France of the Old Regime
Age of Revolution
Henry IV (1589-1610) is the
start of the Bourbon line.
He believed that Paris was worth
And brought stability to France
following the Wars of Religion of the Sixteenth Century.
Following Henry IVs
assassination by a religious fanatic, France reverted to a period of political
chaos under Marie de Medici, Queen-Regent.
Louis XIII in 1624 forced his
mother into retirement and select Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) as his chief
Directed the destiny of France
for the next 18 years.
He was totally determined.
Committed to his Royal master.
Domineering and implacable to
He was set on making France the
premier power in Europe.
State of France on Richelieus Death in
Strengthened French governmental
Weakening local opposition to
Comes Mazarin (1602-1661)
He maintained the achievements
Concluded the Thirty Years War.
Gained Alsace for France at the
Expense of the Hapsburgs and the Holy Roman Empire.
Improved the French border along
the Pyrenees at the expense of the Spanish Hapsburgs.
As well as Artois and Flanders.
Weakening Noble Control
Mazarin continued Richelieus
policies of weakening the power of the Parlements and regional courts.
He attacked and weakened the
The Fronde: The Last Great Uprising Before
For four years, 1658-62, France
underwent a series of shocks to Royal Absolutism.
The Nobles, Peasants, and Judges
rebelled against the system.
In the end, the power of the
As seen in the reign of Louis
The World of Louis XIV
Following the death of Mazarin
in 1661, Louis XIV was his own Prime Minister.
And practiced his royal
profession for the next 54 years.
He was dignified yet gracious.
Imposing and majestic.
Proud and self-assured.
Original and filled with
considerable common sense.
And believed in his own divine
Louis XIV and France
He organized the best civil
servants in Europe.
He had at his disposal the
finest diplomatic corps.
And had the largest, best
equipped army since the days of the Roman Empire.
Many of his civil servants came
from the middle class.
Especially Cobert, who
faithfully served Louis XIV as finance minister.
Where Did Louis XIV Go Wrong?
Cobert was completely dedicated
to making France prosperous.
This he did for twenty years
that he served Louis XIV.
Louis wasted those talents and
those funds on architectural excesses and his foreign policy ambitions.
The Wars of Louis XIV
War of Devolution (1667-1668)
and Dutch War (1672-1678) allowed France to gain towns in Flanders and the
His goal was close to an issue
of national security to protect France from Spanish and Austrian pressure.
But it would be his other wars
that would weaken France and create an international coalition to halt French
Especially the Wars of the
League of Augsburg (1689-98) and the Spanish Succession (1701-1714).
about Religious Toleration?
At first Louis was quite good in
terms of religious matters.
Then in his later reign he
altered his policies.
Particularly when he revoke the
Edit of Nantes in 1685.
Which was a terrible blow to the
economic prosperity of France.
Thousands of skilled artisans
fled France for England and the New World.
Then Louis supported the Jesuits
against the Jansensits in their doctrinal dispute and hopelessly divided the
Roman Catholic Church.
The Death of the Grand King
Louis XIV outlived his next heir
and the crown went to his great-grandson, Louis XV.
At first their was a regency
under the Duke of Orleans from 1715-1723.
But it was chaotic and for the
next two decades, 1726-1743, the aged Cardinal Fleury ran the state and restored
But from 1743 until his death,
Louis XV directly ran France.
Some could argue into the
Failures of Louis XV
Despite gaining (or future
consideration) Lorraine during the War of the Polish Succession.
France was immensely powerful
Yet Louis XV lacked an the
talent to run France.
Instead, he was more interested
in the simple pleasures.
Gambling, Hunting, and Lust.
His disastrous foreign policy
lead to Frances defeat in the Seven Years War (1756-63) that helped topple the
The End for Louis XV
Soon the thirteen Parlements
(Courts) ruled against Royal Absolutism.
Louis XVs response was simple.
He confiscated their offices
(1771-74) and exiled the incumbents to their estates.
But he could not check the new
ideas that were challenging the very principals of royal absolutism.
When Louis XV died in 1774, he
was rounded criticized and the nation was relived by his passing.
But awaited his successor, Louis
Raising Revenue in the Old Regime
The modern concept of the will
of the people didnt exist with French absolutism.
There was opposition from those
who wanted all tax edicts registered with the Parlements.
For the most part taxes and tax
collection was haphazard and confused at best.
Generally taxes fell unevenly on
his majestys subjects.
The privileged orders were
exempt from taxation.
The peasantry bore the brunt of
the tax collector.
Observation on Tax Collections in Old
Collection of taxes was
Often offensive, especially for
And more important, brutal.
Raising Revenue Since Louis XIV
When the Royal Treasury was
short of funds the Old Regime found ingenious methods of raising the funds.
Selling public offices
Arranging loans from financiers.
Taxation on Government and
Suspending paying down the
Debasement of the national
Anticipatory expenditures on
future tax receipts.
As well as the creation of new
Impact on France
Ruined public confidence.
While the government lavishly
spent funds frivolously on Versailles.
Those wasteful expenditures
Useless gifts to the favorites
of the King and Queen.
Signing blank drafts for Royal
The Prognosis for the
The wastefulness ultimately
doomed the Old Order.
It was the financial disorder of
the monarchy that helped push France in the direction of Revolution.
The State of the French Finances
In 1789, France levied
560,000,000 livres in taxes.
Fourteen percent of that figure
defrayed the cost of tax collection.
The per capita taxes paid by the
French public varied from region to region.
In Stasbourg it was set at
sixteen livres, while in Paris it was sixty-four.
All efforts to rationalize the
Including the work of the
Physiocrats by introducing a simple land taxes formula.
The Most Important Direct Taxes
Taille a tax to help defray military expenditures and was paid by the
peasantry. The nobility was exempt from this tax. Cities and towns had to pay in
one lump sum on tolls placed on foodstuffs.
was a poll tax and the privileged
orders avoided this one too.
was conceived as an income tax on all income, but widely evaded by the
A tax placed on the peasants, not payable in money, but in labor.
Ruinous Nature of Local Tax Collections
Everyone was hurt by the tax
The rich peasants were held
accountable for the local quota of taxes collected.
To lessen their assessment, the
peasants hid their commodities.
To show how poor they were.
They had no luck in appealing to
the Courts to redress their grievances.
The System of Indirect Taxes
These were even more unjust and
burdensome than the direct levies.
The principle indirect taxes
were the Salt Tax
or Gabelle; the Excise Tax
(Aides); and the
or Traites and
Plus the government had a
Tobacco Monopoly as well as all of the revenue from the royal domains too.
Financiers were making money
hand over fist.
They loved it and they made
money on the amount of funds collected and rarely, if ever, showed leniency.
When the tax collector appeared
it was a form of terrorism who had the power to arrest.
The Salt Tax
The most flagrant abuses came
with the collection of the hated Salt Tax.
Of all the tax collectors the
most hated were those who collected this tax.
Each family was required by law
to purchase a specified amount of salt per family.
The amount was not a problem,
but the management was.
The price was excessively high
in northern and central France.
While other areas were exempt.
As a consequence, the public
turned to smuggling.
The Gabelous (the Tax
Collectors) made house-to-house searches.
Thousands were arrested.
The victims were sent to the
galleys as punishment.
Punishments for Violating the Salt Tax
During the reign of Louis XVI
the following appears to be accurate concerning punishments for violating the
4,000 cases made.
500 were sent to the whipping
post, banishment to the galleys.
Other problems were the internal
duties collected from region to region.
As well as the baffling system
of weights and measures used from one section of France to another.
of the First Estate
Clergy composed the First Estate
in Old Regime France.
The Church had a dominant
position in France before the Revolution?
Why was that?
What did the Church do?
What did it control?
What role did the King play in
Church affairs in France?
How independent was the Church?
What Did The Church Do In France for the
Helped with internal order.
Controlled vital statistics.
Provided social services for the
poor and needy.
But the Church was wealthy too.
With extensive property holdings
Kings Control of the Church
The King had the right to make
appointment to the important benefices of the Church.
Which were the bishoprics,
abbeys, and priories found in France.
Declaration of Liberties of the
Gallican Church, the King had the right to
regulate the clergy too.
Not only did the King control
the clergy, but the Catholic Church in France was a separate entity within the
realm of Papal control.
Picture of the Clergy in Pre-Revolutionary
There were between 10,000 and
11,000 members of the upper clergy in France.
This included bishops,
cardinals, archbishops, abbots etc.
About 60,000 members of the
lower clergy, the parish priests.
And not more than 60,000 monks
Total number was somewhere in
the neighborhood of 130,000 secular and regular clergy in France.
Total wealth of the Church was
somewhere between 80 and 120 million livres.
Sources of Wealth for the Church
Besides their land holdings, the
Church raised revenues from the
The obligation of the Tithe
varied from region to region.
It could be ten percent in some
areas and as low as one-sixtieth of a peasants income in others.
Control of the Church by the Les Grands
There were 139 dioceses, both
large and small, in France.
Almost all were controlled by
the great nobles in France.
Money could be made from holding
those Church offices.
And the funds could vary from
region to region.
For instance, the Bishop of
Strasbourg cold make 400,000 livres annually.
Others varied between 100,000 to
Most upper clergy preferred
staying near the King in Paris than working in their dioceses.
While immorality was small, it
was the popular perceptions that influenced the public.
Relations Between the Upper and Lower
Relations were rocky at best.
The upper clergy were arrogant
and looked down on the parish priests.
The parish priests demanded a
voice in assemblies of the clergy, when and if they were held.
In many ways, the upper clergy
identified their case with the nobility, The Second Estate, while parish priests
followed their heart to the Third Estate.
The Changing Nobility
De Tocqueville observed never
was it more possible for commoners to move into the ranks of the nobility as it
Yet the two groups were polls
In France, unlike England, a
peerage went to all members of the noble family.
There were about 50,000 noble
families in France or about 200,000 to 250,000 nobles in France.
How Did One Become a Noble in France?
By birth into one of the
medieval noble families.
Those were called noblesse de
lepee or Nobles of the Sword.
Middle Class landowners, as a
result of the Commercial Revolution, obtained noble status by purchasing
position in the government.
Those were called Nobles of the
Robe and Nobles of the Belfry.
Noble status could be lost if
they lost their wealth too.
That is if they were derogated
in activities not considered worthy of their class.
Subdivisions of the Nobility
The divisions of the nobility
The manner of acquisition.
But at the heart of the matter
was simply the issue of wealth.
of the Nobility
Feelings Among the Nobility
Nobles of the Sword looked down
on anyone who considered themselves noble, but who lacked noble blood.
This didnt really bother the
magistrates and government officials who were ennobled.
The hobereaux were envious of
the court nobility.
Despite those graduations, the
nobles no matter what their status, looked down on the commoners.
The Rights of the Nobility
Rights of administrating
Monopoly of important
governmental or judicial offices.
Officer positions in the Army or
Holding high church offices.
The Status of the Hobereaux
All those rights were less
important to the Hobereaux.
They had to survive.
They were basically found in the
west and west-central France.
They forced their peasants to
pay all their feudal obligations.
Almost to the point of being
ridiculous by pressing for all of their rights.
Without patronage, their sons
could not obtain commissions in the Army or Navy.
Their daughters took the veil.
Other children wasted their time
Montesquieu on the Nobility
Life of the Court
Court life was where it was
Balls and gay life were the
order of the day.
Manners were good, conversation
sparkling, and morals so low.
Court life was wicked.
Louis XV for instance knew how
to throw a party.
The Nobles of The Robe
The real power were the nobles
of the robe.
They held post in the Parlements
and the other sovereign courts.
They easily outranked the nobles
of the court who were frivolous.
They all ready had money, and
made more by holding the offices they held.
Yet they arranged marriages for
their daughters to the sons of the court nobility.
Further ingratiating themselves
with the nobility.