Essay I – Selection 3
An Analysis of Absolute Monarchy through Louis XIV
Absolute monarchy, defined in Louis XIV’s statement, “L'état, c'est moi,”
order by creating a vision of a society whose center is a single ruler, and whose subjects’
only vision was to realize his will. In order to understand whether absolute monarchy is
despotic, an assessment of Louis XIV, considered the most absolute of all monarchs, is
critical. Louis XIV played a large role in the economics, religion, and culture of his king-
dom but his reign can only be considered absolute on the surface. Although Louis ex-
pertly manipulated the French aristocracy, and his skillfully selected ministers, coun-
, Louis’s rule was not so absolute as to exert oppressive control over
the daily lives of his subjects as in the police states of the nineteenth and twentieth cen-
His absolutism functioned primarily on a national level through politics, and the
regulation of religion. Even at the height of his power local institutions continued to exert
administrative authority at the local level. Furthermore, although Louis’s authority was
absolute, his power was not since he was limited to the law of God.
For Louis XIV, the maintenance of religious harmony was considered an import-
ant area of monarchical power, and Louis had relative success in maintaining absolute
control in this area. Louis was in conflict with the French Huguenots because he did not
want to allow Protestants to practice their faith in the largely Catholic France. Louis be-
lieved in the motto, "one king, one law, one faith,"
and he felt that the existence of this
Donald Kagan et al. The Western Heritage: Combined Volume, TLC Edition (5th Edition)
exandria, VA: Prentice Hall, 2006) 494.
Theodore Laueet al, Sources of the Western Tradition, Vol. 2: From the Renaissance to the
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006) 22.