However many problems were evident in the latter part of Louis XIV’s reign and the Regency, I do not agree with this statement. On the whole, there was very little outspoken opposition to Louis XIV’s, nor Orleans’ policies and many aspects of government are found to be secure in this period. Firstly, Louis XIV’s Regency had been plagued with civil war, known as the Frondes. The Regent Orleans applied his policies carefully, accommodating the potentially rebellious Second Estate within positions of political influence in government.
Thus, there was no threat of civil war, or repetition of the Frondes in the Regency period of Louis XV. This reflects a view that the nobles were adequately satisfied and no evidence of further rebellion can be seen during this period. However, the Second Estate and educated of society started to be influenced by a new inspirational movement, following the ideology of the philosophes, which was known as the period of the Enlightenment. They used these theories, which emphasised the privileges and liberties of society, when faced with the concept of change or reform, to challenge the authority of the King.
For their own selfish reasons, the Second Estate disliked change from the ancien regime, and preferred to maintain the Status Quo and defended their rights through the theories of the philosophes. This shows the beginnings of the secularisation of society becoming evident, which is a movement away from the emphasis on the divine nature of the monarchy. The challenge against the theory of the Divine Right of Kings could be seen as a basis for the crisis that was later to occur in France.
Another way in which the loyalty to the king remained safe and secure was that there was no opposition to the gentle changes occurring to the Ancien Regime. Whilst radical reform was being opposed and the educated using the ideology of the philosophes against any significant change; society evolved into new patterns gradually. For example, the roles of women within business increased during the Regency. This displays the rituals of society altering, unnoticed to most and without any significant uprising. However, where there was opposition to reform were key areas of France’s Government.
For example, the administrative and economic systems were crying out for a radical improvement. In Financial policy, following the failed John Law system, which increased the Crown’s huge debt, there were significant problems as Louis XIV spent extravagantly on his foreign policy and war. This coupled with dislike of change and reform from the Nobles increased the chances of a crisis forming as the crown grew more and more old fashioned, and struggled to keep up with the gradual changes of society, and facing problems through becoming more and more bankrupt.
However, there was still no expense spared on the great Palace of Versailles, which portrayed images of grandeur and was the strongpoint of the Royal Government. The splendour and imagery of la gloire that Louis XIV had achieved from a successful foreign policy as well as many architectural wonders present at Versailles gave out the image that France under Louis XIV was still great; to his own subjects, as well as to his admirers and enemies abroad.
This portrayal of glory and splendour of the “Sun King” masked the real problems of the French Government from the people, which indicates another area that remained secure during the period, especially during the latter part of Louis XIV’s reign. If the people did not know about the difficulties the government were facing due to bankruptcy and lack of adequate reform, they remained a supporter of the King that brought such glory to France’s name. Alternatively, while the people of the third estate faced poverty, especially the peasants, the courtiers romped in the wealth and luxury of the Palace of Versailles.
Versailles spared no expense on foreign embassies and entertainment, and onlookers could place the blame of the bankruptcy of France on Royal Extravagance, rather than where the real problem of Finance lay, Louis’ expensive and strung-out wars. This could cause some opposition and blame to be placed on the King’s head directly for his own extravagance, which was no more or less than other existing monarchs of the period. This diverted their attention from the need for reform, which was potentially a source of the crisis forming within France in the period.
A further way in which France showed no indication of the formation of a conflict that overcame the monarchy was that it was viewed as the most important and powerful European state. The cultural dominance of France influenced the Russians under Peter the Great in particular, whose people in the newly created St Petersburg emulated the French fashions, read the literature of the philosophes and learned the French language. Louis XIV in this sense was at the head of Europe, despite the problems of his government. In religious terms, the period appeared mostly tranquil and secure.
The threat of Jansenism remained, though had been quelled somewhat by the bull unigenititus. However, this was not effectively passed until Fleury’s forced Lit de Justice to influence the Paris Parlement’s decision, seven years later in 1730. So Jansenism remained within France as an aspect of non-conformity within the system during the period. Overall, the Regency period saw Orleans kick the threat of the Jansenists into the long grass, preferring to keep the peace to avoid repetition of the Frondes. Nevertheless, the threat of Jansenism shows little evidence of the rebellion and troubles that were to follow.
Another aspect of Religious policy was the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, with the setting up of the Edict of Fontainebleau in October 1685. This renounced the freedom of the Huguenots, a Protestant minority group that had been granted privileges within France since 1598. This saw Louis gain control over a, what seemed potentially dangerous faction and caused a number of Huguenots to flee France. However, some blame was placed on the loss of the Huguenots for damage to the French economy, as they were known as the great artisans of the period.
The economical problems were actually mainly down to the Wars of Louis XIV, as few at the time could see, and potentially were a source of the uprising, however there is little evidence to show this. The attempts to crush religious differences in France indicate no development of a period of conflict or uprising against the King at a latter stage, on the whole they were successful and little to no conflict arose in this period. Overall, I see France at this time as having many problems in its need for reform and opposition by the Nobles to any significant change that would improve France’s economical and the Crown’s Financial situation.
A better system of Government administration was also needed. However, I believe that there is very little indication of the origins of the conflict that was to arise in latter years present within this period. Too many key areas remained secure, both Louis XIV and the Regent were offered enough support with little opposition by their subjects, and France was the dominant power and most influential state in Europe at that time. Therefore, in conclusion the origins of the crisis that eventually overcame the French monarchy cannot clearly be seen in the period 1685-1723.