aristocracy. Apartments were built to house those willing to pay court to the king. However, the pensions and privileges necessary to live in a style appropriate to their rank were only possible by waiting constantly on Louis. For this purpose, an elaborate court ritual was created where the king became the center of attention and was observed throughout the day by the public. With his excellent memory, Louis could see who attended him at court and who was absent, facilitating the subsequent distribution of favors and positions. Another tool Louis used to control his nobility was censorship, which often involved opening letters to discern their author’s opinion of the government and king. Moreover, by entertaining, impressing, and domesticating nobles with extravagant luxury and other distractions, Louis not only cultivated public opinion of himself, but also ensured the aristocracy remained under his scrutiny.

    This, along with the prohibition of private armies, prevented the aristocracy from passing time on their own estates and in their regional power-bases, from which they historically had waged local wars and plotted resistance to royal authority. Louis thus compelled and seduced the old military aristocracy (the “nobility of the sword”) into becoming his ceremonial courtiers, further weakening their power. In their place, he raised commoners or the more recently ennobled bureaucratic aristocracy as presumably easier to control.

    Religion

    Finally, Louis dramatically limited religious tolerance in France, as he saw the persistence of Protestantism as a disgraceful reminder of royal powerlessness. Responding to petitions, Louis initially excluded Protestants from office, constrained the meeting of synods, closed churches outside Edict of Nantes-stipulated areas, banned Protestant outdoor preachers, and prohibited domestic Protestant migration. He also disallowed Protestant-Catholic intermarriages where third parties objected, encouraged missions to the Protestants, and rewarded converts to Catholicism.

    In 1681, Louis dramatically increased his persecution of Protestants. The principle of cuius regio, eius religio generally had also meant that subjects who refused to convert could emigrate, but Louis banned emigration and effectively insisted that all Protestants must be converted. In 1685, he issued the Edict of Fontainebleau, which cited the redundancy of privileges for Protestants given their scarcity after the extensive conversions. It revoked the Edict of Nantes and repealed all the privileges that arose therefrom. By his edict, Louis no longer tolerated Protestant groups, pastors, or churches to exist in France. No further churches were to be constructed, and those already existing were to be demolished. Pastors could choose either exile or a secular life. Those Protestants who had resisted conversion were now to be baptized forcibly into the established church.

     

    Louis XIV and the Huguenots

     

    The persecution of the Huguenots became one of the critical factors in Louis XIV’s consolidation of royal power and resulted in Catholicism being the only legally tolerated religion in France, despite Louis’s conflict with the pope.

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

    Analyze Louis XIV’s persecution of the Huguenots and the consequences that had for France

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

    • The Edict of Nantes was issued in 1598 by Henry IV of France. It granted the Calvinist Protestants of France substantial rights in a predominately Catholic nation. The Edict gained a new significance when Louis XIV broke the post-Nantes tradition of relative religious tolerance in France and, in his efforts to fully centralize the royal power, began to persecute the Protestants.
    • Louis initially supported traditional Gallicanism, which limited papal authority in France. However, his conflict with the pope did not prevent him from making Catholicism the only legally tolerated religion in France.
    • Louis saw the persistence of Protestantism as a disgraceful reminder of royal powerlessness. Responding to petitions, he initially excluded Protestants from office, constrained the meeting of synods, closed churches outside Edict-stipulated areas, banned Protestant outdoor preachers, and prohibited domestic Protestant migration.
    • In 1681, Louis dramatically increased the persecution of Protestants. He banned emigration and effectively insisted that all Protestants must be converted. He also began quartering dragoons in Protestant homes.
    • In 1685, Louis issued the Edict of Fontainebleau, which cited the redundancy of privileges for Protestants given their scarcity after the extensive conversions. The Edict of Fontainebleau revoked the Edict of Nantes.
    • The revocation caused France to suffer a kind of early brain drain, as it lost a large number of skilled craftsmen. Protestants across Europe were horrified at the treatment of their fellow believers, and Louis’s public image in most of Europe, especially in Protestant regions, suffered greatly.

    Key Terms

    • Gallicanism: The belief that popular civil authority—often represented by the monarchs’ authority or the State’s authority—over the Catholic Church is comparable to the authority of the pope.
    • cuius regio, eius religio: A Latin phrase that literally means “Whose realm, his religion,” meaning that the religion of the ruler was to dictate the religion of those ruled. At the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, which ended a period of armed conflict between Roman Catholic and Protestant forces within the Holy Roman Empire, the rulers of the German-speaking states and Emperor Charles V agreed to accept this principle.
    • Edict of Fontainebleau: A 1685 edict, also known as the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, issued by Louis XIV of France. The Edict of Nantes (1598) had granted the Huguenots the right to practice their religion without persecution from the state.
    • Declaration of the Clergy of France: A four-article document of the 1681 Assembly of the French clergy promulgated in 1682, which codified the principles of Gallicanism into a system for the first time in an official and definitive formula.
    • Edict of Nantes: An edict signed in 1598 by King Henry IV of France that granted the Calvinist Protestants of France (also known as Huguenots) substantial rights in the nation, which was, at the time, still considered essentially Catholic. In the Edict, Henry aimed primarily to promote civil unity. The document separated civil from religious unity, treated some Protestants for the first time as more than mere schismatics and heretics, and opened a path for secularism and tolerance.

    Background: Edict of Nantes

    The Edict of Nantes was issued in 1598 by Henry IV of France. It granted the Calvinist Protestants of France, known as Huguenots, substantial rights in a predominately Catholic nation. Through the Edict, Henry aimed to promote civil unity. The Edict treated some, although not all, Protestants with tolerance and opened a path for secularism. It offered general freedom of conscience to individuals and many specific concessions to the Protestants, such as amnesty and the reinstatement of their civil rights, including the right to work in any field or for the state and to bring grievances directly to the king. It marked the end of the religious wars that had afflicted France during the second half of the 16th century. The Edict gained a new significance when Louis XIV, known as the Sun King, broke the post-Nantes tradition of relative religious tolerance in France and, in his efforts to fully centralize the royal power, began to persecute the Protestants.

    Portrait of Louis XIV

    Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1701)

    Louis XIV (1638–1715), known as Louis the Great or the Sun King, was a monarch of the House of Bourbon who ruled as King of France from 1643 until his death in 1715. His reign of seventy-two years and 110 days is the longest of any monarch of a major country in European history. In this age of absolutism in Europe, Louis XIV’s France was a leader in the growing centralization of power.

    Religious Persecution

    Louis initially supported traditional Gallicanism, which limited papal authority in France, and convened an Assembly of the French clergy in November 1681. Before its dissolution eight months later, the assembly had accepted the Declaration of the Clergy of France, which increased royal authority at the expense of papal power. Without royal approval, bishops could not leave France and appeals could not be made to the pope. Additionally, government officials could not be excommunicated for acts committed in pursuance of their duties. Although the king could not make ecclesiastical law, all papal regulations without royal assent were invalid in France. Unsurprisingly, the pope repudiated the declaration.

    Louis saw the persistence of Protestantism as a disgraceful reminder of royal powerlessness. After all, the Edict of Nantes was the pragmatic concession of his grandfather Henry IV to end the longstanding French Wars of Religion. An additional factor in Louis’s thinking was the prevailing contemporary European principle to assure socio-political stability, cuius regio, eius religio (“whose realm, his religion”), the idea that the religion of the ruler should be the religion of the realm (the principle originally confirmed in central Europe in the Peace of Augsburg of 1555).

    Responding to petitions, Louis initially excluded Protestants from office, constrained the meeting of synods, closed churches outside Edict-stipulated areas, banned Protestant outdoor preachers, and prohibited domestic Protestant migration. He also disallowed Protestant-Catholic intermarriages where third parties objected, encouraged missions to the Protestants, and rewarded converts to Catholicism. An enforced yet steady conversion of Protestants followed, especially among the noble elites.

    In 1681, Louis dramatically increased the persecution of Protestants. The principle of cuius regio, eius religio had usually meant that subjects who refused to convert could emigrate, but Louis banned emigration and effectively insisted that all Protestants must be converted. Secondly, following the proposal of René de Marillac and the Marquis of Louvois, he began quartering dragoons (mounted infantry) in Protestant homes. Although this was within his legal rights, the policy (known as dragonnades) inflicted severe financial strain and atrocious abuse on Protestants. Between 300,000 and 400,000 Huguenots converted, as this entailed financial rewards and exemption from the dragonnades.

     

    Edict of Fontainebleau

     

    In 1685, Louis issued the Edict of Fontainebleau, which cited the redundancy of privileges for Protestants given their scarcity after the extensive conversions. The Edict of Fontainebleau revoked the Edict of Nantes, and repealed all the privileges that arose therefrom. By this edict, Louis no longer tolerated Protestant groups, pastors, or churches to exist in France. No further Protestant churches were to be constructed, and those already existing were to be demolished. Pastors could choose either exile or a secular life. Those Protestants who had resisted conversion were to be baptized forcibly into the established church.

    The Edict of Fontainebleau is compared by historians with the 1492 Alhambra Decree, ordering the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain, and with Expulsion of the Moriscos during 1609–1614. The three are similar both as outbursts of religious intolerance ending periods of relative tolerance and in their social and economic effects. In practice, the revocation caused France to suffer a kind of early brain drain, as it lost a large number of skilled craftsmen. Some rulers, such as Frederick Wilhelm, Duke of Prussia and Elector of Brandenburg, encouraged the Protestants to seek refuge in their nations. Historians cite the emigration of about 200,000 Huguenots (roughly one-fourth of the Protestant population, or 1% of the French population) who defied royal decrees. However, others view this as an exaggeration. They argue that most of France’s preeminent Protestant businessmen and industrialists converted to Catholicism and remained. Protestants across Europe were horrified at the treatment of their fellow believers,  and Louis’s public image in most of Europe, especially in Protestant regions, suffered greatly. Most Catholics in France, however, applauded the move.

    The revocation of the Edict of Nantes created a state of affairs in France similar to that of nearly every other European country of the period (with the brief exception of Great Britain and possibly the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth), where only the majority state religion was legally tolerated. The experiment of religious toleration in Europe was effectively ended for the time being. However, French society would sufficiently change by the time of Louis’s descendant Louis XVI to welcome toleration in the form of the 1787 Edict of Versailles, also known as the Edict of Tolerance. This restored to non-Catholics their civil rights and the freedom to worship openly.

     

    Louis XIV’s Wars

     

    Louis XIV’s expansionist ambitions resulted in numerous wars that positioned nearly all European powers against France and bankrupted the French state, but turned France into the most powerful state in Europe.

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

    Identify the consequences of Louis XIV’s wars

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • In addition to sweeping domestic reforms, Louis XIV aspired to make France the leading European power. His ambitions pushed other leading European states to form alliances against an increasingly aggressive France.
    • The War of Devolution (1667–1668) saw the French forces overrun the Habsburg-controlled Spanish Netherlands and the Franche-Comté. However, a Triple Alliance  of England, Sweden, and the Dutch Republic forced France to give most of it back in the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.
    • The Franco-Dutch War (1672–1678) pitted France, Sweden, Münster, Cologne, and England against the Dutch Republic, which was later joined by the Austrian Habsburg lands, Brandenburg-Prussia, and Spain to form a Quadruple Alliance. After years of fighting and a series of exhausting battles, the 1678-1679 Treaties of Nijmegen declared the Franche-Comté and the Spanish Netherlands French territories, making France Europe’s strongest power.
    • The Nine Years’ War (1688–1697) once again pitted Louis XIV against a European-wide coalition, the Grand Alliance. By the terms of the Treaty of Ryswick (1697) Louis XIV retained the whole of Alsace but was forced to return Lorraine to its ruler and give up any gains on the right bank of the Rhine. Louis also accepted William III as the rightful King of England.
    • All these wars exhausted France financially but turned it into the most powerful state in Europe.
    • Louis’s expansionist ambitions culminated in the final decisive war of his reign: the War of the Spanish Succession.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • War of the Reunions: A short conflict (1683–1684) between France and Spain and its allies. It was fueled by the long-running desire of Louis XIV to conquer new lands, many of them comprising part of the Spanish Netherlands, along France’s northern and eastern borders. The war was, in some sense, a continuation of the territorial and dynastic aims of Louis XIV as manifested in the War of Devolution and the Franco–Dutch War.
    • Truce of Ratisbon: A truce that concluded the War of the Reunions between Spain and France. It was signed in 1684 at the Dominican convent at Ratisbon in Bavaria between Louis XIV of France on the one side and the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, and the Spanish King, Charles II, on the other. The final agreements allowed King Louis to retain Strasbourg, Luxembourg, and other Reunion gains, and returned Kortrijk and Diksmuide, both now in Belgium, to Spain. It was not, however, a definitive peace but only a truce for twenty years.
    • revocation of the Edict of Nantes: A 1685 edict, also known as the Edict of Fontainebleau, issued by Louis XIV of France, that revoked the right to practice the tolerated forms of Protestantism without persecution from the state granted by the Edict of Nantes (1598).
    • Grand Alliance: A European coalition, consisting (at various times) of Austria, Bavaria, Brandenburg, the Dutch Republic, England, the Holy Roman Empire, Ireland, the Palatinate of the Rhine, Portugal, Savoy, Saxony, Scotland, Spain, and Sweden. The organization was founded in 1686 as the League of Augsburg and was originally formed in an attempt to halt Louis XIV of France’s expansionist policies.
    • Treaties of Nijmegen: A series of treaties signed in the Dutch city of Nijmegen between August 1678 and December 1679. The treaties ended various interconnected wars among France, the Dutch Republic, Spain, Brandenburg, Sweden, Denmark, the Prince-Bishopric of Münster, and the Holy Roman Empire. The most significant of the treaties was the first, which established peace between France and the Dutch Republic and placed the northern border of France in very nearly its modern position.
    • Triple Alliance: A 1668 alliance of England, Sweden, and the Dutch Republic formed to halt the expansion of Louis XIV’s France in the War of Devolution. The alliance never engaged in combat against France, but it was enough of a threat to force Louis to halt his offensive and sign the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle with Spain.

    Introduction

    In addition to making sweeping domestic reforms, which completed the process of turning France into the absolute monarchy under the sole authority of the king, Louis XIV aspired to make France the leading European power. His ambitions pushed other leading European states to form alliances against an increasingly aggressive France. Three major wars, the Franco-Dutch War, the Nine Years’ War, and the War of the Spanish Succession, as well as two lesser conflicts, the War of Devolution and the War of the Reunions, enabled France to become the most powerful state in Europe. However, this success, which came with the price of massive foreign and military spending, kept France on the continuous verge of bankruptcy. While Louis’s detractors argued that the war-related expenditure impoverished France to an extreme extent, his supporters pointed out that while the state was impoverished, France, with all its territorial and political gains, was not.

    image

    Louis XIV in 1670, engraved portrait by Robert Nanteuil, Yale University Art Gallery

    During Louis’s reign, France was the leading European power and fought three major wars: the Franco-Dutch War, the War of the League of Augsburg, and the War of the Spanish Succession. There were also two lesser conflicts: the War of Devolution and the War of the Reunions.

     

    The War of Devolution

     

    In 1665, Louis believed that he had a pretext to go to war with Spain and allow him to claim the Spanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium). However, his claims to the Spanish Netherlands were tenuous; in 1659, France and Spain had concluded the Treaty of the Pyrenees, which ended twenty-four years of war between the two states. With the treaty, King Philip IV of Spain had to cede certain territories and consent to the marriage of his daughter Maria Theresa of Spain to young Louis XIV. With this marriage, Maria Theresa explicitly renounced all rights to her father’s inheritance. When Philip IV died in 1665, the French king immediately laid claim to parts of the Spanish Netherlands. He justified this with the fact that the dowry promised at the time of his marriage to Maria Theresa had not been paid and that the French queen’s renunciation of her Spanish inheritance was therefore invalid.

    The conflict that followed is known as the War of Devolution (1667–1668). It saw the French forces overrun the Habsburg-controlled Spanish Netherlands and the Franche-Comté. However, a Triple Alliance of England, Sweden, and the Dutch Republic forced France to give most of it back in the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. During the negotiations, the Triple Alliance managed to enforce their demands: France abandoned the Franche-Comté and French troops had to withdraw from the Spanish Netherlands. A total of twelve conquered cities remained in the hands of the French king. The most important consequence of the war, however, was the changed attitude of Louis XIV towards the Dutch Republic. The king blamed it, his former close ally, for the creation of the Triple Alliance, whose pressure had put a halt to his conquests. The French foreign policy of the following years was therefore completely geared towards the Dutch Republic’s isolation.

     

    The Franco-Dutch War

     

    The Franco-Dutch War (1672–78), called also the Dutch War, was a war that pitted France, Sweden, Münster, Cologne, and England against the Dutch Republic, which was later joined by the Austrian Habsburg lands, Brandenburg-Prussia, and Spain to form a Quadruple Alliance. Continuing his mission to isolate and attack the Dutch Republic, which Louis considered to be a trading rival consisting of seditious republicans and Protestant heretics, the French king made another move on the Spanish Netherlands. His first and primary objective was to gain the support of England. England felt threatened by the Dutch naval power and did not need much encouragement to leave the Triple Alliance. Sweden agreed to indirectly support the invasion of the Republic by threatening Brandenburg-Prussia if that state should intervene.

    After years of fighting and a series of exhausting battles, the 1678-1679 Treaties of Nijmegen were signed between France, the Dutch Republic, the Holy Roman Empire, the Spanish Empire, the Prince-Bishopric of Münster, and the Swedish Empire, ending the Franco-Dutch War with the Franche-Comté and the Spanish Netherlands belonging to France, making France Europe’s strongest power. The war sparked the rivalry between William III, who later conquered England as part of the Glorious Revolution, and Louis XIV. It also resulted in the decline of the Dutch Republic’s dominance in overseas trade.

     

    The Nine Years’ War

     

    The Nine Years’ War (1688–1697), often called the War of the Grand Alliance or the War of the League of Augsburg, once again pitted Louis XIV against a European-wide coalition, the Grand Alliance, led by the Anglo-Dutch King William III, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, King Charles II of Spain, Victor Amadeus II of Savoy, and several princes of the Holy Roman Empire. It was fought primarily on mainland Europe and its surrounding waters, but it also encompassed a theater in Ireland and in Scotland, where William III and James II struggled for control of Britain and Ireland, and a campaign in colonial North America between French and English settlers and their respective Indian allies (known as King William’s War).

    Although Louis XIV had emerged from the Franco-Dutch War as the most powerful monarch in Europe, he immediately set about extending his gains to stabilize and strengthen France’s frontiers, culminating in the brief War of the Reunions (1683–1684). The resulting Truce of Ratisbon guaranteed France’s new borders for twenty years, but Louis’ subsequent actions—notably his revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685—led to the deterioration of his military and political dominance. His decision to cross the Rhine in September 1688 aimed to extend his influence and pressure the Holy Roman Empire into accepting his territorial and dynastic claims. But when Leopold I and the German princes resolved to resist, and when the States General and William III brought the Dutch and the English into the war against France, the French king at last faced a powerful coalition aimed at curtailing his ambitions.

    The main fighting took place around France’s borders: in the Spanish Netherlands, the Rhineland, the Duchy of Savoy, and Catalonia. The fighting generally favored Louis XIV’s armies, but by 1696 his country was in the grip of an economic crisis. The Maritime Powers (England and the Dutch Republic) were also financially exhausted, and when Savoy defected from the Alliance, all parties were keen for a negotiated settlement. By the terms of the Treaty of Ryswick (1697) Louis XIV retained the whole of Alsace but was forced to return Lorraine to its ruler and give up any gains on the right bank of the Rhine. Louis also accepted William III as the rightful King of England, while the Dutch acquired their barrier fortress system in the Spanish Netherlands to help secure their own borders. However, with the ailing and childless Charles II of Spain approaching his end, a new conflict over the inheritance of the Spanish Empire would soon embroil Louis XIV and the Grand Alliance in a final war—the War of the Spanish Succession.

    The map shows that Louis XIV made territorial gains in northern, western, and southern France. From north to south, those gains were in Artois (1659), Dunkirk (1662), Lille (1668), Strasbourg (1681), Alsace (1675), Franche-Comté (1678), Briançon (1713), and Roussillon (1659).

    Territorial expansion of France under Louis XIV (1643–1715) is depicted in orange.

    While Louis’s detractors argued that the war-related expenditure impoverished France to an extreme extent, his supporters pointed out that while the state was impoverished, France, with all its territorial and political gains, was not.

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