France's Change from an Absolute to an Enlightened Monarchy During the years 1661-1789

France's Change from an Absolute to an Enlightened Monarchy During the years 1661-1789

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France's Change from an Absolute to an Enlightened Monarchy During the years 1661-1789

An absolute monarchy is when the monarch’s actions are restricted
neither by written law nor by custom. Eighteenth century France after
the Hundreds Years’ war was in theory an absolute monarchy. The
absolute system of monarchy in France was supported by the Christian
teaching which said that your system in life is ordained by God. The
relationship between the monarch and his people was seen to be
paternalistic and Bolingbroke said in 1738, “The true image of a free
people, governed by a patriot king is that of a patriarchal family.”
However, at the end of the C18th all these beliefs came to be
challenged, primarily by the philosophes, in a period called the
Enlightenment. Significantly though, it was not until 1789 when the
French Revolution forced France to re-evaluate its system of monarchy
and rule that steps were seriously taken in the enlightened direction.

An aspect of all three monarchs which was in no way enlightened was
their refusal to delegate power away from themselves to anyone. An
example of this in Louis XIV was in March 1661, when Louis was just 22
and Cardinal Mazarin, the Premier ministre died. He decided not to
appoint another minister but rule totally alone. Louis said to his
officials “It is not time that I governed for myself…I order you not
to sign anything, not even a passport….without my command.” Like his
predecessors and successors Louis believed in divine right and he
believed that ordered authority was an antidote to chaos. Louis wished
to be “informed about everything, listening to the least of my
subjects” and so h...


... middle of paper ...


...itical detention for their
enlightened ideas, it is significant that in contrast to the bloody
fates of C17th freethinkers such as Bruno and Campanella, their
personal liberty was fairly unimpeded, which shows that France was at
least more enlightened than perhaps in past times. Louis XV has been
credited for the coup by some such as the historian Geoffrey Treasure,
as it “demonstrated a king introducing reform”- a step towards
enlightenment, although the reform itself was not liberating.
Concluding, the Enlightenment brought to the foreground the problems
with an absolute monarchy: the in competency of a sole ruling monarch;
the in-egalitarian nation “beset with financial problems” (William
Doyle); a lack of religious and political tolerance; and the peasants
“who sought greater economic freedoms” (Montjaye Vanfrey).

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