France and the Enlightenment: 1743-1789

  • Created by: Hollie
  • Created on: 11-05-14 15:42

The Metz Incident, 1744

  • Louis decided to take part in the war and so marched into the city of Metz to prepare for battle. However, he became seriously ill and it was thought that he would die.
  • His chaplain was a member of the Dévot faction so he insisted Louis confess his sins due to the belief that he would not enter heaven without doing so.
  • Louis confessed his sins as an adulterer and banished his mistress at the time, Madame de Chateauroux.
  • However, Louis recovered from his illness and his confession soon spread around France, making him a laughing stock and adding to his unpopularity.
  • The king was supposed to be a representative of God and so uphold the Catholic faith and he had not which also dented the prestige of the Catholic Church and the monarchy.
  • Louis gained the title 'Louis the Well Beloved' because the French people were pleased that their king had not died.
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Machault and the Edict of Marly

  • Machault was appointed as Controller-General of Finances in 1743 by Louis under the influence of Madame de PompadourHe inherited 100 million livres debt. 
  • Machault was enlightened and believed in 'fiscal equality'. Therefore, to improve France's taxes, he proposed a new equal land tax for all three estates in 1749. This was known as the Edict of Marly which proposed to tax everybody 5% income tax rather than just the Third Estate paying 10%. 
  • This was met with fierce opposition from the Church who believed that they should be exempt as they already gave 'free gifts' to the treasury and shouldn't have to pay anymore due to being a representation of God. Opposition was also faced from the parlements.
  • With the continued support of Louis XV, the reforms could have worked and greatly improved France's finances, however after a while he decided to support the Church, leaving Machault to fend for himself. 
  • The Edict of Marly was a factor which led to the Parlement Crisis. It also led to Machault's downfall.
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The Refusal of the Sacraments, 1749

  • Jansenism was a reform movement which challenged the traditional ideas of the Catholic Church. By the 1740’s, Jansenism was very much alive. 

  • In 1746, Beaumont was appointed Archbishop of Paris. He hated Jansenism and wanted to get rid of it once and for all. He ordered the priests to refuse anyone of their last rites if they did not renounce the beliefs of Jansenism and provide a ‘billet de confession’, renouncing Jansenist beliefs. 

  • A man named Charles Coffin did not adhere to this and therefore he was refused of his last rites before he died. 

  • This caused an uproar across France and violent protests against the Church erupted, especially from the Parlement de Paris. The parlement was made up of a small amount of Jansenist supporters which heightened this. 

  • In 1951, the parlement were able to make a formal complaint to the king, using the Refusal of the Sacraments as an excuse to complain about Machault’s tax reforms. in 1753, they registered the Grand Remonstrances

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Maupeou, 1768-1774

  • Maupeou was appointed Chancellor of France in 1768 and held that position until it was abolished in 1790. However he was forced out of power in 1774 upon the succession of Louis XVI as he didn't support him and recalled the parlements. 

  • With the support of Louis XV, he reformed the justice system, the Brittany Affair being a perfect excuse to do so. He replaced the parlements with new, less powerful ones with judges who had to be interviewed and had fixed wages. He also denied the parlement de Paris the right to veto (reject/block) royal edicts. This new system of justice was much more efficient and effective than the previous one. 

  • The reforms to the justice system allowed Terray (Controller-General of Fincances) to pass finanical reforms with little opposition which was the main reason why previous finance ministers had not been successful. However, he did face opposition from philosophes who disagreed with his policies. This led to attacks on royal authority.

  • There were also protests due to support for the parlements who had been dismissed. The French felt as the parlements were their 'voice'.
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Terray, 1769-1774

  • Terray was appointed as Controller-General of Finances in 1769 by Louis XV under the influence of Maupeou. He became part of the Triumvirate. He was sacked with the rest of the Triumvirate in 1774 upon the succession of Louis XVI.

  • Upon taking office, Terray discovered a 110 million livres debt and a 63 million livres deficit. Due to this, he declared particial bankruptcy for France.

  • Due to the dismissal of the parlements, Terray was able to pass financial reforms with little opposition. However, he did received opposition from nobles and wealthy bourgeoisie but this wasn't enough to block the reforms. 

  • He believed reforms were a necessity to improve the country's poor finances and so re-introduced Machault's idea of 'fiscal equality'. He also proposed a reduction on pensions. 

  • He claimed to have achieved a surplus of 18 million livres by 1774 however his figures can be questioned as he could have manipulated them to make himself look better. Also, it is worth taking into account that there was no war during this period which would've made it easier to keep finacnes stable which no extra money being need to be raised.
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D'Aiguillon, 1771-1774

  • Previously Govenor of Brittany, d'Aiguillon was appointed as Foreign Secretary of France in 1771 until he was sacked in 1774.

  • He was brought in due to his powerful connections and how he had made a name for himself during the Brittany Affair as Govenor of Brittany.

  • He attempted to reshape alliances in Northern Europe however he didn't massively affect France and overall he was unsuccessful and unpopular.

  • He belonged to the Dévot faction at court and therefore was opposed to Madame de Pompadour and Enlightenment.

  • Once the Triumvirate had achieved their common goal of abolishing the parlements, d'Aiguillon plotted against Maupeou as he resented his power
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