France History: Rise under the Sign of Absolutism (1598–1715)

Under Heinrich IV. (1589–1610), with the after the murder of Heinrich III. When the House of Bourbon came to the French throne, the ruined country quickly rose again. His Protestant minister M. Sully (1597–1610) organized finance and economics; the first French settlements were founded in Canada (1608 Quebec). Heinrich prepared a new war against Habsburg Spain, but was murdered by F. Ravaillac before it broke out (May 14, 1610).

After the setback that French development experienced as a result – for the underage Ludwig XIII. (1610–43) initially ruled his mother, Maria de Medici  - Cardinal Richelieu (1624–42 chief minister) consolidated the absolute power of the crown.

At the same time he won the first great French victories in the fight against the Habsburgs (Thirty Years’ War: Subsidienvertrag von Bärwalde with Sweden 1631, military intervention 1635). In the interests of state unity, he deprived the Huguenots of their special political and military position (capture of La Rochelle, one of their main bases, in 1628; Edict of Alès in 1629). He suppressed the opposition of the high nobility and ensured a tighter administration of the provinces by setting up the Intendantur (Intendant). A number of popular uprisings (including the »Croquants«, 1635–37, the »Nu-pieds«, 1639) were directed against the increasing tax pressure. Richelieu promoted science and art in order to put them at the service of the monarchy; In 1635 he founded the Académie française. During the minority of Louis XIV, Cardinal Mazarin (1643–61 leading minister) continued Richelieu’s policy and obtained the Habsburg possessions and rights in Alsace for France – one of the guarantor powers of the peace treaties – in the Peace of Westphalia (1648). Check to see more about France and other countries in the world.

In 1658, in order to expand the French influence on the Holy Roman Empire, he concluded the 1st Rhine Confederation (Alliance du Rhin) with several imperial estates  and applied for the imperial crown for the young king. In alliance with England, France also successfully decided the war against Spain; the final Peace of the Pyrenees (1659), through which it won Roussillon, Artois and some border points in Flanders, sealed the decline of Spanish supremacy in Europe; France gradually took its place. In the Fronde (1648–53) the class aristocratic opposition rose again against absolute royal power, but collapsed because of their internal contradictions.

From 1661 (Mazarin’s death), Louis XIV (1643–1715) led the government personally.

J.-B. As Minister of Finance and Economics, Colbert promotedindustry and tradein the spirit of mercantilism, reformed the tax system and the state budget, created a large navy and expanded the French colonial empire (Canada, Louisiana, West Indies, Senegambia). Louvois as Minister of War made the French army the strongest in Europe. In several wars of aggression (War of Devolution, 1667/68; Dutch War, 1672–79; War of Palatinate Succession, 1688–97), Louis XIV pushedforward the French eastern border, divided through reunions incorporated further territory into the French state association and annexed Strasbourg (1681). The religious unity of the country was to be restored through the repeal of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 (Edict of Revocation of Fontainebleau) and the fight against the Jansenists (Jansenism).

France, which experienced its cultural heyday under Louis XIV, developed into a model for Europe: Versailles became the model of the palace buildings of absolutism, the court of the “Sun King” the model for the courtly-aristocratic society of Europe, French literature, v. a. the theater, reached a climax with J. Racine and Molière.

However, the wars and the lavish court rulings shattered the finances, exhausted the country’s economic power and ultimately – in conjunction with religious policy – endangered the reputation of the kingship. There were numerous hunger riots. To restore the European balance, a European coalition against France was formed first in 1672, then in 1689, headed by Wilhelm III. of Orange stood, King of England since 1688. Despite military victories, France found it difficult to hold its own. The devastating defeat in the naval battle of La Hogue (1692) robbed it of the navy that Colbert had built and subsequently brought its sea trade to a standstill. In the Peace of Rijswijk (1697) it was only able to preserve its property, in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13 / 14) it also lost its supremacy. It was only thanks to the turnaround in British politics that Ludwig was able to maintain the Spanish inheritance – without the Dutch and Italian neighboring countries – as a Bourbon secondary school for his grandson Philipp von Anjou in the peace treaties of Utrecht (1713), Rastatt and Baden (1714).

France History - Rise under the Sign of Absolutism