To What Extent Did Louis' Absolute Power Exist in Reality?

This is all about the absolute power of Louis- did it really exist or is it a myth?


POSITIVE: Control at Versailles

  • Seat of Government:
    • ran country from here
    • appointed ministers whom he could trust & who were loyal
    • 17 ministers, 3 families
  • Control of Nobility:
    • Etiquette system
    • Patronage
    • Divide & rule
  • Control of Image:
    • supported illusion of power
    • materials used were grand/ building- inspired an awe of power
    • Arts- reflected power & control
    • Everything checked by Colbert & passed through Petit Academie
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POSITIVE: Control of Parlement

  • Decreased their power:
    • 1661- royal decrees precedented over those of parlement
    • judicial wages cut by 1/3
    • 1665- 'superior' not 'sovereign'
    • 1673- post-registratio remonstrance
  • Used them to extend his power:
    • enquire into conduct of irresponsible & brutal nobles
    • detection of false nobles
    • Extentio of Regale
    • Foreign policy- reunion act
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POSITIVE: Control of Local Government

  • Use of Intendants:
    • more influencial than Provincial governors (Nobles of Sword)
    • King's men - with wide range of responsibilities
    • kept Louis informed through reports to Council of Interior

BUT -  overworked/ made up cases to look good

  • Use of subdelegates
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POSITIVE: Control of Army

  • Work of Louvois & Le Tellier reformed the army
  • Greater control over:
    • salaries
    • promotions
    • structure/ moral
    • discipline
  • Army used for:
    • putting down revolts
    • collecting taxation
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NEGATIVE: Size of France was a key problem

  • Took 2 weeks to get orders from Paris to Mediterranean
  • Difficult to issue prompt orders
  • Wilkinson: 'Wen you are sitting in an office at Versaillees, how do you impose an edict 500 miles away?'
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NEGATIVE: Small bureaucratic system

  • 1000 administrators
  • 2000 police for the WHOLE of FRANCE
  • 30 intendants for the WHOLE OF FRANCE- they were overworked and made up cases to look good. They worked along side sub-delegates, who were locals and hence things would take a long time to be done, if done at all
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NEGATIVE: Has to rely on officiers

  • There were 60,000 officiers- 2000 times more as the intendants
  • Louis couldn't control them. They were independant of the Crown because:
    • bought position (paulette)
    • could pass on position to son (venality)
    • could refuse to put forward edict, as were not controlled by crown
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NEGATIVE: Corruption/ government had to compromise

  • Position bought by officiers would expect a return in investment
  • Bribery & corruption was rife in government
  • Intendants to to compromise & work with officiers in local government
  • In reality, Louis' government was based on compromise & conciliation
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NEGATIVE: No full control of army

  • People were recruited only to be dumped again after inspection
  • Comanders would made up numbers of men or fail to report men who deserted so they would get their money
  • Rapid troop movement enabled unexpecting intendants to review the same conpany twice
  • In reality, Louis didn't know how many people there were in the army
  • Soldiers were reluctant to collect taxes
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These revision cards are great for planning a for / against response to a question about the nature of pre-revolutionary royal power in France.

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