It is often debated whether or not the reign of King Louis XIV had a positive or negative effect on France. Although there were improvements during his reign in transportation, culture, and national defense, there were far more negative aspects. His extreme fear of the loss of power led to poor decision making, which caused the court to be of lower quality. King Louis XIV’s disastrous rule brought about a series of effects that influenced the French Revolution in the following century. Louis XIV’s reign had a negative impact on France and this essay will outline why. This essay will talk about Louis depletion of the national treasury with his liberal spending on personal luxuries and massive monuments, his costly wars and failures, the revoking of the Edict of Nantes, his legacy and also his patronage of the arts.
Louis first real detriment to France came when he depleted the national treasury on the production of a standing army and the palace of Versailles. Louis’s cohort and controller-general of finance, Jean Baptiste Colbert wanted to use the increased revenue to continue developing the country, but Louis decided to attempt to attain greater power by expanding frances boundaries through military conquest. Louis also wanted to guarantee the loyalty of his counsellors, and so he turned his fathers hunting cabin into the palace of versailles, which housed 10000 semi permanent residents. Versailles was the social hub for court members and Louis provided pension for all of those who attended. Louis lust for entertainment and social customs severely drained the treasury, as the price to build Versailles was extensive.
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During the rule of Louis Frances foreign policies were focussed more on extending the boundaries of french control. Louis wanted to extend France to her natural borders, of ancient Gaul, the Rhine river, the Alps and the pyrenees. Unfortunately Louis lust for control came at the high price of war against Holland, Germany, Italy and spain. The War of Devolution (1667-1668), the Dutch war (1672-1678), the War of the League of Augsberg, and the war of the spanish succession destroyed the French economy depleting its treasury. Although the wars did enhance Frances strategic boundaries it united most of the leading super powers in Europe against the French. These costly wars also caused the neglect of France’s colonies during this time also limiting the french economy. These blunders would come back to haunt the successors of Louis the XIV.
Another reason why Louis’s reign had a negative impact on France was his revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The Edict of Nantes set by Henry IV had granted the protestant Huguenots the right to practice protestantism in France, free of persecution. As the Huguenots made up most of the skilled aristocracy, roughly 300,000 people, outrage occurred when Louis decided to revoke the treaty. In an instant Louis lost an estimated 200,000 skilled workers from his labor force, once again crippling the economy of France.
Despite Louis undoubtably negative impact on France, he did have his high points. During his reign France was regarded as a model for imitation, and became the center of attention in Europe, and caused the spread of the french language throughout Europe as well. Louis was a huge patron of the arts and lavishly entertained his guests at his royal court in Versailles.
Louis final negative impact was the legacy he left his successors. Upon Louis death in 1715, he left a divided legacy. Although he had increased the boundaries of France he had also created an enemy out of most countries in europe. He had permanently crippled the treasury and left his successors with a 400 million dollar debt. His policies were designed to glorify himself and they largely ignored the common man of France. His death ultimately lead to the French Revolution.
In conclusion, it is definitively clear that Louis the XIV’s reign was undoubtably detrimental to the success of France. While he did advance the arts, he created enemies, squandered wealth and destroyed an economy. In closing, the quote “absolute power corrupts absolutely” is the perfect quote to describe Louis the XIV’s reign in France. Thank you for your time.