Photographic book

France at the end of the 17th century


Jansenist
Jansenist

After the late 1680s, Louis’s reign became increasingly troubled. The burdens of war and increasing debt weighed more and more heavily. At the very end of his reign, a wave of deaths in the royal house left a single, sickly five-year-old great-grandson as Louis’s sole direct and legitimate heir. Religious problems also resurfaced. Early in his personal reign, Louis had put pressure on the already declining Protestant community by restricting Protestants’ worship and access to jobs. In 1681 he forced Protestant families to lodge troops called dragonnades in their homes. Finally, in 1685 he issued the Edict of Fontainebleau, repealing the remaining provisions of the Edict of Nantes. The dévots were now getting closer to realizing their dream of a nation united in faith. Most Protestants either converted, while sometimes secretly practicing Protestant rituals, or left France.

Although it was generally well regarded in France at the time, the harsh anti-Protestant campaign was costly. France lost productive merchants and artisans, but more important, the campaign gave propaganda opportunities to France’s enemies. Bitter French Protestant exiles joined with writers subsidized by England, the Netherlands, and Germany to assault Louis’s character and regime as tyrannical and despotic for violating French liberty and the rights of other nations. These charges would be repeated endlessly against the monarchy until the French Revolution.

Louis also reignited problems with the Jansenists. During the 1650s, the Jansenists had been implicated in the Fronde. Louis’s government regarded them with suspicion, especially after two Jansenist bishops favored the pope’s position in a major dispute with Louis in the early 1680s. When Louis sided with the upper clergy against the local priests in the 1690s, the Jansenists began to build what proved to be a critical alliance with the parlements, which claimed jurisdiction over the Gallican (French Roman Catholic) Church. Like the Jansenists, the members of the parlements resented the authority of the high clergy.

In one of the major blunders of his reign, Louis sought to crush Jansenism. In 1713 he arranged for the pope to issue a papal bull, Unigenitus, which condemned ideas allegedly contained in a work by a prominent Jansenist theologian. Unigenitus enraged many members of the parlements and others as well because it suggested that the pope was once again interfering in the affairs of the Gallican Church.

A highly dangerous lineup of opponents was about to cause major damage to the monarchy, which had already suffered at the hands of Protestant pamphleteers. When Louis died in 1715, his once glorious regime had already begun to tarnish. "France" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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