Ancien Regime French History

An overview of the Ancien Regime in France before the Revolution

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What it was

1700s France

Absolutist Monarchy

So, the King rules EVERYTHING.

There is No Limit to the Kings power apart from laws and customs of the land.

Louis XIV started this monarchy

The King had no privy council so no-one could stop him from doing whatever he liked.

For example - 

Lettre de cachet - This letter from the King could get anyone arrested.

The only thing the King doesn't have full control of is the Church.

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How successful was it?

In theory,

  • efficient
  • no compromises
  • no time-wasting
  • state runs smoothly

In practice

  • everyone wants power & money, an honour, or land.
  • not complete control
  • king can't humanly do it by himself
  • ruling through a range of people
  • king needs people to work for him
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Generalites - financial units on France - 34 - similar to counties - each one had an intendant, who was responsible for collecting taxes.

Direct Tax -

  • Taille - All except church & nobility
  • Capitation - All except church
  • Vingtierre - 5% income tax, all except church

Indirect Tax -

  • Gabelle-  Salt
  • Aides - Food & Drink
  • Octrois - Goods entering/Leaving towns

Most smallholders pay these taxes. But the King knows a good way to get support is to buy loyalty from no tax.

Remember - the King employs people to collect tax on his behalf - tax farmers, sought after job.

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There are 13 Parliaments across France, with the largest being in Paris.They discussed new laws but had to agree to them.

  • groups of noblemen
  • could send grievances to the King
  • Paid to be in Parliament
  • Had to apply to the king

-> So loyal to the King

  • Should pass laws the king sets


The Parliaments do not want change.They wanna keep their power!! But with a

Lit de justice -> king can override Parliament 

These Parliaments are a traditional part of French Society

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But it gets even more confusing!!

King sometimes promotes nobles into jobs that don't exist!

+ How to split up France (if you are a French King and trying to confuse everyone, including yourself!)

  • 34 Generalites
  • 13 Parlements
  • 35 Provinces
  • 38 Military Units
  • 135 Dioceses (churches with Bishops)

None of the above coincide or overlap with each other!

+ 2 legal systems

  • South France has Roman Law
  • North France has French Law

+ Extremely complex administration  system

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= Everything (business, farming, justice, markets) very complicated!

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Emma Barnes

More coming soon :)


really informative and esay to understand, many thanks, but with the A level exam fast approaching, when is "soon"? would love to read more!

many thanks.

Emma Barnes

Sorry, I got annoyed as I typed it all out and then manges to press back on my deleted it all!!!

Emma Barnes

So may well not add much (if any) more, as it really annoyed me!!


Please please do, have showed your cards to my friends and class, they love them also, would really seriously appreciate it!

many thanks.

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