How successful was Louis XIV in maintaining royal authority within France after 1685? (24)
One of Louis XIV’s main policies was to maintain his royal authority throughout his reign to effectively enforce his absolutism. During his reign, there were many successes including the fact that he managed to control the nobility to such an extent until his death when they would perform the lever and coucher. However, there were also several failures in maintaining authority including the fact that Huguenots (among other religious minorities) became an increasing disturbance to him to the point where armed soldiers were to be placed in their homes for them to convert.
One success in maintaining his authority was, as mentioned earlier, the lever and coucher. These were essentially ceremonies where the French nobility was made to watch Louis get out of and get into bed (morning and night, respectively). This demonstrates the grasp he continued to have over the nobility as they would vie for positions in these ceremonies to aid the king in going to bed and getting up.
The positions held in these ceremonies would display how much favor a noble would have with the king and those who had the most important positions in the ceremony would often be the ones succeeding most through his system of patronage (rewarding nobles for being sycophants) which was incredibly successful.
However, one failure in maintaining his authority was his relationship with the Pope and the Papacy during the latter years of his reign. This is because not only was he being influenced by Madame de Maintenon in all of his religious matters/mindset, but he also had to give up his power and will by repairing his relationship with the Pope through the bull Unigenitus (used as permission to persecute the Jansenists) into his authority on those in his own country that dared to defy him.
The reason why this is such a failure for Louis though is that he relinquished his contriver religious matters in his country by returning it from the power of Louis and the Gallicans to the Pope, a complete reverse of his original policy.
Others could argue however that Unigenitus was a success in maintaining authority since it legitimized his reasons for the persecution of the Jansenists by having the Pope perform as Louis wanted by calling them heretics of the Catholic faith, therefore meaning his will was exacted. It would have also meant that his relationship with the Pope had improved massively and that there would be less of a reason for the other Catholic nations to turn against him. However, this view is much less convincing.
Another failure concerning religion in failing to maintain authority was the issue of the Huguenots, who became an increasing annoyance to Louis throughout his reign. Louis was initially successful in his policy of ridding of the Huguenots with his less radical policies such as paying them to convert (Casse de Conversions) which used the money gained from vacant bishoprics. He also made life generally difficult for them by not allowing them to join certain professions and by shutting down their churches and schools. During this period, 750,000 Huguenots converted, and it was thought that by 1800 they would be statistically insignificant.
However, Louis wanted to rapidly increase the rate at which they would be gone and revoked the Edict of Nantes, which made their religion illegal, leading to 200,000 fleeing the country and joining other Protestant nations such as the Holy Roman Empire, the Dutch, and the English. This is a massive failure because fewer it meant that heresy still survived, the Huguenots now had the sympathy of other nations, leading to a damaged reputation and
left for other countries it also led to France’s enemies gaining their abilities, skills, and knowledge of France, therefore harming France economically (fewer workers), militarily (enemies gain knowledge of French tactics) and Louis’ authority since he was now being called a tyrant/despot by the Pope and other Catholic kings. This also hurt France in the long term since these were the same people to be leading the revolution in France against the Ancient Regime in 1789 against Louis XVI.
In conclusion, it should be said that Louis XIV’s authority after 1685 massively declined since he relinquished control over both the Pope and Madame de Maintenon and also allowed a small religious group to be able to do this. However, it can be argued that in nonreligious/foreign matters Louis did maintain at least a certain degree of control since his people would at least fear him and continue to perform the Lever and Coucher.