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The Crisis of the Absolute MonarchyFrance from Old Regime to Revolution$
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Julian Swann and Joël Félix

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265383

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265383.001.0001

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From Servant of the King to ‘Idol of the Nation’

From Servant of the King to ‘Idol of the Nation’

The Breakdown of Personal Monarchy in Louis XVI’s France

(p.63) 4 From Servant of the King to ‘Idol of the Nation’
The Crisis of the Absolute Monarchy

Julian Swann

British Academy

The absolute monarchy was a personal monarchy and during the reign of Louis XIV, the king established a tradition that the king should act as his ‘own first minister’, coordinating the work of his ministerial servants. In the course of the eighteenth century that tradition was undermined by a series of social, administrative, and cultural changes to such an extent that by the 1780s ministers were increasingly behaving as independent political figures, courting public opinion and claiming to act in the name of public welfare or even the nation. By examining these changes, this chapter argues that the political culture of the absolute monarchy was in constant transition and that the failure of Louis XVI, in particular, to manage its effects was one of the principal causes of his loss of authority in the period preceding the Revolution of 1789.

Keywords:   Louis XIV, Louis XV, Louis XVI, absolute monarchy, ministers, Assembly of Notables, public opinion, political culture

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