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Lecture 4

Lecture 4 - 17 January - Louis XIV and the Origins of the Absolute Monarchy

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David Stiles

Lecture 4 What is Royal Absolutism? System of government where all members of society are loyal to the king, who has absolute power. Strong, ambitious dynasties who add to their dynasty through advantageous marriage, inheritance, warfare, and treaties. Extension of authority by expanding state structure, for example, reformatting of Italian city-states. Thomas Hobbes, 1588 - 1679. Leading theorist on absolutism. Lived through the turmoils of the English Civil War. Absolutism was a necessity, would avoid a state of nature from occurring; state of nature was a war of all against all. Only an absolute ruler would prevent life from being solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, short. Citizens gave up parts of their rights in order to be protected by the state - social contract. Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, 1627 - 1704. Identified four characters/qualities essential to royal authority. Royal authority is sacred - authority is given by God. Royal authority is paternal - must look after people. Royal authority is absolute - people must be obeyed. Royal authority is ruled by reason - monarch must do their based using reason. In practise, absolutist monarchies depended on the nobility to maintain the hierarchical system: they protected their own land ownership and controlled the peasantry. Also a social and political separation of the monarchy from the nobility, but a partnership between them. 17th century France saw the development of absolutism, but the Spanish Habsburgs were the origin of absolutism. Key figure in developing French absolutism: Henry IV of France, 1553 - 1610. Began the transformation into an absolutist state, taking power after the culmination of Protestant and Catholic conflicts. Instead of suppressing Protestantism, issued the Edict of Nantes in 1598, which granted the Huguenots control of 200 towns, and religious toleration. Cultivated an image of a cultured warrior king, and built a faithful body of nobles with governmental bodies. Nobility of wrote, rather than sword. New governmental bodies, merit-based: lawyers, merchants, landowners. Infrastructure development: roads, bridges, harbours, economic reconstruction. Relaxed trade barriers within France. Successful; sold royal absolutism by its benefits. Made France the most powerful country in Europe. Assassinated at the hands of Francois Ravaillac, 1610: hardline Catholic who believed Henry was not a true Catholic. Aftermath: setback for absolutism, as future plans conceived by Henry were shelved. Marie de Medici ruled while his son Louis XIII grew up. Louis XIII, 1601 - 1643. Long reign. Associated with the entry of Cardinal Richelieu into French politics. Cardinal Richelieu, 1585 - 1642. From a minor noble house. Smart, arrogant. Began his career as Marie de Medici's advisor. 1624 - Chief Minister of France: skilled negotiator, control with 'carrot & stick' policy. Plan: 1. supreme royal power - attack unruly nobles and Huguenots, 2. France should have absolute power in Europe - deal with Habsburgs. Not afraid to use force: Destroyed castles of opposing nobles. Disbanded nobles' private armies. Used armies to quell Huguenot rebellion
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