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Authoritarian Louis XIV


Louis XIV the Bourbon
Louis XIV the Bourbon

The authoritarian quality of Louis’s rule has often been exaggerated. Louis certainly did enhance the cult of royal authority. He did this most conspicuously through his belligerent foreign policy and the grandiose court he built at Versailles, which he located away from the people and political pressures of Paris. Versailles and its lifestyle elevated the private person of the Sun King, as Louis was called. Thousands of courtiers focused attention on his every activity from morning to night. The nation’s best and brightest intellectuals and artists were enlisted to enhance Louis’s glory in historical writing, music, poetry, art, and architecture, all of which flourished under his reign. So brilliantly did Versailles shine that knowledge of French culture and language became common among elites across Europe. Louis also increased surveillance of and control over his subjects by building up the military, creating a Parisian police force, and tightening the system of book censorship. At the same time, Louis normally sought to rule by way of negotiation and compromise, not by intimidation and command.

Although the Parlement of Paris lost its right to protest before registering royal edicts in 1672, Louis often consulted the parlement when advancing his initiatives. Similarly, in dealing with local matters, Louis’s government did not undermine the wealth and status of traditional French elites. Rather, it enhanced these elites to the point of sharing tax revenues. Versailles itself, although a showcase for the crown, also served the interests of the courtiers. They came there not only to watch Louis dress, but also to earn pensions, win government appointments, and gain public confirmation of their privileged status. Moreover, the Versailles court was only one pillar of aristocratic social life. Another was Paris, where aristocrats mixed more freely with middle-class intellectuals and socialites in informal, private gatherings called salons, which prominent women held in their homes. "France" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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