Essay on Absolutism: Louis Xiv of France and Absolutism

Submitted By Philip-Aidoo
Words: 980
Pages: 4

For Louis XIII, the idea of Divine Right, which was introduced in England during the reigns of James I and Charles I, was meant to be the mode of ruling and authority for the benefit of his successor (Treasure, 1997). This is called Absolutism. Absolutism is defined as the political situation in which ultimate power of authority in the state was exercised by a king who claimed to rule by divine right (Spielvogel, 2011). According to the Webster dictionary, Absolutism is a political theory, that ultimate power should be vested in one person to have complete control over people and government. In other words, a ruler who rules his people with absolutism, rules until death and hands over his position through blood line. The theory of absolutism was argued by court preacher and theologian Jacques Bossuet. He argued from Paul’s words in the 13th chapter of the book of Romans that “a king is a minister of God to thee for good”. Thus, royal authority was meant to be divinely-inspired and sacred. By the reign of Louis XIV, absolutism embodied the situation whereby the King was given absolute power by God’s authority over his subjects and nobody could question his credibility. In Louis XIV’s own words, “L’etat C’est moi”; translated as “I am the State” (McNeese, 2000). This implied that king was able to make the law, translate it according to his will and also enforce it upon his subjects. The implications of Louis XIV’s actions and how he wielded his power portray the extent to which France's government in the seventeenth century can be labeled an absolute monarchy.
According to French history, around the middle of the 17th century, scattered parliaments started a revolution against the monarch headed by Cardinal Mazarin. In an attempt weaken the power of the king, nobles led mobs around the country to raid and terrorizing the lower class people. The employed diverse strategies, even hiring Spanish troops to join their revolt. However, their movement did not succeed. It did create an area of concern about the value of having a powerful monarch. Louis XIV was 4years old when he was crowned king after his father’s death. His mother, Anne of Austria became the regent and allowed Cardinal Mazarin to make the day-to-day decisions on the young king’s behalf. After Mazarin’s death in 1661, Louis XIV took control of France as the sole ruler at the age of 22. He saw himself as a divine entity representing God to exert power over the people. He selected the sun as his symbol and sophisticated the figure of a wise and perfect “Roi-Soleil” (“Sun King”) around whom the entire sphere circled (McNeese, 2011). One of the first things he did was to limit the power of the nobility. He remembered the revolution caused by the nobles when he was young. He gave non-aristocrats higher positions and selected middle-class men as his advisers. Louis managed to control all aspects of government, from economics to foreign policy, and no large parliamentary bodies could challenge him. Furthermore, he had support from the majority of the citizens of France. Those were the initial actions that labeled his government as an absolutist one.
Nevertheless, King Louis XIV’s reign did not make France a peaceful place. There were religious conflicts and political unrests. Louis limited the power of the Catholic pope and the church’s influence in France (using the four Gallican articles). He also persecuted the growing number of Protestants so much that, most of them fled to Switzerland, Holland, England and other foreign lands (McNeese, 2000). Louis evoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685 by creating The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. He persecuted the Protestants, closed down their churches, disallowed Protestant-Catholic intermarriages, took away their privileges and forced them to convert into Catholics with no emigration if refused. Protestants were denied position in office and were in severe financial constrain as Louis exercised his authority over the church.