History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 1991: Q.6
Q.6 Discuss the view that Louis XIV of France was a great king- ‘the grand monarch.’
Louis XIV of France is considered as one of the greatest and the longest reigning monarch in European history (1643-1715). During this time he brought absolute monarchy to its height, established a stunning court at Versailles, and fought and won many European wars. Many call the 17th century as the Age of Louis XIV and during his reign France stabilized and became one of the strongest powers in Europe.
The rule of Louis XIV has been hailed as the supreme example of absolutism. After the death of his chief minister in 1661, Louis XIV broke with tradition and astonished his court by declaring that he would rule without a chief minister. He epitomized the ideal of kingship. He viewed himself as the direct representative of God, endowed with a divine right to wield the absolute power of the monarchy.
To illustrate his status, he chose the sun as his emblem and cultivated the image of an omniscient and infallible “Sun King” around whom the entire realm orbited. Louis concentrated so much power of the State that he began saying: “I am the State”. This was something mew in Europe where king was dependent upon nobles.
Art and Culture
Louis XIV appreciated art, literature, music, theater and sports. He surrounded himself with some of the greatest artistic and intellectual figures of his time.
During his reign France became the ideal culture since he put great care into its enhancement so that he could boast it to the world. French culture became one of the most appealing in the world, and the name Louis XIV has been associated with greatness and glory.
The Palace of Versailles is a stunning structure built by Louis XIV to glorify France. This opulent palace shows the powerful rule of Louis XIV. Louis managed to pacify and disempower the historically rebellious nobles, who had fomented many civil wars, by luring them to his court and habituating them to the lavish lifestyle there.
He tamed the nobility and impressed foreign dignitaries, using entertainment, ceremony and a highly codified system of etiquette to assert his supremacy.
In 1667 Louis XIV launched the War of Devolution, the first in a series of military conflicts that characterized his aggressive approach to foreign policy. France dominated the European continent during his reign.
Louis worked to centralize and tighten control not only of France but also of its overseas colonies. French colonial presence increased during his rule.
His finance minister, Colbert, implemented reforms that sharply reduced the deficit and fostered the growth of industry, while his war minister, Louvois, expanded and reorganized the French army.
The above mentioned factors show that Louis XIV of France was a great king- ‘the grand monarch.’
Louis XIV was also responsible many bad things. The long conflict with several European nations and in colonies and extravagance had plunged a France into massive debt which increased during his successors. This weakened France and its monarch during the latter half of Louis XIV’s reign.
Many consider him responsible for the economic problems which was one one the main reasons of French Revolution of 1789.
It was not only decades of warfare and debt that weakened France and its monarch but the religious policies of Louis XIV was also responsible for the same. Louis XIV was devoutly Catholic and in 1685, he revoked the Edict of Nantes, issued by his grandfather Henry IV in 1598, which had granted freedom of worship and other rights to French Protestants. Louis ordered the destruction of Protestant churches, the closure of Protestant schools and the expulsion of Protestant clergy. Protestants were barred from assembling and their marriages were deemed invalid. Many protestants fled France, settling in England, Switzerland, Germany and the American colonies, among other places. Louis XIV’s act of religious zeal had cost the country a valuable segment of its labor force and talent while making new enemies in the form its Protestant neighbours.
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