Extracts from CHAPTER I of the Cambridge Modern History, Volume 5. [Full text]



By A. J. GEANT, M.A.,
King's College, Professor of History in the University of Leeds.



WHEN Mazarin's death left the government of France in the hands of the young King, the country seemed to be so happily situated, so free from dangerous rivals and pressing dangers, that it was capable of determining its own destiny. While France had triumphed over Europe, in France itself the monarchy had triumphed over all rival powers, classes and organisations. The futile struggle of the Fronde had discredited the Parlements, and had exhibited the egotism and the incapacity of the noblesse. France turned to her King with a loyal enthusiasm born of a sense that the monarchy alone could maintain order in the State and ensure its prosperity.

At the time of Mazarin's death Louis XIV was twenty-three years old. His character was as yet little known. If Mazarin had not kept the sovereign in ignorance, he had certainly kept him in the background; and hence it was that Louis XIV's declaration "that he intended to be his own first minister" and that "all ministers were to address themselves to him" was received with amusement and incredulity. His singular grace and dignity of manner were already apparent; his amorous temperament was familiar to those who had been brought into close contact with him; and these characteristics endured to the end. But the world had not yet suspected the persistent energy of the young King, or his fondness for "the business of reigning,'" or, again, the boundless pride and egotism which neutralised many of his best qualities. During the whole of his reign he maintained his habits of regularity and hard work. He was constant in attendance at the various councils by which the business of the State was transacted; and he was always attentive, eager to master the details of business, and confident in his own judgment whether in domestic or in foreign affairs. From the first he was the real ruler of the country, and his mastery increased as his reign advanced. The domestic and the foreign policy of France were at first largely controlled by his great Ministers-Colbert, Louvois, and Lionne - though the approval of the King was always a necessary condition of their action, and at each point his judgment had to be convinced. But, before the end of the reign, the relative importance of the Ministers had greatly declined; they were at last the almost servile executors of the King's will; and he had grown intolerant of opposition and protest.

It is difficult to arrive at a judgment as to the abilities of Louis XIV. Lord Acton has called him "by far the ablest man who was born in modern times on the steps of a throne." Clearly, his was no commonplace character or intelligence. One who directed the policy of the first State in Europe for fifty-five years, who achieved many victories, and showed great tenacity and skill in the hour of defeat, must have had powers above the average. No historian has ever denied to him patience, industry, or method. "One must work hard to reign," he wrote, "and it is ingratitude and presumption towards God, injustice and tyranny towards man to wish to reign without hard work." He laboured at the task of reigning his whole life through, undeterred by ennui, uninterrupted by pleasures or domestic affliction. Montesquieu's judgment, that his character was more striking than his intelligence ("il avait Fame plus grande que l'esprit "), is perhaps the fairest summing-up of the Grand Monarque. In what concerned foreign affairs and the organisation of the central government he exhibited real skill. But he did not show the same intelligence or the same patience in relation to social or religious problems or the organisation of local government. The extension of monarchical authority and of his own personal power was the predominant impulse with him; and where these were not concerned his attention and energy were apt to flag. His theory of life was theocratic through and through:  the King is God's vicegerent, and is possessed of a sort of divine infallibility. The history of his reign passes judgment on this theory as to its effects both on the kingdom and on the King. In his reign the monarchy ceased to be the one principle of unity in the State; it ceased to justify itself as the protector of the people against the nobility and as the successful leader of the nation in war. It became something apart from the people and the nation. The way was thus prepared for the Revolution of the next century.

The authority of the Crown had triumphed over, without actually effacing, all rival authorities. Parlements and local Estates and municipalities still existed. The Church still held its assemblies; but, if they still exercised any power, it was by permission of the King. All power came from the King, and it was the fixed determination of Louis XIV that this fact should be recognised by all the officials of the State. When Voysin became Secretary of State, he apologised to the King for referring certain decisions to him, saying that he had not yet had sufficient experience of office to take on himself the responsibility of decision. Louis answered emphatically that it would never be his business to decide anything; that he must always take his orders from the King, and limit his activity to executing them.

The machinery of government developed by Richelieu and Mazarin was used by Louis XIV; but it was developed still further. The essential characteristic of the constitution of France during his reign consisted in its being a government through Councils, to which, with few exceptions, neither birth nor rank gave any right of admission. The nobility were excluded with jealous care; great ecclesiastics were no longer admitted; the Councils were filled chiefly with men of middle-class birth, usually lawyers (gens de la robe), who owed everything to the King and could not possibly regard themselves as independent of him. The exclusion of those above the accepted level was maintained even against members of the royal family.

There were four chief Councils : the Conseil d'État, the Conseil des Dépêches, the Conseil des Finances, and the Conseil Privé. The Conseil d'Etat [Council of State], unofficially known as the Conseil d'en haut [High Council] was a small body of not more than four or five men, which met in the presence of the King. It assembled three times a week, and in it the great questions of State were considered and decided. All the members could take part in discussing these questions, but the decision rested with the King. This Council was the pivot of the State; but the King took care not to allow it to become apparent constitutionally. No minutes were taken of the proceedings of the Council, and no record was kept of its decisions. Its meetings were merely occasions on which the King chose to ask the advice of those whom he cared to consult. The Conseil des Dépêches [Council of messages] was also held in his presence, and considered and decided on all questions relating to the internal condition of France. The Conseil des Finances had under its control all questions relating to taxation, and was also held in the royal presence. All these three Councils were held in the royal apartments. The fourth Council, the Conseil Privé or Conseil des parties, was a body quite different in kind. It was held in the palace, but not in the royal apartments, was not usually presided over by the King, and consisted of a large number of lawyers (maîtres de requêtes). It was not technically a supreme Court of appeal, for its functions were purposely left indefinite; but it was the highest judicial Court in the land, and represented the vague but supreme judicial authority belonging to the King. These were the chief Councils; but there were others, such for instance as those dealing with religion, with the Huguenots and with commerce. In any matter of importance the King was accustomed to seek the advice of persons whose opinion he valued and whom he had no reason to fear, and to decide after listening to their advice.

Thus, at the centre, the royal authority triumphed completely, and thrust the Parlement and the sovereign Courts into the shade. His aim was the same in the provinces; but in these the royal authority had to struggle to supremacy through the ruins of a vast number of provincial institutions, customs, and rights. There were the provincial Estates, or what remained of them: there were the provincial Parlements; there were the municipal liberties, once so vigorous and important, and still general, though decadent and threatened with extinction. Wide differences still existed between province and province, not only in feeling and institutions, but even in language. Lavisse has asserted that in the year 1661 the greater number of Frenchmen were still ignorant of the French tongue. In consequence of these separatist tendencies the royal authority had a hard struggle to carry out its aim of centralised and unified government, in spite of the heavy blows whieh Richelieu had already struck in this direction. The ruins of the past were still left to cumber the ground, and often to prevent the rise of any more useful edifice; but in their midst there rose the power of the royal intendants. The Parlements were not abolished : they continued to sit and to give decisions at Toulouse, Grenoble, Bordeaux, Dijon, Rouen, Aix, Pau, Rennes, Metz; and later in the reign at Tournay and Besançon. The provincial Estates still met at intervals in Britanny, the Boulonnais, Artois, Burgundy, Provence, Languedoc, and Franche Comté. The Governors still held nominal power in the various provinces:  they were usually men of aristocratic birth and they enjoyed a large income. But they were for the most part absentees, and, when they went to their provinces, it was for ceremonial purposes rather than for the performance of important business. Parlements, Estates and Governors were devoid of any real power. The real authority lay with the royal intendants, who in effect represented in the provinces the unlimited authority of the King, and who were placed there in order to maintain and increase it. The King informed his intendants that it was their business to see to "the observation of our edicts, the administration of civil and criminal justice and of police, and all other matters which concern the prosperity and security of our subjects." They were chosen from the ranks of the unprivileged classes, and the nobility saw in them their chief rivals and enemies. In the passage quoted above, the King speaks of "the prosperity and security of our subjects," and the relief of the poor figures occasionally in despatches. But it is the special weakness of the reign that so much was made of the royal authority for its own sake, while the condition of the people occupied a quite secondary place. Notwithstanding the great power of Louis XIV and the reforming energy of Colbert, little was done for the relief of the people even during the early and prosperous years of Louis XIV's rule; and the wars, successful and unsuccessful, of his later years heaped intolerable burdens on the shoulders of the poor and threw into further confusion the system of administration, which Colbert had done his utmost to regularise and simplify.

It was the effort of the King to keep the power in his own hands and to avoid the slightest appearance of a "mayor of the Palace." Without violently overthrowing the old machine of government, he reduced to something like impotence the ministers of old and high-sounding titles, and gave the reality of power into the hands of other ministers and Secretaries of State who were immediately appointed by and dependent on himself. The Secretaries of State, despite their nominally dependent position, were elevated above the heads of the old nobility. They represented Royalty itself, and only Princes, Dukes, and Marshals, were exempted from the necessity of saluting them by the title of"Monseigneur". The Chancellor was in name the chief of the King's servants. He seemed the last survival of the Middle Ages. He was nominal president of all the Councils and head of all Courts and tribunals; he had the custody of the royal seal, so that all acts of the royal authority passed through his hands. He was irremovable and seemed therefore a very bulwark of aristocratic power against the monarchy. But, in truth, the treatment of the Chancellor is symbolic of the whole political condition of France. He remained in his splendour and wealth and nominal power. Earlier Kings had eluded his power by giving the actual custody of the seals to an official removable at pleasure; but in the reign of Louis XIV the prestige of the royal authority was so great that no such subterfuge was necessary. The Chancellors of Louis XIV were not the slightest check upon his authority. Next came the Controller-General of Finances and the Ministers of State, whose office under Louis XIV lasted just so long as they retained the confidence of the King. They were without accurately defined duties, and were in fact exactly what the King chose to make of them. After them came the Secretaries of State, in whose hands lay the real administration of the realm. Their duties in 1661 were the superintendence of (1) foreign affairs, (2) war, (3) the King's household and the Church, (4) the Protestants of France:  but, in addition, the provinces were rather arbitrarily divided into four groups, and each group was placed under one of the four Secretaries. But these duties were not rigidly defined and were varied when new appointments were made.

Louis XIV was excellently served during the first part of his reign by men most of whom had received their training in statesmanship in the schools of Richelieu and Mazarin. Le Tellier, a man of humble origin, was Secretary of State for war and had shown great efficiency in that department. He was a servant such as Louis XIV loved to have - painstaking, efficient and incapable of any ambition except to rise in the favour and service of his royal master. His reputation has been effaced by his subordinate Colbert, and by his son, the notorious Louvois. Brienne, La Vrillière, and Guénégaud were the other secretaries in 1661; but the name of Lionne was greater than theirs. He had served as a diplomatist with great distinction under Mazarin, and was soon to show his skill under Louis XIV as Secretary of State for foreign affairs.

For the moment, however, it was not war or foreign affairs which claimed the King's chief attention, but rather the department of finances, where Nicolas Fouquet still reigned as surintendant. It has been told in an earlier volume how Fouquet had used the troubles of the Fronde to amass for himself an enormous fortune by methods even more corrupt than the moral standard of the time allowed. Mazarin had known what he was doing, had winked at it, and had probably shared in the profits. But the new master of France had an authority and a spirit which placed him above such temptations; and the wealth and the position of Fouquet were such that he was the most real rival of the royal power. Colbert had already marked the dishonest gains of Fouquet and had reported them to Mazarin; but no action had been taken. His counsels had more weight with Louis XIV, and the overthrow and trial of Fouquet was the first serious measure of his reign. He was condemned to banishment and confiscation of property; but this was not enough for the King, who commuted the sentence into imprisonment for life. Fouquet was immured until his death in the prison of Pinerolo.

The chief agent in pressing on the trial of Fouquet had been Colbert. He was sprung from a family engaged in commerce, and had at first thought of commerce as his destined career. But he had then entered the service of Le Tellier, and had through him become acquainted with Mazarin, to whom he had rendered important services. His opposition to Fouquet was prompted by a detestation of the methods employed which animated his whole career; but personal ambition also played its part. The fall of Fouquet brought Colbert to the control of the finances, though the title of surintendant was not employed again. Finance was now relegated to the attention of a Council; but in this Council Colbert was henceforth the supreme influence, though he at first only held the title of intendant des finances, which was later changed to controller-general. His influence too extended far beyond the finances, and largely controlled the King's policy until the epoch of the great wars began. Charge after charge was accumulated upon him. In 1661 he was member of the Council of Finance and chargé d'affaires for the navy. In 1664 he became superintendent of buildings. He was raised to the post of Controller-General of Finance in 1667. He became Secretary of State for the King's household and Secretary of State for the navy in 1669.

Colbert was neither a philanthropist nor a philosopher. The relief of the poor is often mentioned in his projects, but it seems rather a conventional phrase than a deeply cherished aim. He has nothing to add to the economic or political theory of the State. He identified the wealth of a State with the amount of gold and silver which it contains. This was the common theory of his age. It was more individual to himself that he conceived the total volume of European commerce to be incapable of a material increase. What one nation gained, he concluded, another must lose. The idea of the fraternity of nations found no place in his scheme of thought. He was anxious that France should win from the other nations the commerce which they at present possessed. Commerce with him was divided from war by its methods rather than by its spirit or its objects. The greatness of France, he declared on one occasion, was proved not merely by its own flourishing condition but by the poverty and general distress to which it had reduced its neighbours. Yet, while neither philanthropist nor philosopher, he was a man of business with a passionate enthusiasm for detail, industry, and efficiency. And, though not an original thinker, there is something revolutionary in his general objects:  for he wished to make of France, in spite of all her feudal, aristocratic, and military traditions, a commercial State; to transfer her ambition from war to finance; to manage her policy, not with an eye to glory, but on sound business principles. But he failed to bend France to his will. Her traditions stood in his way, and Louis XIV cared nothing for commerce and much for military glory. Yet even the small measure of success to which he attained makes an epoch in French history.


The debts of the State next demanded his attention. Through the mouth of the King he repudiated certain debts altogether, because only a small portion of the original capital had ever reached the treasury. Then he declared that other bonds were to be cancelled by paying off the original sum advanced, less the sum of the interest already received. Those who were chiefly injured by this measure were the rentiers of the city of Paris, and their protests were loud and long. The King supported Colbert in a declaration wherein he stated that the cancelling of the bonds was the only way of effecting "the relief of the people which we desire with so much ardour"; but subsequently the procedure was modified in deference to the outcries of the people of Paris. The net result was, however, a considerable reduction in the indebtedness of the State.

The assessment and collection of the taxes also called for immediate consideration. The chief of the taxes was the taille. The abuses connected with this most burdensome and long-lived impost were threefold, and may be summed up in the words privilege, arbitrary assessment and oppressive exaction. Nobility, clergy, court and government officials were exempt. Boisguillebert estimated, in 1697, that not more than a third part of the population contributed to the taille, and this third was the poorest and most wretched. In the pays d'élection the total sum was fixed by the Government, divided among the districts and parishes of the province by the intendant, and finally collected by prominent villagers, who were made responsible in their own property for the full payment. The payment of the tax was enforced by distraint and quartering of soldiers, often accompanied by acts of cruelty, and was frequently evaded by corruption. The collectors especially groaned under the burden of their responsibility. Failure to find the prescribed amount of taxes was punished by imprisonment. In 1679 we hear that there were 54 collectors imprisoned in Tours alone. Colbert's letters are full of the shifts to which the taxpayers had recourse in their efforts to escape, and of the misery caused by the government exactions. In the pays d'état, the taxes paid to the King were still called a don gratuit (or "benevolence"), and the taille was by no means so grievous a burden and did not discourage industry and the cultivation of the soil. The total amount was fixed by the intendant; but the provincial Estates had some influence in its assessment on districts and individuals, and it was reckoned, not on the general wealth of the taxpayer (taille personnelle), but upon his house and landed property (taille réelle). How was the situation to be remedied ? Colbert did not propose or desire to anticipate the ideas of 1789 by the abolition of privilege ; but he scrutinised all claims to exemption, and brought back into the ranks of the taxable a large number who had escaped under various pretexts. But, above all, he insisted on a more careful supervision of the collection of the taille at each of its stages. He urged the intendants to keep a jealous watch on the receivers and collectors; he gave rewards to those who collected the tax with the least expense, and punished the most wasteful. Sometimes there breaks out in his instructions a feeling of pity for the misery of the people; but it is for the most part the man of business who speaks. Here, as in the case of all Colberfs schemes for reform, the Dutch war of 1672 exercised a fatal effect; and the need for much money at once brought back many of the worst abuses that he had striven to destroy.

A vast number of other taxes, usually in the nature of customs and excise, exhibited the same features of confusion, corruption, and oppression as those noticed in the case of the taille. The abuses arose chiefly out of the indirect method of collecting these taxes. They were sold to capitalists who usually undersold them, and thus a large number of intermediate profits were exacted from the taxpayer and were lost to the State. Here also Colbert exhibits his usual characteristics. His ideas do not rise above the existing system. He does not propose to institute the direct collection of these taxes by state officials. But he inspected the existing system with minute care; he punished fraud; he tried to establish greater simplicity of working. Yet even under the improved system introduced by Colbert the weight of the burden of the taxes is shown by frequent provincial disturbances. These provincial risings make little mark in the memoirs of the time (though Madame de Sévigné devotes some precious pages to the troubles in Britanny), and the society of Versailles cared little about them. But they were in many instances very serious, and a study of them shows how little the classic dignity of the Court of the Grand Monarque is truly representative of the condition of France during his reign. There was a serious rising in the Boulonnais in 1662 caused by the quartering of troops and the imposition of unpopular taxes. It was suppressed without difficulty, but was followed by cruel and unjust punishments. Two years later a much more dangerous movement broke out in the Landes of Gascony. Here it was a new tax on salt that raised the fury of the people. The nature of the country, and above all the skill and audacity of the leader, Audijos, prolonged the trouble for many months. In vain those who were caught were cruelly punished, and high rewards were offered for the head of Audijos. He escaped in spite of all, sometimes finding a refuge on the Spanish side of the frontier. In the end the Government had to come to terms with the audacious leader, and gave him the command of a regiment of dragoons. An equally serious revolt broke out in the Vivarais, where a report of absurd taxes exasperated the people beyond patience. It was reported that the peasants were to pay ten livres for each male child born and five for each female, three livres when they bought a new coat and five when they bought a new hat. The rising was not suppressed until a force of nearly five thousand men had been despatched from headquarters. After the Dutch war of 1672, there were even more serious troubles. In 1674 Bordeaux broke out into rebellion to the cry of "Vive le roi sans gabelle! " [Long live the king without a salt tax]. The forces of the intendant were at first defeated, and it was only by great exertions that the rebellious city was reduced. The troubles in Britanny were perhaps the most serious of all, and they were supported by the Parlement. Before the province was quiet, the troops of the King had been guilty of horrible excesses, and their officers of broken promises. Thus it is clear that even at the zenith of the absolute monarchy the passions that inspired the peasantry in 1789 were not far below the surface.

While Colbert strove to improve the working of the actual machinery of France, and succeeded in diverting to the coffers of the State gains which had hitherto gone into the pockets of individuals, he was not contented with this. He desired also to add to the wealth of France by promoting her productive energies and by stimulating her industries. In all this he frankly takes the national point of view. The wealth of one country meant the poverty of her neighbour:  such was his economic creed. And he desired to acquire for France the industries which her neighbours - especially England and Holland - enjoyed. False theory here led him into the one supreme mistake of his life - his promotion of the war against Holland. His eyes were never opened to his theoretic error; but he saw the war sweep away many of the reforms and improvements that had been the result of his passionate energy.

His general industrial scheme is easily summarised. He desired to turn France into a busy hive of industry, to promote and direct those industries by the action of the State, to protect them from the rivalry of foreign countries by high protective tariffs; and then to open up trade in the commodities produced by improving the internal communication of France, by establishing trade with distant lands and defending the country by an increased and remodelled fleet. He pursued this task with energy and gained as large a measure of success as his commercial theory, the lukewarmness of Louis XIV, and the condition of the country allowed.

In 1663 he drew up a statement of the various articles imported into France and declared that they ought to be produced on French soil. Some of them had formerly been produced in France, but had disappeared; others had always come from abroad. Domestic manufactures must be revived and stimulated, foreign manufactures must be planted in the land. Many industries he found in the exclusive possession of foreign countries. Colbert was determined to break through these monopolies and to transfer these industries to French soil. He offered rewards to foreign workmen - English, Dutch, German, Swedish, Venetian - to come and settle in France and establish a centre for the manufacture of their various articles on French territory. At the same time he punished severely Frenchmen who tried to transfer their industrial knowledge to a foreign soil. For the rest, all France must work hard. The pauperising almsgiving of the monasteries must be limited; the admission of peasants into the Orders of the celibate Church must be discouraged. The King was to take the lead in the endeavour. Chief among the royal industries was the Gobelins factory, which soon gained a great celebrity for its tapestries; but there were more than a hundred other establishments that bore the title of Royal. The example thus given would, it was hoped, be widely followed. Religious establishments were encouraged to manufacture; municipalities were directed to turn their attention to industry; there were honours and State-aid for those who laboured, and the great Minister's bitterest opposition visited all idlers.

But it was not in Colbert's nature to trust for the development of industrial France to the effects of competition and the free impulses of the people. He could not believe that a thing was done, unless he did it himself or through his agents. He was alarmed and irritated to find that in certain markets the products of the French factories were not welcomed and were regarded as deficient in quality compared with those of the rivals of France. To alter this condition of things, the manufacturers must be schooled by the State. The industries of France were nearly all in the hands of trade-guilds, and it was through these that Colbert brought the influence of the State to bear on the manufacturers. Edicts and regulations followed one another by the score; methods of manufacture, with details as to the size, colour and quality of manufactured articles, were laid down. The tone adopted was that of a schoolmaster who alternates punishment with moral platitudes. Then inspectors were sent round the country to enforce these regulations. A famous edict of 1671 on the weaving and dyeing of cloth will show to what lengths he was ready to go. If bad cloth is produced specimens of it are to be exposed on a stake with a ticket attached giving the name of the delinquent. If the same fault is committed again, the master or the workman who is at fault shall be censured in the meeting of the guild. In the event of a third offence the guilty person shall himself be tied to the post for two hours with a specimen of the faulty product tied to him. The customs and traditions of France and the love of ease natural to all men resisted Colbert at every turn. His instructions show his growing anger with the fainéantise [laziness] of the people. He closes the public-houses during working-hours. He uses irony and threats, and often confesses that his efforts are in vain. But much was done. Industrial France was slowly coming into being. Patient energy and a continuation of peace would have done more.

But Colbert had not succeeded in destroying or seriously injuring the industries of the neighbours of France; and his theory persuaded him that this was an indispensable sign of her prosperity. Holland, he complained, possessed 15,000 or 16,000 of the 20,000 ships that carried on the commerce of the world, and France had only five or six hundred. His first system of tariffs (in 1664) contained nothing that went beyond the ideas and practices of the time. But three years later he was more eagerly bent on the development of French industries and more determined on the destruction of the rival industries of the Dutch. We have seen that by him commerce was always regarded as a sort of war, and he saw, without desiring to withdraw from the struggle, that this time the commercial struggle was likely to lead to a military one. In the tariff of 1667 the customs on goods entering the kingdom of France were in many instances doubled, in some considerably more than doubled. Thus worsted stockings were charged 8 livres instead of 3 livres 10 sous; fine cloth was rated 80 livres instead of 40; lace at 60 instead of 25. A little later an absolute prohibition was placed upon Venetian glass and lace. Heavy taxes had already been put upon the export of raw materials produced in France, and this was often extended so as to include corn. The Dutch answered with counter-tariffs; and this war of the tariffs leads directly up to the outbreak of war in 1672.

In Colbert's scheme industry and commerce were closely connected; and, while he desired to stimulate the productive energies of France, he desired also to increase her share in the interchange of the commodities of the world. French traders lagged far behind those of Holland and England. They had hitherto played a small part in exploiting the wealth of the Indies and the Americas. Holland and England employed the method of chartered companies for their distant over-sea traffic, and Colbert resolved to do the same. His dealing with this question reveals his invariable characteristics. France must have trade, and therefore she must have trading companies; the rich men of France, whether merchants or nobles, must be forced to invest in these companies; the companies, when formed, must be under direct State supervision at every point. All that energy and constant watchfulness could do for the promotion of trade would be done. ColberVs failure, in this instance as so often, was that he did not realise the part that liberty must of necessity play in the development of commerce. It was his habit to think of efficiency and liberty as rivals, not as partners. He reorganised the Company of the West Indies; he founded a Company for the East Indies; these were followed by Companies for the Levant, for the timber trade of the Pyrenees, for the Northern Seas. The development and the failure of all these Companies follows similar lines. We may take the East India Company as typical of all. It was founded by a royal edict of August, 1664. The capital was to be 15 million livres, and the King subscribed 3 million without asking for interest. The Company was to enjoy a monopoly of all trade between the Cape of Good Hope and the East Indies. It was to possess in its own right whatever it took from the natives or from European enemies, with full mining rights. The only burdens imposed on it were that it should build churches and pay priests for the conversion of the natives, and that it should in all things comply with the laws of France and the Coutumier de Paris [Custom of Paris - a legal code]. But this last stipulation proved ruinous to the prosperity of the Company. It forced upon the agents of the Company, and upon all future colonists the restrictions both religious and political of France - restrictions damaging at home, suicidal abroad. Nothing went well with the Company from the first. It was in vain that the rich and the noble were forced to subscribe. The record of the Company is a record of corruption, failure, and bankruptcy. In eleven years the Company lost six and a half millions of livres. And Colbert heard with impotent jealousy that during this period the corresponding Dutch Company had paid a dividend of 40 per cent. Some of Colbert's Companies did worse; some rather better; none succeeded in rivalling the great Companies of England and Holland.


Colbert did much to facilitate the internal trade of France by the construction of canals and the improvement of roads. The idea of the chief among these enterprises, the famous Canal of Languedoc, which joined the Mediterranean to the Bay of Biscay, was no new one, though the actual project suggested to Colbert was due to Pierre-Paul Riquet, who was employed in the administration of the gabelle. Colbert eagerly adopted the proposal, and at first thought of making a canal capable of carrying ships of war; but he had to be satisfied with a more modest scheme. The difficulties, financial and engineering, were very great, and towards the end Colbert and Riquet had ceased to be on good terms with each other. The canal was opened in May, 1681, a few months after the death of Riquet. It was, for the times, an extraordinary feat in engineering. The canal was 162 miles long, had 75 locks and was earned over a watershed 830 feet above the sea-level. But Colbert was far from resting satisfied with the one great enterprise. He directed the improvement of the waterways throughout France, the making of new canals, and above all the improvement of the roads. Since the time of the Romans there had been no such road-maker in France as he.

Colbert's vision of a France, colonial, industrial, and commercial, necessarily included a strong navy. What Richelieu had done in this respect had been undone in the period of Mazarin's domination. Colbert took up the work with more than his usual energy, and here all his great qualities were seen at their best. When he began, the warships of the French navy were, he tells us, only twenty in number; and of these not more than two or three were really serviceable. But by 1671 the number had risen to 196 effective vessels, and by 1677 the figure had risen to 270. Thus Colbert saw the King in a position to realise the object summed up by him in the phrase "se passer des étrangers". The old harbours and arsenals of France were repaired, and new ones created. A fresh life was infused into Toulon, Rochefort, Brest, Le Havre, Dunkirk; and ship-building rapidly developed. He gave as careful a consideration to the question of the crews as to that of the ships themselves; but here the hardness of his nature becomes painfully evident. He forced the maritime population of France into the service with a vigour not less brutal than that of the English press of later days. But the cruelties to which his system could descend are seen at their worst in relation to the galleys. These vessels had been of the greatest service in the naval warfare of the Mediterranean, and Colbert was passionately determined to build and equip them with the greatest possible rapidity. He succeeded in building them, and boasted that the French yards were capable of turning out a galley within the space of twenty-four hours. But the crews gave him endless trouble. The toil of the rowers was so terrible and their treatment so cruel that free men could not be induced in sufficient quantities to undertake the work. The galleys were a common form of punishment for the criminals of France; and the correspondence of Colbert shows him to have urged upon the judges the sentencing of as large a number as possible to the galleys. The vagrants of France were forced wholesale into this living death; and those condemned for a short period were often detained for life. History has few more terrible chapters than that of the barbarous treatment of the French galley-slaves.


The year 1672 and the outbreak of the war with the United Netherlands mark the end of the pacific period of Louis XIV's reign, throughout which Colbert's had been the chief influence over the royal mind. During those first twelve years of the reign the prosperity of France was not unchequered nor her aims always right; but the chief effort of the Government was directed towards commercial and industrial development, the limitation of privilege and the unification of the State. The War of Devolution had been only a slight interruption to this progress, but the Dutch quarrel opened a continuous period of war lasting with little real interruption from 1672 to 1713. During this period the internal development of France was of little account. Colbert's influence had much declined even before his death. The King's mind was absorbed by military glory and religious orthodoxy; and these two tendencies were represented in his Court by Louvois and Madame de Maintenon.

Louvois was the son of Le Tellier, of whom mention was made above, and who in 1655 had procured for him the right of succession to his office, in accordance with the dangerous custom which established a sort of heredity in many of the highest positions in the State. In 1662 the King raised Louvois to the position of Secretary of State; and from that date he became one of the chief influences with the King and the rival of Colbert. He was a man exactly suited to win and to retain the favour of Louis XIV. To the rest of the world he was disdainful, arrogant, and violent; but in his dealings with the King he showed himself pliant and servilely deferential. It flattered the pride of the King to see his power over one who submitted to no other authority. Louvois did not, like Colbert, strive to thwart the King's natural disposition. Rather, he impelled him towards the goal to which his natural bent directed him. War, glory, dominion, and self-worship-these were the objects that Louvois held up before the eyes of Louis XIV, and to which he was by nature only too much inclined.

There are two sides to the work of Louvois, and our judgment on him will vary widely according as he is regarded as an administrator or a statesman. As a statesman he not only urged the King on to those military adventures which brought the "Age of Louis XIV" to so disastrous an end, but he also approved and cooperated in the tragic blunder of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. But as an administrator and organiser he deserves the very highest praise. He found the French army, famous indeed and victorious, but full of gross corruption and so bound by traditions, usually of feudal origin, that it was far from answering quickly to the wishes of the central Government. Louvois, acting in agreement with the whole tendency of the ideas and policy of Louis XIV, centralised the administration of the army, made the control of the King direct and paramount, and eliminated what remained of aristocratic influence. At the same time he improved its weapons, tightened its discipline, punished abuses and brought its different parts into organic connexion.

The abuses in the army were chiefly due to the power and influence which the nobility still held in the recruiting and organisation of the army. It was the nobles, not the Government, who collected and equipped the troops. They had themselves purchased the posts which they held, and they found various ways of making a profit out of their positions. The chief of these was to make a return of, and consequently to receive pay for, more men than were actually to be found in the ranks. On days of official inspection the gaps were filled up by paid substitutes (passe-volants), whom Louvois strove to suppress by the severest penalties. The scandals and corruptions in the provisioning of the army were also notorious.

Louvois sought to remedy this state of things, chiefly by bringing the army under more direct control of the Government. He was not prepared to revolutionise the whole system; but, by indefatigable attention to detail and by the strictest severity against proved malefactors, he succeeded in abolishing or diminishing the worst evils. The army was still recruited by the nobles; but Louvois appointed inspectors to ensure that the soldiers, for whom the Government paid, really existed, and to repress the licence and indiscipline of the noble officers. The cynical hardness of Louvois' nature - the brutalité that is so often attributed to him - here stood France in good stead; and he was excellently served by two inspectors, the famous Martinet for the infantry and de Fourilles for the cavalry.

But Louvois was not satisfied with the enforcement of honesty. Equipment and organisation both underwent important modifications. The bayonet was introduced ; the fusil (flint-lock) took the place of the mousquet, which had been discharged by means of a match. The grenadiers were organised into an important force; the status of the engineers and of the infantry was raised; the artillery was brought into closer relationship with the other parts of the army. An uniform was not yet insisted on for the whole army, but much was done to improve and regularise the appearance of the troops. Much thought also was devoted to the question of victualling. The slowness of the movements of earlier armies was often explained by the impossibility of procuring supplies. By Louvois' orders magazines were established, which greatly improved the mobility of the armies in the earlier wars of the reign. He carried on the work of Richelieu too by abolishing certain posts whose occupants held an almost independent position. The position of colonel-general of the infantry was suppressed; and, though the colonel-general of the cavalry and the grand maître of the artillery still remained, their powers were so reduced that they no longer conflicted with Louvois' chief aim of concentrating all military power in the hands of the King. A reform of a different kind must also be mentioned. He made generous provision for disabled soldiers by the establishment of the Hôtel des Invalides.

In sum, Louvois was efficient in the highest degree; as energetic as Colbert, and capable of infusing his own energy into his subordinates; ready to take responsibility and usually able to justify it by success. Without the efficiency of the French War Office under Louvois it is impossible to conceive of all the triumphs dating from the earlier part of Louis XIV's reign.

Before the death of Colbert another influence besides that of Louvois had begun to be strong with the King. Orthodox pietism had triumphed over him in the person of Madame de Maintenon. The political marriage, which had been arranged for him at the Peace of the Pyrenees, was not likely to retain exclusive control of his heart. The licence which had become traditional with the kings of France would not be checked by loyalty to Maria Teresa, who was a true and virtuous wife, but neither intellectual nor attractive. The King had been strongly attached in the first instance to Maria Mancini, the niece of Mazarin, and it needed all the power of the Cardinal to induce Louis XIV to carry out the stipulated treaty and marry Maria Teresa. Immediately after the marriage gossip was busy with the King's infidelities, and soon it was known that Louise de La Vallière was the chosen favourite. The King felt for her probably the purest passion of his life. She was only seventeen at the time of their first acquaintance, and her great beauty, charm of manner and sweetness of disposition sufficed to maintain her influence for many years. But she was in many ways singularly unfitted to maintain her position at Court. Her conscience was not easy; the religious life was always attractive to her; and, when at last she found her power waning and a rival preferred to herself, it was chiefly her genuine love for the King that made her regret the change. In 1674 she retired to a Carmelite nunnery. Her successor was Madame de Montespan, who had intrigued desperately against Mademoiselle de La Vallière and held the first place in the King's affections from 1670 to 1679, though not without occasional rivals. She was in point of character and person almost the antithesis of her predecessor, haughty, domineering, proud of her position, striking and imperious in her type of beauty. She had innumerable enemies at Court, both among the nobles and the clergy; but she out-faced them and for nearly ten years she triumphed over them. Her eclipse came from a strange quarter. She had borne the King several children, and it was necessary to find a discreet person to attend to their education. She met Madame Scarron at the house of a friend, induced her to accept the charge of the children, and thus introduced to the King the woman who was destined to be her successful rival.

Madame Scarron, who soon received at the King's hands the title of Marquise de Maintenon, is perhaps the most interesting figure in the Court of Louis XIV. She was the grandchild of Agrippa d'Aubigné, the famous Protestant leader of the sixteenth century. Her father had been a worthless spendthrift, and she had passed through many remarkable changes in life before she came to be the unacknowledged wife of the most splendid of the French kings. She was born in the ante-chamber of a prison; had spent some portion of her early life in Martinique, had been left an orphan at the age of seven, and, following the tenets of her protectors, had passed from Catholicism to Protestantism and from Protestantism back to Catholicism. In her seventeenth year she had married Scarron, a comic dramatist of reputation in Paris, preferring, as she has told us, such a marriage to the cloister; at twenty-five years of age she was left a widow, and lived for some time an obscure life, until an accidental meeting with Madame de Montespan made her the governess of the King's children. In her new task she came into contact with the King and soon became a well-known figure in the Court. She played a part of extraordinary difficulty with the utmost adroitness. Though she was in name the servant of the King's mistress, she gained great influence with the King himself. It was partly due to her that he severed himself from Madame de Montespan and was reconciled to his much-injured wife. After the death of Maria Teresa in 1683, Madame de Maintenon was secretly married to the King in January, 1684, in the presence of Harlay, Archbishop of Paris, and Louvois. She was a woman of great charm and dignity of manner; demure, self-restrained, and even cold in temperament; loving sobriety and reason both in thought and action; a character apparently little fitted for so romantic a destiny. She was, too, a woman sincerely, if not passionately, religious, and it was the religious element in her mind and character which contributed much to her conquest of Louis XIV.

The religious vein had never been wanting in Louis XIV even in his careless and licentious youth, and his confessor had always been one of the chief influences upon him. But under Madame de Maintenon the whole tone of the Court had changed. The splendid gaiety of the early years was thrown aside, and the practices of religion became the mode at Versailles. Madame de Maintenons influence cooperated with this religious development and did much to make the once brilliant Court of Versailles decorous and dull. As Louis XIV drew near to the Church, his personal morality underwent a most welcome improvement; but the new influence was unfortunately answerable for the worst political mistake in his reign, which contained so many. For, unfortunately, the conversion of Louis XIV was one which "had no root in reason and bore no fruit of charity." The Church had never abandoned her desire for uniformity, or her belief that physical coercion might be legitimately used to enforce it. And thus Louis XIV was led on to the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

The attack upon the Protestants of France which culminated in the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes was due, almost entirely, to religious intolerance, little complicated by the political and social motives which had intensified the religious struggles of the sixteenth century. The Huguenots of France had lost the political ambitions and aristocratic connexions which made them a serious danger in the days of the League and perhaps in the time of Richelieu. They had taken no part in the wars of the Fronde, and Louis XIV in 1666 publicly acknowledged the vigour and success with which they had resisted the party of rebellion during that period. They supported the commercial schemes of Colbert with a force out of proportion to their numbers. Nor did they threaten the Church any more than the State. There were fine orators and some scholars of distinction in their ranks, but their propagandist zeal had waned. They only needed to be left alone to provide France with a great source of strength both moral and material.

Two forces drove France down the fatal descent, from being the foremost representative of religious toleration to becoming a belated exponent of religious persecution in its most odious character. First, the King's personal feelings counted for something. Religion had come to be a strong and genuine motive with him, and, together with his vanity, impelled him towards the establishment of religious unity. But the Church in France was the strongest driving force. She was at the zenith of her power : her clergy were distinguished by sincerity, learning, and even by social sympathies. But they had always regarded the Edict of Nantes as an insult, and passionately desired its withdrawal, or, if that were not attainable, its restriction within the narrowest possible limits. The assemblies of the clergy, held every five years, continually demanded fresh measures of persecution. The fact that the clergy of France were about the same time engaged in a serious controversy with the Papacy as to the question of Gallican liberties made them all the more anxious to prove their orthodoxy by measures against the Protestants; and it is upon them that the chief responsibility must fall.

The end of the struggle was not foreseen. Neither King nor clergy had any intention of abolishing the Edict from the first. They desired merely to harass the Protestants by the most rigid interpretation of the Edict and by the withdrawal of all royal favour from the despised sectaries. This course had been suggested so early as 1655 by Gondrin, Archbishop of Sens, and the King began to act on it in the first year of his personal reign; for, in 1661, commissioners were sent round France to enquire into the administration of the Edict, and henceforth the liberties of the Huguenots were curtailed at every point. Thus, in 1661, toleration was withdrawn from the Pays de Gex (conterminous with Geneva) on the ground that it had not been a part of French territory at the time of the issuing of the Edict. Yet in that territory there were 17,000 Protestants, while the Roman Catholics numbered only 400. During the following year the action of the State troubled the Huguenots in many ways; but in 1666 a notable and open attack upon their privileges ensued. The General Assembly of the Clergy in 1665 had drawn up an address to the King suggesting certain liberties of which it might be possible to deprive the Huguenots, while still maintaining the letter of the Edict. Most of the proposals of the clergy were accepted by Louis XIV in the Edict of 1666, which may be taken as opening the era of persecution. It professed to maintain the Edict of Nantes; but each of its sixty clauses embodied some unjust decision against the Huguenots.

Henceforth the liberties of the Huguenots were curtailed by a hundred different methods, open and secret. Two may be taken as representative. In 1666 those of the Huguenots who accepted Catholicism were allowed three years in which to pay their debts; and in 1669 the "Chambers of the Edict," established in 1598, were suppressed. The position of the Protestants became grievous in the extreme; but for the present Louis XIV was not prepared to go further. The Elector of Brandenburg had protested against the Edict of 1666, and in 1669 Louis XIV withdrew many of its clauses. The Protestants were still oppressed by indirect persecutions of every kind; but the years between 1669 and 1680 were a period of comparative peace. During much of it, foreign affairs were claiming the King's attention; Colbert's influence was still strong; and thus no positive legislative enactments of importance are recorded against the Huguenots. But signs of coming danger were not wanting. The clergy maintained a war of pamphlets against them, and demanded "the destruction of the hydra." Turenne's conversion was a serious blow; for, so long as the first soldier in France was one of them, his fellow-Huguenots felt secure from the worst. The Government, moreover, was rigorously excluding from its service, even from the lowest grades of it, all Protestants. Even Colbert had to bow to this policy, the danger of which he realised. But the most important move in these years of comparative peace was the institution, in 1677, by Pélisson, himself a renegade Huguenot, of the "treasury of conversions." A considerable sum of money was put at the disposal of the agents of the Crown wherewith to purchase the adhesion of Huguenots. It was claimed that this means had been successful in procuring over 58,000 conversions by the year 1682.

The year 1681 marks the beginning of the end. The Peace of Nymegen had left the King's hands free to attend to domestic concerns. About the same time Madame de Montespan's influence with the King came to an end; and, though there is no evidence to connect Madame de Maintenon with the policy of the Revocation, her rise meant the strengthening of religion and the weakening of political interests in the King's mind. It is the special characteristic of the tragedy of the Revocation that so many good men and good impulses contributed to indjuce the King to commit his criminal and suicidal blunder. In June, 1681, was issued an Edict unsurpassed in the history of religious persecution for its mixture of hypocrisy and cruelty. It declared that children of Protestant parents might declare themselves converted to Catholicism at the age of seven. The Edict, which at firsb sight seemed merely ridiculous, proved in its working a terrible weapon of religious coercion. Any trivial acts or words could be interpreted as implying adhesion to Catholicism; then came the invasion of Protestant households and the forcible abduction of children. All appeals to the King were in vain. He had perhaps not yet determined on the revocation of the Edict; but he told Ruvigny, " the deputy general of the Reformed Churches," that he was henceforth "indispensably bound to effect the conversion of all his subjects and the extirpation of heresy." The attack became hotter during the following years, and the violations of the words of the Edict itself grosser. In 1682 a pastoral from the leaders of the Church in France was ordered to be read in all places of Protestant worship, in which the continued obstinacy of the Huguenots was threatened "with evils incomparably more terrible and deadly " than they had suffered up to the present. Protestants were excluded from most trade-guilds, from the financial service of the State and from the King's household. Their places of worship were closed in great numbers, usually on the plea that they had received back converts to Catholicism. Their colleges and schools were abolished. When they attempted to meet on the sites of their ruined temples, this was interpreted as rebellion and punished with barbarous severity. It is reckoned that, by 1684, 570 out of the 815 French Protestant churches had been closed. Between 1665 and 1685 nearly 200 edicts were issued dealing with "la religion prétendue réformée" [the religion supposedly reformed] and nearly all of these curtail some liberty or impose some new constraint : here they destroy a church; there they compel midwives to baptise the children of Huguenots in the Catholic faith, if their life is uncertain. One edict orders that a seat shall be placed in all Protestant "temples " for the accommodation of Catholic officials; another, that no Protestant minister may reside for more than three years in the same place. Already the Huguenots had begun to stream in thousands to foreign countries in search of the security and livelihood which France denied them.

But the Government was not satisfied with legal chicanery and indirect pressure. In 1681 Marillac invented the method of the dragonnades. The quartering of soldiers on private persons was habitually practised in France. It was a grievous burden to whomsoever it befel; but, when the soldiers were quartered specially on Protestants and received a hint that their excesses would be overlooked by their officers, it became, for the sufferers from it, a martyrdom. But in 1681 the Government was not ready to adopt as its own the procedure of Marillac, which raised difficulties with foreign Governments, and vastly increased the tide of emigration. When, therefore, Ruvigny reported the iniquities which were being transacted in Poitou, the King disowned Marillac and shortly afterwards recalled him. But in 1685 Foucault was directed by Louvois to use the same methods in Beam. Tens of thousands of Protestants saved themselves from outrage and torture by verbal adhesion to the religion of their persecutors. Then the same system was extended from Beam to other provinces where Protestantism was strong. But the Edict of Nantes still remained on the statute-book, and the Government pretended to observe it.

The farce soon ceased. Every influence at Court was in favour of the Revocation. Chief among the King's counsellors in the matter were his confessor, the Jesuit Père La Chaise; Harlay, the Archbishop of Paris; Louvois, the Minister of War; and Le Tellier, the Chancellor, the father of Louvois. Madame de Maintenon was admitted to conferences on the treatment of the Huguenots, and found her position, as an ex-Huguenot, a difficult one. She tells us that her advice was always for moderation. "We must not hurry; we must convert, not persecute." There was a period of hesitation, in which the question of policy and legality was considered. The Court adopted the view that Protestantism in France had almost ceased to exist, and that the Protestants had, of their own free will and uncoerced, flocked to reunion with the Catholic Church. Père La Chaise promised that the completion of the work would not cost a drop of blood, and Louvois held the same opinion. The accession of James II to the English throne removed all danger on that side. Thus Revocation was determined on. The Edict was signed by the King on October 17, 1685.

The Edict of Revocation declares in its preamble that the best and largest part of the adherents of the Protestant faith have embraced Catholicism, and that, in consequence, the Edict of Nantes is no longer necessary. That Edict therefore and all other Edicts of Toleration were repealed. All meetings for public worship were henceforth interdicted to Protestants. Their ministers were exiled; their schools closed. No lay Protestants were to leave the kingdom; any attempt at departure was to be punished by sentence to the galleys for men, by " confiscation of body and goods" for women. The last clause stated that all who still remained adherents of the Protestant faith should be allowed to dwell "in the towns and other places of the kingdom-without let or hindrance on account of their religion." But this provision, whatever meaning it was intended to bear, proved utterly futile. While the pulpits and the literature of the day were declaring that heresy had died down of its own weakness, won over by the beauty and the truth of Catholicism, the agents of the Government were well aware that it was still the faith of many thousands. The work of the dragonnades began again, and was conducted more ruthlessly than before. The emigration of Protestants, which had been going on for ten years, now assumed proportions still more alarming. In spite of all prohibitions and the condemnation of great numbers of Huguenots to the living death of the galleys, vast numbers streamed across every frontier. Certain districts, such as the Pays de Gex, were nearly depopulated; others, such as Normandy, where nearly the whole of the commerce and industry had been in the hands of the Huguenots, were reduced by the emigration to great poverty. Brandenburg, once so valuable an ally of the French King, was foremost in giving an asylum to the refugees. So strong was the feeling in England that even James II could not restrain it. He was compelled in March, 1686, to promote a public collection for the benefit of the French refugees:  and a very large proportion of them found a home in England.


Soon after the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession, a rising in the south-east of France revealed how complete had been the failure of the Government to extirpate Protestantism. The hills and forests of the district of the Cevennes afforded shelter to a population which still cherished the Huguenot faith, in spite of all measures taken against them. Persecution deepened their faith into fanaticism and mysticism; voices were heard in the air; men and women were seized with convulsions, and prophesied of the iniquities of the Church of Rome and her coming overthrow. Such incidents had taken place during the War with the Grand Alliance; and they were intensified when the conclusion of peace in 1697 brought further sufferings on the district. When the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession again turned the attention and the resources of the Government to the frontiers, the exasperation of the peasants broke out into a rising which for four years (1702-5) proved an annoying and dangerous addition to the burdens of the foreign war. It began with the murder of the Abbé du Chayla - a notorious persecutor - in 1702. Immediately it assumed dangerous proportions. The peasants, nicknamed Camisards by their opponents (from their habit of wearing a shirt over their clothes in nocturnal attacks), found leaders, well suited to the nature of the country and the character of the people, in Roland and Cavalier. Roland's was the greater and nobler personality; but it was upon Cavalier that attention was riveted towards the end of the struggle. He was not more than eighteen years old at the beginning of the rising; but he showed extraordinary gifts, both for the simple strategy that the occasion required and for the maintenance of discipline. The struggle was conducted with great barbarity on both sides. The royal troops hunted down the Camisards like vermin, without regard to age or sex. Marshal Montrevel, who succeeded the Count de Broglie in command of the royal forces, destroyed houses, farms and crops, and reduced the population to the extreme of starvation. But, as the rebels did not surrender, Montrevel was withdrawn and the conduct of operations was entrusted to Marshal Villars, the most successful of the soldiers employed by France in the War of the Spanish Succession, and a man of great tact and diplomatic powers. He at once adopted a more conciliatory policy, and in May, 1704, secured an interview with Cavalier at Nîmes. Much to the indignation of his comrades, who still remained in arms, he was induced to surrender by the offer of command in the royal armies and promises vague and illusory of toleration for the Protestants. He actually entered the royal army : but, convinced of the bad faith of his King, he escaped and joined the allies. He died in 1740, Governor of the Isle of Jersey, and a major-general in the British service. After his surrender the resistance in the Cevennes soon collapsed. Roland was killed in a fight. Protestantism still lingered, and was still subject to cruel persecutions. It was not until 1710 that the last of the Camisard leaders was hunted down; but Protestantism was never really extirpated from the valleys of the Cevennes.


The end of the Spanish War brought to France some return of military glory; but her finances were hopelessly exhausted and her old King suffered from one shattering blow after another which fell on his domestic circle. No royal family could seem more firmly established than his. Maria Teresa had only borne one son to Louis XIV, who received the traditional name of Louis. But the King had three grandsons; Louis the Duke of Burgundy, Philip, Duke of Anjou (since 1700 Philip V of Spain); and Charles, Duke of Berry. The Duke of Burgundy was happily married to Maria Adelaide of Savoy, and had two children. Yet suddenly, in addition to all her other disasters, France was threatened by a difficult question of succession. The Dauphin died in April, 1711. He had been completely effaced by his father; and men welcomed the prospect of the accession of the Duke of Burgundy, who had been the pupil of Fénelon and had adopted many of his aristocratic liberal ideas. Men repeated with astonishment and hope his saying "that a King is made for his subjects, not the subjects for the King." Had he lived to inherit the throne there would have been an attempt made to alter the development of France, probably in a reactionary feudal direction. But, in 1712, the Duke of Burgundy and his charming wife and eldest son were all carried off by a mysterious disease which seems to have been smallpox, though it roused at the time suspicions of poison. The Duke of Berry, the third of the King's grandsons, died in 1714. The second, Philip, was King of Spain, and his claim to the French throne was expressly renounced by the Treaty of Utrecht. Any attempt to revive this claim would be the signal for a renewal of war. The direct heir to the throne was Louis, Duke of Anjou, who was afterwards Louis XV. He was two years of age, and of feeble health. And if the boy were to live, according to all the traditions of France the Regency would come into the hands of the Duke of Orléans. All eyes were fixed on him; and his name awoke the wildest suspicions and fears. He had fought with distinction in Spain, and possessed a keen and inquisitive intellect. But he was of an indolent and self-indulgent nature, plunged in vice and drunkenness, openly opposed to the doctrines and neglectful of the practices of the Church. Louis XIV and Madame de Maintenon saw with alarm the prospect of power coming into his hands, for it would mean a complete reaction against the policy which the dying monarch had pursued in Church and State both at home and abroad. Hence arose the last intrigue of the reign. The King's fondness for his illegitimate children had been manifested throughout the latter part of the reign. And now it was determined to give the reality of power to the Duke of Maine, the son of Madame de Montespan and the pupil of Madame de Maintenon. He had shown himself unsuccessful and incapable in war; but it was determined to make him master of France after the King's death. Tradition made it impossible to deny to the Duke of Orléans the title of Regent; but the custody of the young King was to be in the hands of the Duke of Maine and a council of regency was to be established by the will of the King, so arranged that the present regime would be prolonged and Louis XIV would still rule France from his grave. But the King and his wife miscalculated the forces against them. The age was weary of the long and now disastrous reign; men were more attracted by the known opposition of the Duke of Orléans to the reigning policy than frightened by his reputation. Thus the King's schemes were foredoomed to failure, when, after a reign of seventy-two years (the longest reign recorded in history) he died on September 1, 1715.

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