Monday, April 6, 2009


During the 1600’s, monarchial systems were changing. This was called the Age of Absolutism. Absolutism, the political situation in which a monarch controls all aspects of government, became the type of government in France, under the rule of Louis XIV. Louis XIV was a model of absolute rule. Louis XIV achieved royal absolutism and helped France become the most powerful nation in the world during the 1600’s. His ideas and actions made him be a model of absolutism. Some ideas and actions praised his significance, these included; taking the sun as his symbol, claiming the “Divine Right of Kings,” and having morning and evening ceremonies called, “La levee”. He also had excessive power to control the people and economy. The system of mercantilism, expanding territories, never having the Estate General meet and building Versailles represented how much power and authority he obtained. He created a strong army, gave the nobles special privileges and revoked the Edict of Nantes, which insured his policies would be followed and to eliminate turmoil.

Louis XIV, a Slavic emperor (czar), took absolutism to extremes by claiming himself as a servant of God, known as the “Divine Right of Kings.” This encouraged absolutism. People believed that when you claim the “Divine Right” you power comes directly from God. The French obeyed the Czars orders, fearing that if they didn’t, God would punish them. Louis XIV was known as the “Sun King,” due to the fact that he took the Sun as his symbol. The Sun was the center of the Solar system, as Louis XIV was the center of French life and he is necessary to the survival of France. An event which symbolizes his importance and reflects absolutism was the “La levee.” The “La levee” is a ceremony that occurs in the morning as the Czar rises. At night the ceremony is repeated but in reverse. Nobles competed for the privilege to assist the king, which showed utmost authority over them. By showing his importance through actions and ideas, the French obeyed Louis XIV ordinances leading up to him becoming an absolute power.

Power is an aspect which Louis XIV had. Louis XIV strengthened his own office while weakening the General Assembly of France. Not once did he call the Estate General to meet during his reign. The Estates General is a group of representatives from all 3 classes: nobles, clergy and townspeople. Therefore, the people didn’t get a chance to give their opinion. The czar, ruling an absolute monarch, made sure the people had no power. Colbert, Louis XIV organizer, promoted mercantilism and encouraged overseas trade, which helped to expand territories and increase power. A tariff, or a tax on imports, was then used to make money. The mercantilism policy made France the wealthiest state in Europe. Meaning, the King had control over all aspects of government, from economics to foreign policy, as is the definition of an absolute monarch. If the wealth increased, the power of Louis XIV increased too. There’s a saying, “ Keep your friends close but keep your enemy closer.” This is exactly what the King did by Building the Palace of Versailles. This became the perfect symbol of his wealth and power. Acting as both his home and of the government, it housed 10,000 people, which consist of nobles, bourgeoisie, and peasants. By having his workers live with him, he was able to keep and eye on them, control them and prevent any type of rebellion against him. The circumstances he went through increased his wealth while increasing his power.

One more action that Louis XIV took was to insure loyalty and to eliminate any form of rebellion or threat. He provided nobles with special privileges such as not having to pay taxes and being given the best jobs. Some jobs given were in the government, army or church. He did this to insure loyalty of the nobles. He also created a strong army. This army encouraged him being an absolute ruler because he used the army to insure the policies were being carried out and to put fear in the peoples eyes, knowing that if they didn’t listen to his rules they’d have to deal with the consequences. The army protected the Czar and controlled the people. Another action taken was the revoke of the Edict of Nantes. He took away religious freedom from the Huguenots (French protestants). This encouraged absolutism because it insured religious unity and eliminated the Protestant threat.

Based on his thoughts and actions, during the seventeenth century, Louis XIV is the epitome of absolutism. The actions and ideas of Louis XIV both reflected and encouraged absolutism. These helped him to gain power, symbolize his importance to society and to insure his policies. He ruled for seventy two years and wrote a book for his heirs on how to be an absolute monarch. The book insured that this type of government would last beyond his death. Louis XIV was a model of an absolute ruler.

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