TOPIC 1: Conciliar Government
The King's Council met as:
1) The High Council:
This council discussed the most important matters of state e.g.
- Foreign Affairs,
- Religious matters
They were the most able and loyal ministers e.g. Colbert. 3-5 of them were Nobles of the Robe (newer nobility who had been loyal during the Frondes,
The Finance Council
2)The Finance Council
Dealt with matters of:
This was run by the Controller-General of Finances (Colbert) , supported by a team of accountants capable of book-kepping. It was mainly made up of Nobles of the Robe and Louis had the power to appoint and sack them all.
The council of the Interior
3) The Council of the Interior (AKA the Council of Despatches)
- Receive reports
- Give instructions to Intendants (King's ministers in the localities)
- Keep Louis informed of events
They were mostly Nobles of the Robe who had to tell Louis about issues like conscription, riote and religious problems.
The Privy Council
4)The Privy Council
This council was led by the chancellor and 7 dozen lawyers to deal with matters of justice. The King was absent from this council - he was represented by a heavily decorated chair. Again, this contained Nobles of the Robe.
The Nobles of the Robe and Colbert
Overall, it is clear to see that the Nobles of the Robe were more trusted than the Nobles of the Sword. Also, with these councils, you can see that Colbert played a huge part in ruling the country and this took away from the apparent absolutism of Louis XIV. Versailles was Louis' centre of government and so there was little separation between his personal life and his 'work'. Every aspect of every day became a public event.
TOPIC 2: The Estates
Today's society can generally be divided into 'classes',a term which most people object to, seeing it as superficial and subject to revision or abolition. However, at the time of Louis XIV and his contemporaries, there was a different name : the 'estates'. People were not offended by this in the same way, because the Estates were believed to be ordained by God and therefore, people were not interesting in changing which class they were in. Nobles were predestined to be nobles and the same for the poor and for the clergy.
There were 3 main estates:
1) The Clergy
2) The Nobility
3) The rest of French Society (i.e. the Poor)
The First Estate: The Clergy
- The 17th century was a very religious age, making the clergy particularly important. They proved to be a problem in this way, because everyone listened to and respected what they said.
- They disappointed Louis when they condemned his Palace of Versailles - they saw the tax money of the poor (even in times of famine) being poured into the creation of a huge Palace for the King to live in.
- BUT they added prestige to the Crown as well. They taught that people should accept and be happy with their place in society <- given by God.
- The clergy glorified the King's achievements - whenever a French victory was won, Churches would sing the Te Deum - a hymn of praise.
- They also helped to fund Louis' policies - le don gratuit (the free gift) which was supposed to be freely offered but was often a result of several negotiations.
- Some preachers taught that resisting royal authority was tantamount to blasphemy as the King was supposedly appointed by God - the Divine Right of Kings.
The Second Estate: The Nobles
There were approximately 10,000 nobles living in France. Only 4,000 of them could stay at Versailles and this was very cramped.
There were really strict etiquette rules for nobles:
- They were never allowed to turn their back on a painting of Louis (offensive)
- They always had to take of their hats in the presence of Louis' dining table, even if he was not there.
There was a strict routine for nobles during their stay at Versailles:
1) Nobles would surround Louis as he got up and dressed. The nobles who were more in Louis' favour were allowed to be closer to the room and the others queued down the corridor.
2) The nobles would be present when Louis went to breakfast, went to the toilet, went to mass, had lunch, went for an afternoon walk, had dinner, played cards nad had his 'coucher'. It was an honour to hold the candle as the King got into bed.
The Nobles (continued)
The nobles had many jobs:
Usually they assumed positions in the armies (military and navy commanders)
They could also be Bishops
Nobles of the Swords were involved in embassies
There was a lot of noble involvement at court.
He encouraged the growth of the new group of nobles, mentioned before, the Nobles of the Robe. He needed their services in his councils and other areas and he liked his first ministers to be Nobles of the Robe as they were so dependenet on his favour, thus they were more hard working. They were also rich and LXIV was interested in their money. His foreign policy was to be very expensive and the Nobles of the Robe would pay for any posts the Controller General claimed there was need for.
They were not allowed to get involved in trade, but were exempt from tax.
The Third Estate: The Rest of French Society
This was particularly closely involved in the creation of Versailles. In fact it was the 22,000 of this estate who built Versailles' buildings and gerdens. Many people died in the process (but this was kept a secret from the other builders to stop them being frightened). These people did not only build Versailles, but also paid for it in taxes. This was not too bad because it wasn't hugely expensive, but the people who actually lived there in luxury paid nothing for it.