November 18, 2013 Comparison of Two Extravagant Rulers in Superseded France AP Euro
During the mid 16th century and 17th centuries, two tremendous rulers emerged in France. During the age of rule under both Henry IV and Louis XIV, France obtained an absolutist government, which the majority of citizens supported. Henry IV was more so a compromiser compared to Louis XIV who was at war the majority of his reign. King Henry IV clashes with the characteristics of King Louis XIV as a result. King Henry IV’s reign differed from that of King Louis XIV’s in militaristic, economic, and religious aspects.
During his reign, Henry IV only fought two wars. Conquering the war of the three Henrys, thus enthroning him as king of France and fighting a short war with Savoy in 1601. The war of the three Henrys was fought mainly on the basis of religion between the royalists led by King Henry II, Huguenots under command of Henry IV, and the Catholic League headed by Henry I. King Louis XIV was at war more than he was at peace. Louis XIV gained mainly territories due to his accomplished wars such as conquering Strasburg in Germany and Flanders in the Spanish Netherlands: grasping control of 12 towns. Only to have them rendered to the grand alliance in the Peace of Westphalia from the war of Spanish Succession. Most of the wars fought by France under the reign of Louis XIV were mainly won due to the mammoth army Louis built up. As a result, King Louis XIV accumulated a massive debt, which overburdened the peasantry, causing the majority of the social class to emigrate. The King evoked Jean Baptiste Colbert as minister of finances to relieve France’s deficit. Colbert revived the wool industry and in 1683 France became the leading nation in the world in industrial production. Colbert also introduced mercantilism into France by the idea of selling more goods abroad and buying nothing back. This would have proved more effective to the economy if France were able to increase productivity in agriculture. Due to the burden of taxes King Louis XIV laid on the peasantry class and poor harvests in agriculture, France was in immense debt. Jean Baptiste Colbert was brilliant in his economic sense, and would have proved more successful if he worked for a ruler who was not at war the majority of the time of his reign with relentless taxes in order to support the army. When Henry IV became king, he inherited a mess from civil wars between the burdened peasantry. Henry IV promised “a chicken in every pot” and lowered taxes on the heavily taxed peasantry. He also introduced the paulette, an annual fee paid by royal officials to guarantee hereditary in their offices, giving the king a source of income. Henry IV appointed Miximilien de Béthune the French minister. Béthune helped combine indirect taxes on salt, sales, and transit and leased their collection to financiers. He also revived trade and restored public order, laying the foundations for economic prosperity. Henry IV transformed France from oppressed to very prosperous by focusing further on preserving peace in France. Louis XIV had greater interests in the arts and the elaborate building of Versailles, yet fought many expensive wars, which led France into extreme debt.
Henry IV’s views on religion were similar to that of King Louis XIV’s. Henry IV’s famous quote “Paris is worth a mass” displaying his personal characteristics of selflessness and compromise. After leading the Huguenots to victory in the war of the three Henrys, Henry IV converted to Roman Catholicism due to his willingness to sacrifice personal religion for political necessity to save France from another religion- based war. Henry IV instituted the Edict of Nantes, granting Huguenots freedom of worship throughout France. Louis XIV brought up as a Catholic and attending mass daily, later controlled the Catholic church of France. During his reign, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes set in place by his grandfather, Henry IV. Louis XIV believed it a pragmatic concession of his grandfather, Henry IV and a state within a state; clashing with his belief “L’etat c’est moi”: I am the state, the state is me. The French citizens’ views of both rulers Henry IV and King Louis XIV were alike. Henry IV was often known as “Henry the Great” for his compromise and peacefulness during his reign. Louis XIV revered as the “Sun King” for his brilliant schemes in the manipulation of nobility in Versailles by compelling the nobility to believe that King Louis was a god; centering himself in every aspect of life the nobility was required to live in 9 months out of the year in. Louis XIV had Versailles built to accommodate for the nobility: with its magnificent architecture and lavish gardens, France became the most highly centralized state in Europe. Henry IV maintained a peaceful, prosperous, and humble country compared to Louis XIV, who fought many wars to conquer Europe by leading a gigantic army, biting off more than the king could chew, and leaving France bankrupt.