- This article refers to the former Kingdom of France. For the current state see French Republic.
Je m’en vais, mais l’État demeurera toujours.The Kingdom of France (French: Royaume de France) is a sovereign state comprising territory in western Europe and several overseas territories. The French Kingdom is one of the most powerful states in Europe, a great power since the Late Middle Ages and the Hundred Years' War. It was also an early colonial power, with significant possessions in North America, West Indies, India and Australia.
Dernière déclaration de Louis XIV sur son lit de mort, remettant la crédibilité de la citation le disant être l’État en question
France borders From northeast to southwest, Flanders, Holy Roman Empire, Switzerland, Kingdom of Sardinia (under Habsburg Spain until the War of the Austrian Succession), and Spain. The papal territory of Avignon is an enclave.
France in the early modern era was increasingly centralized, the French language began to displace other languages from official use, and the monarch expanded his absolute power, albeit in an administrative system (the Ancien Régime) complicated by historic and regional irregularities in taxation, legal, judicial, and ecclesiastic divisions, and local prerogatives. Religiously France became divided between the Catholic majority and a Protestant minority, the Huguenots. After a series of civil wars, the Wars of Religion (1562–1598), tolerance was granted to the Huguenots in the Edict of Nantes.
The long reign of Louis XIV (1643–1715)
No other French sovereign single handed shaped France's present and future as Louis XIV (1643–1715),also know as Louis the Great (Louis le Grand) or the Sun King (le Roi-Soleil), consolidating absolute monarchical rule, creating centralized state, forging an a major European power and starting a colonial power.
Louis XIV began his personal rule of France in 1661 after the death of his chief minister, the Italian Cardinal Mazarin. An adherent of the concept of the divine right of kings, which advocates the divine origin of monarchical rule, Louis continued his predecessors' work of creating a centralized state governed from the capital. He sought to eliminate the remnants of feudalism persisting in parts of France and, by compelling many members of the nobility to inhabit his lavish Palace of Versailles, succeeded in pacifying the aristocracy, many members of which had participated in the Fronde rebellion during Louis's minority. By these means he became one of the most powerful French monarchs and consolidated a system of absolute monarchical rule in France.
During Louis's reign, France was the leading European power and it fought three major wars: the Franco-Dutch War, the War of the League of Augsburg, and the War of the Spanish Succession. There were also two lesser conflicts: the War of Devolution and the War of the Reunions. Louis encouraged and benefited from the work of prominent political, military, and cultural figures such as Mazarin, Colbert, the Grand Condé, Turenne and Vauban, as well as Molière, Racine, Boileau, La Fontaine, Lully, Marais, Le Brun, Rigaud, Bossuet, Le Vau, Mansart, Charles and Claude Perrault, and Le Nôtre.
Under his rule, the Edict of Nantes which granted rights to Huguenots was abolished (1685). The revocation effectively forced Huguenots to emigrate or convert in a wave of dragonnades. Louis XIV managed to virtually destroy the French Protestant minority, which had survived more than 150 years of wars and persecution under previous French kings.
Warfare defined the foreign policies of Louis XIV, and his personality shaped his approach. Impelled "by a mix of commerce, revenge, and pique," Louis sensed that warfare was the ideal way to enhance his glory. In peacetime he concentrated on preparing for the next war. He taught his diplomats their job was to create tactical and strategic advantages for the French military
Louis XV (1715-1744) Continental Hegemony
Louis XV, succeeded his great-grandfather Louis XIV at the age of five. Until he reached maturity in 1723, his kingdom was ruled by Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, as Regent of France. Under Louis XV's reign the contest for the hegemony of Europe against the interest of Britain and the Habsburg Austria (War of the Austrian Succession, 1740–48) continued in the same policies of his great-grandfather.
In his youth Louis XV was provided excellent education, and was taught by renowned professors. Louis XV had an inquisitive and open-minded nature. An avid reader, he developed eclectic tastes. Later in life he generously endowed the Collège royal.
Patron and chief investor in the The Mississippi Company (compagnie du Mississippi), a commercial and colonizing enterprise in Louisiana that broke in the Mississippi Bubble. In 1716, he opened the Banque Générale Privée ("General Private Bank"), which soon became the Banque Royal. It was mostly funded by the government, and was one of the earliest banks to issue paper money, which could be exchanged for gold.
Louis XVI (1744-1773) Colonial expansion
Louis XVI was rather plump well-educated man, cultivated, and a lover of music, he preferred the pleasures of conversation to those of hunting, balls, or spectacles. He had a great interest in the military arts and personally participated in the final half of the War of the Spanish Succession. With a keen sense of morality, he was very much committed to his wife, Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain, as she was to him. Very devout, he was a fervent supporter of the Jesuits, like his mother and sisters, and was led by them to have a devotion to the Sacred Heart. He appeared in the eyes of his sisters as the ideal of the Christian prince, in sharp contrast with their father who was a notorious womanizer.
Until his ascension he was initially influenced by the Dévots. On assuming the Crown he became supportive of his father's generals and civil advisers and as firm believer of god's mandate as Supreme Sovereign he continued on the task of centralizing the administration and rule of monarchy. This did not stop in 1764, at the urging of the Parlement, Madame Pompadour and his foreign minister, the Duc de Chosieul, Louis XVI the suppression of Jesuit Order in France.
The contest for the hegemony of Europe against the interest of Britain and the Habsburg Austria reopened military actions (War of the Austrian Succession, 1740–48). This war led afterwards to diplomatic realignment with of Austria-France against Prussia-Britannia. In the north and eastern Europe the United Kingdom of Denmark, Sweden and Norway casting its alliance with Britannia and the Poland-Lithuania aligned with France.
Under Louis XVI colonial expansion became a key policy (the Carnatic Wars for the control of the south of India). With France gaining complete control of southern India after the Third Carnatic War (1756–1760) and to promote his royal prestige in 1764 he was proclaimed and crowned Emperor of India. The seemingly unlimited trade and wealth of India flooded the court in exuberant luxury and ambitious national projects and diplomacy.
Also a major change in colonial policy was the Decree of Population of the Colonies of 1768. It came as as necessity to turn around colonial interests after the loss of Canada in the Seven Years' War (1754 and 1763). The new policy, taking the example of Britain, opened unrestricted migration overseas with official sanction and aid to Louisiana and Guyana. Later Australia under Louis XVII would also become a sponsored destiny. The chief architect of the population policy, the duc de Choiseul, also provided a guarantee of land ownership for settlers from France and Canada to hold land and pay only a few taxes.
As the Russian-Turkish and Austrian-Turkish Wars (1768–1774) France also sought territorial gains from the Ottoman Empire. However two semi-successful campaigns in Syria, Sidon and Aleppo resulted only in treaties guaranteeing religious rights of Christian and trade that eclipse with the gains of Austria and Russia.
Louis XVII (1773-1790) At the Borders of the World and the End of an Era
Louis XVII was the last King of France and Emperor of India before the French Revolution, after which the republican victors renamed him Louis Capet during the final weeks of his life.
French involvement in the Seven Years' War (1754 and 1763) had left Louis XVII a disastrous inheritance with the loss of Canada and an enormous national debt to pay that in part was compensated with the retention of the highly profitable Îles de sucre of the Caribbean Sea. However diplomatic commitments of its alliance with Austria led to engage in cumbersome military conflicts. The Central European War (1778-1782) and Fourth Silesian War (1780-1782) would embark France again in economical and military commitments far beyond its capacity with poor results at the loss of Silesia to Prussia and the partition of of Poland-Lithuania between Prussia and Russia.
One of the key provisions of the colonial race was the occupation and settlement of Australia after James Cook surveyed the eastern coast of the island continent and the Dutch started to occupy the Gulf of Carpentaria. Sparse settlements were founded in western and south end of Australia with uncertain success most of the time. The main settlements in the Swan River (fleuve de Cygne) would later became the colony of Cygnes.
The continued drain of resources in diplomacy and war would urge to many reforms in France, thought resisted by the aristocracy and others as a violation of ancient chartered rights. The most important reforms was to use the colonies to contribute to the budget and opening them colonization and trade dismantling much of the mercantilist system. It would also led to industrial development thru the building of roads and canals. However the inability to fully established full internal free trade and lift internal custom barriers remained the main obstacle unlike Britain that enjoyed internal free trade and had loosen the controls of mercantilism between its colonies and India. The profits from French India enable to pass the worst of the budgetary deficit and pay the lavish lifestyle of the court and aristocracy but worked in paying debt and not directly going to capital investment. So the ancienne regime of France became more alike the old Spanish Empire in its inability to modernize with the richness of the New World in this case of India.
The economic crisis of 1783 and severe bad weather also put pressure in grain prices leading to local revolts, worsening the standing of Louis XVII. Despite the riches from India and income from the Îles de sucre all of it was taken up by war debts and the sumptuous lifestyle of nobles and court bringing the Kingdom closer to bankruptcy than ever. The dismissal of finance minister of Turgot and the appointment of Jacques Necker as Comptroller-General of Finance briefly solved urgent problems but the rise of grain prices brought unrest in the countryside. Measures to cut down the expenses of court and nobles were unpopular and so was the reform of taxes and provisions for nobles to pay were under resistance from them. Neither the Assembly of Notables endorsed the proposals after the opposition from the parlements. So the the King announced the calling of the Estates-General for May 1788, an assembly of the nobility, clergy and commoners (the Third Estate), the first time the body had been summoned since 1614.
However when the Estates-General meet in rebellion the Third Estate formed into a National Assembly, inviting the other two to join, against the wishes of the King. This signals the outbreak of the French Revolution.
The King tried to resist. Under the influence of the courtiers of his privy council, he resolved to go in state to the Assembly, annul its decrees, command the separation of the orders, and dictate the reforms to be effected by the restored Estates-General. On June, he ordered the hall where the National Assembly met, closed. The Assembly moved their deliberations to the nearby tennis court, where they proceeded to swear the 'Tennis Court Oath', by which they agreed not to separate until they had settled the constitution of France. Two days later, deprived of the use of the tennis court as well, the Assembly met in the Church of Saint Louis, where the majority of the representatives of the clergy joined them: efforts to restore the old order had served only to accelerate events.
In the séance royale at the end of June, Louis XVII granted a Charte octroyée, a constitution granted by royal favor, which affirmed, subject to the traditional limitations, the right of separate deliberation for the three orders, which constitutionally formed three chambers. This move failed; soon, that part of the deputies of the nobles who still stood apart joined the National Assembly at the request of the King. The Estates-General had ceased to exist, having become the National Assembly (and after 9 July 1789, the National Constituent Assembly). Absolutism was effectively brought to an end when the National Constituent Assembly began to function as a governing body and a constitution-drafter.
- The History of the Constitutional monarchy (1788-1790) is covered in French Republic.
The French Monarchy (Ancien Régime)
The Ancien Régime was the political and social system of the Kingdom of France ruled by the Bourbon dynasties. The administrative and social structures of the Ancien Régime were the result of years of state-building, legislative acts (like the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts), internal conflicts and civil wars, but they remained a patchwork of local privilege and historic differences until the French Revolution ended the system.
The early years of Louis XIV were focused on administrative centralisation. At his death the apex of the system was the King with full powers over France and its subjects inheriting his successors a fully absolute monarchy with a working bureaucracy and Army that helped its labor. Despite, however, the notion of "absolute monarchy" (typified by the king's right to issue lettres de cachet) and the efforts by the kings to create a centralized state, Ancien Régime France remained a country of systemic irregularities: administrative (including taxation), legal, judicial, and ecclesiastical divisions and prerogatives frequently overlapped, while the French nobility struggled to maintain their own rights in the matters of local government and justice, and powerful internal conflicts (like the Fronde) protested against this centralization.
The need for centralization in this period was directly linked to the question of royal finances and the ability to wage war. The internal conflicts and dynastic crises of the 16th and 17th centuries (the Huguenot Wars between Catholics and Protestants and the Habsburg's internal family conflict) and the territorial expansion of France in the 17th century (Les guerres du Roi Soleil) demanded great sums which needed to be raised through taxes, such as the land tax (taille) and the tax on salt (gabelle) and by contributions of men and service from the nobility.
One key to this centralization was the replacing of personal patronage systems organized around the king and other nobles by institutional systems around the state. The creation of intendants—representatives of royal power in the provinces—did much to undermine local control by regional nobles. The same was true of the greater reliance shown by the royal court on the "noblesse de robe" as judges and royal counselors. The creation of regional parliaments had initially the same goal of facilitating the introduction of royal power into newly assimilated territories, but as the parlements gained in self-assurance, they began to be sources of disunity.
- Kings of France and Navarre
Since 1764 also holds the title of Emperor of India..
- Louis XIV (1643–1715)
- Louis XV (1715-1744)
- Louis XVI (1744-1773)
- Louis XVII (1773-1790)
Colonial ventures and empire
During the 16th century, the French colonization of the Americas began. But Spain's jealous protection of its foreign monopoly, and the further distractions caused in France itself in the later 16th century by the French Wars of Religion, prevented any constant efforts by France to settle colonies. The story of France's colonial empire truly began in 1605, with the foundation of Port Royal in the colony of Acadia in North America. A few years later, in 1608 Quebec, which was to become the capital of the enormous, but sparsely settled, fur-trading colony of New France (also called Canada).
As the French empire in North America grew, the French also began to build a smaller but more profitable empire in the West Indies in the highly profitable Îles de sucre or Sugar Islands- Saint-Domingue, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Grenada- of the Caribbean Sea. Guyana was also important.
French colonial expansion was not limited to the New World but also included West Africa and India. After the Third Carnatic War and the partition of India as outlined in the Clive-Dupleix Agreement of 1761 between France and Britain provided unrestricted access to the riches, trade and products of southern India such as precious metals and gems, cotton, coffee, rice, sugarcane and tobacco.
The late discovery and colonization of Australia was troublesome due to the harshness of lands of Western Australia and the Dutch and British competition and only the main settlements in the Swan River (fleuve de Cygne) would later became the colony of Cygnes.
From the early discoveries and until the Seven Years' War (1754 and 1763) migration was restricted and required official permits with Canada being the main area of interest. However after the loss of Canada to Britain at the end of the Seven Years' War a major watershed in colonial policy came to be. The Decree of Population of the Colonies of 1768 opened unrestricted migration overseas with official sanction and aid to Louisiana and Guyana with Australia under Louis XVII also addend as beneficiary. The chief architect of the population policy, the duc de Choiseul, also provided a guarantee of land ownership for settlers from France and Canada to hold land and pay only a few taxes. In less than a decade the colonizers in Louisiana, Guayana and Australia more than double and began to provide products and income to mainland France.
The French colonial empire consisted:
In the Americas
- New France (including Canada and Louisiana) disolved in 1763 due to Canada being handed to the British Commonwealth
- French West Indies (including Saint-Domingue, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Martin, Saint-Barthélemy, La Grenade, St. Croix, St. Vincent, Saint-Christopher, Tobago and other smaller islands)
- French Guyana
- Louisiana Established as separate administrative unit in 1763.
In the Indian Ocean
- Île de Bourbon
In India before the Carnatic Wars
- Chandernagore (1673)
- Pondichéry (1674)
- Yanam (1723)
- Mahe (1725)
- Karikal (1739)
India after the Carnatic Wars.
- French Carnatic Coast (capital Pondichéry)
- French Malabar-Kerala Territory (Capital Mahe)
- French Northern Circars (Capital Yanaon)
Protectorates and suzerainties after the Carnatic Wars:
- Kingdom of Mysore (French suzerainty)
- State of Hyderabad (French suzerainty)
- Kingdom of Travancore (French protectorate)
- Kingdom of Coorg (French protectorate)
In Australasia and Oceania
- Cygnes (France)
Like all major colonial empires (i.e. British Commonwealth and Dutch Republic), commercial enterprise and colonization of the colonies was organized in chartered companies, vastly reformed by Jean-Baptiste Colbert (minister of Finances).
- The Company of One Hundred Associates (formal the Compagnie de la Nouvelle France, or colloquially the Compagnie des Cent-Associés or Compagnie du Canada) was a French trading and colonization company chartered in 1627 to capitalize on the North American fur trade and to expand French colonies there. The company was granted a monopoly to manage the fur trade in the colonies of New France, which were at that time centered on the Saint Lawrence River valley and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. In return the company was supposed to settle French Catholics in New Colonies.
- The Company of the American Islands (Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique) a chartered company that in 1635 took over the administration of the French settlements in the Caribbean and was mandated to actively colonise other islands. It was dissolved in 1651 and most of its activities later taken over by French West India Company.
- The French East India Company (Compagnie française pour le commerce des Indes orientales) a commercial enterprise, founded in 1664 to compete with the British and Dutch East India companies in the East Indies.
- Company of Senegal (Compagnie du Sénégal)
- Company of Guinea (Compagnie de Guinée)
- The French West India Company (Compagnie française des Indes occidentales) a trading company founded in 1664 by Jean-Baptiste Colbert. The company received the French possessions of the Atlantic coasts of Africa and America. It had its headquarters in Le Havre.
- The Mississippi Company (compagnie du Mississippi), a commercial and colonizing enterprise in Louisiana.
- The Royal Company of Africa (Compagnie royale d'Afrique), with its headquarters in Marseille, for trading in Algeria and North Africa.