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How Much Power Did Louis Xiv Really Have?

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 01:08 AM
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Absolute monarchy meant that the king had ultimate authority in the state. Louis XIV has often been called the best example of an absolute monarch. He was accepted by the nobility and people of France because of their belief in his divine right to rule (Spielvogel 417). How much power did Louis XIV really have? Louis was able to centralize more power within himself, but was limited by his dependence of local agents, his views on religion, and his expenditure on war and lavish lifestyle.  

Louis XIV gained a lot of power by attempting to centralize all power in himself. He completely reorganized his system of government and abolished his ministers and secretaries (Spielvogel 420). Louis kept three ministers in his high council that had to answer only to him and could only take action with his say. He involved himself with political affairs and even held meetings twice a week to keep informed about what was happening in his provinces. He ultimately had final say with decisions regarding foreign policy and diplomacy (Gourbert 66).

Louis also gained success by realizing that publicity can make it easier to govern. He had writers, painters, and historians pensioned to praise his rule. Coins were even struck to comment on the glories of his time in power. (Berner 96). He also built Versailles, which became a symbol for the greatness and glory of King Louis XIV’s power. Versailles also served as home to high nobility, thus limiting the power they could execute since they were in close quarters with the King and he could watch over them (Spielvogel 420).

While Louis was effective in controlling the central policy of government, he was less successful in the internal administration of the kingdom. France was large and fragmented. He needed to function through local agents even if he was in charge of decision-making policies. This in itself limits his authority. Local officials could still obstruct policies they disliked (Spielvogel 420).


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