The Monarch and His Kingdom
The decades of the 1660’s and 1670’s brought great innovation to France. The rather tentative reforms of Richelieu toward improving internal administration by founding intendancies and administering justice by special commission, as well as Le Tellier’s establishment of effective royal control over the army, laid the foundations for a new bureaucratic and monarchical state. The ideological and legal framework for a totally paternalistic state, in which the monarch would and did intervene in every aspect of the lives of his subjects, had existed for centuries. But the machinery of government to make this possible had never come into being. Lack of information about local conditions, particularism which expressed itself in latent and overt hostility to Paris, and the existence of layers of local and traditional public administrations made it exceedingly difficult for the King to make his will law on any specific subject in any specific geographic area. It was one thing to sign eloquent edicts and to send them off to the provinces, and quite another to be assured that they were actually enforced. Resistance to royal authority at every level in the society was as old as the monarchy itself. Seventeenth-century absolutism must be seen as an attempt to break down that resistance and to resist the interests of particular groups in order that the interests of the sovereign and all his subjects might prevail.
KeywordsGood Sense Public Commerce Paternalistic State Latin Language Popular Nationalism
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