French Absolutism. Development of French Absolutism – 17 th century. French society divided into 3 estates made up of various classes: - First Estate: clergy; 1% of population - Second Estate: nobility; 3-4% of population
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French society divided into 3 estates made up of various classes:
- First Estate: clergy; 1% of population
- Second Estate: nobility; 3-4% of population
- Third Estate: bourgeoisie; artisans, urban workers, peasants
This hierarchy of social orders, based on rank and privilege was restored under the reign of Henry IV.
France primarily agrarian – 90% lived in countryside.
French population = 17 million
- largest country in Europe (20% of population)
1559: King Henry II of France died
Left four young sons – 3 of whom ruled one after the other, but incompetently
The real power behind the throne was Catherine de Medicis – their mother
Catherine tried to preserve royal power for her sons, but growing conflicts between Catholics and Huguenots were rocking France
1589: Henry inherited the throne of France when both Catherine and her last son died
He became Henry IV, the first king of the Bourbon dynasty
As king he was decisive, fearless in battle, and a clever politician – a politique
Henry had enacted wise financial policies
He devoted his reign to rebuilding France and its prosperity
He restored the French monarchy to a strong position
The French people welcomed the peace after the religious wars
Henry was killed by a fanatic who hated him for his religious compromises
Henry IV’s son Louis XIII took reign after his father’s death
He was a weak king, but in 1624 he appointed a strong minister, Cardinal Richelieu
Richelieu became, in effect, the ruler of France
Although he tried to lead according to moral principles, he was also ambitious and enjoyed exercising authority
- allowed worship but forbid walled cities and their
- made them take down fortified castles
- increased power of government agents from the
middle class; ended need for noble officials
Richelieu wanted to make France the strongest state in Europe
He believed the greatest obstacle in achieving this goal was the Habsburg rulers whose lands surrounded France
Habsburgs ruled Spain, Austria, the Netherlands, and parts of Germany
To limit Habsburg power, Richelieu involved France in the Thirty Years’ War
1643: Louis became king when he was only 5 yrs. old, his great grandfather was Philip II (both believed in divine right rule)
Cardinal Mazarin, Richelieu’s successor, was the true ruler of France
1648: helped to negotiate treaty that ended the Thirty Years’ War and made France the most powerful country in Europe
The nobility of France hated Mazarin because he increased taxes and strengthened the central government
1648-1653: Anti-Mazarin riots, known as the Fronde, tore France apart
Soldiers who led the riots threatened the young king’s life
After the violence was over, Louis never forgot his fear or his anger at the nobility
He was determined to become so strong that they could never threaten him again
they distrusted Mazarin
** For many years after it, the people of France accepted the
oppressive power of the absolute king believing rebellion was worse
Colbert became Louis chief minister of finance
Colbert believed in the economic theory of mercantilism
Mercantilism relies upon a favorable balance of trade; so to keep wealth in France, Colbert tried to make France self-sufficient
He wanted to manufacture everything and not rely on imports
of raw materials and markets for French goods
- He encouraged migration to French colony of
Canada where the fur trade added to French
After Colbert’s death, Louis announced a policy that slowed France’s economic progress
1685: Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes which had protected the religious freedom of the Huguenots
In response, thousands of Huguenot artisans and business people fled the country
Louis’s policy thus robbed France of many skilled workers
Cost: $2 billion in 1994 dollars
Size: 500 yards; 2 wings (each 150 yds), 2,000 rooms
Gardens: 15,000 acres, 1,400 fountains
It took 36,000 laborers and 6,000 horses to build it
It took so much water to run all of the fountains at the same time that it was only done on special occasions
- wrote Tartuffe which mocks religious hypocrisy
- The Would-be Gentleman, mocks the newly rich
- The Imaginary Invalid, mocks hypochondriacs
France became the most powerful country in Europe under Louis XIV
In 1660, they had 20 million people – 4x as many as England, and 10x the size of the Dutch republic
The French army numbered 100,000 in peacetime and 400,000 in wartime – far ahead of others in terms of size, training, and weaponry
- gained 12 towns
- Dutch saved their country by opening the dikes and
flooding the countryside (used tactic earlier against
- Treaty of Nijmegen ended the war with France getting
several towns and a region called Franche-Comte
By this time the French were longing for peace.
France had been weakened by a series of poor harvests.
They also were suffering from constant warfare.
Louis’s added new taxes to finance his wars.
But in 1700, when the childless king of Spain, Charles II, died, Louis saw the opportunity to increase France’s power
Before his death, Charles had promised the throne to Louis XIV’s 17 year old grandson, Philip of Anjou.
The costly war dragged on until 1713 when the Treaty of Utrecht was signed.
- this increased Britain’s involvement in trading
Louis had definitely left France as a power to be reckoned with in Europe
But his staggering debts and resentment over the royal abuse of power would plague Louis’s heirs.
Eventually this resentment led to a revolution.