2F The Sun King: Louis XIV, France and Europe, 1643–1715

This option provides for the study in depth of a key figure, whose ambitions had a profound impact, not only on France, but on the whole of Europe. It explores the concepts of French absolutism, centralisation, aggrandisement and power. It also encourages an in-depth understanding of the importance of monarchy and social status in the 17th century as well as the glories and perils of personal and state confidence and ambition.

Part one: The Sun King, 1643–1685

The Regency, 1643–1661

  • The French monarchy in 1643: the legacy of Richelieu and Louis XIII; the establishment of the Regency
  • The Minority of Louis XIV: the roles of Anne of Austria and Mazarin; the Parlement of Paris, unrest and opposition; the Frondes
  • France and Europe: the rise of French power at the expense of the Habsburgs; the treaties of Westphalia and the Pyrenees
  • The condition of France at the accession of Louis XIV in 1661: politics, economy and society

The establishment of Absolutism at home, 1661–1685

  • Louis XIV and Divine Right: personality and aims; the restoration of order; the centralisation of royal authority; the role of Versailles
  • Louis XIV and patronage of art, culture and science: the Academie Francaise; the Academy of Sciences; the role of Colbert
  • Finance and the economy: the reforms of Colbert; taxation; trade and communications within France; mercantilism; overseas trade and colonisation
  • Louis XIV and the Church: disputes with the papacy; persecution of Jansenists; policies towards Huguenots and the Revocation Edict of 1685

Louis XIV and Europe, 1661–1685

  • The context of French foreign policy in 1661: Louis XIV’s aims, the extent of French military resources; the Military Academy; the role of Louvois
  • France and Spain: the decline of Spanish military power; the War of Devolution
  • France and the Dutch Republic: relations between Louis XIV and Charles II of England; the Franco-Dutch War; the Peace of Nijmegen
  • France and the policy of Reunions: the drive to annex ‘lost’ territories to France such as Luxembourg, Casale and Strasbourg; the Treaty of Ratisbon

Part two: Louis XIV in decline, 1685–1715 (A-level only)

Challenges at home, 1685–1715 (A-level only)

  • The personal monarchy: the strengths and weaknesses of royal government; the influence of Madame de Maintenon
  • Finance and the economy: problems after Colbert; the costs of war
  • Louis XIV and the Church: Gallicanism; relations with Huguenots; Jansenists and Quietists
  • Pressures from below: social divisions; problems with the regions; discontent and popular protests

Challenges in Europe, 1685–1697 (A-level only)

  • The challenge of William of Orange: the Dutch-English alliance after the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688
  • The ‘Grand Alliance’: the League of Augsburg and the anti-French alliance between Protestant states; the Empire and Spain
  • The Nine Years War: outbreak, course and outcome; the war in Europe; the war in North America, the Caribbean and Asia; the Peace of Ryswick 1697
  • The new balance of power: the position of France in relation to the European powers by 1697; the impact of years of war on France’s economic and military resources; the prospects of future wars

France defeated, 1697–1715 (A-level only)

  • The issue of the Spanish Succession: the aims and policies of France; the international response to French claims; the outbreak of war
  • The War of the Spanish Succession: the war in Europe; the war in North America, the Caribbean and Asia
  • The Treaty of Utrecht and its impact on the balance of power in Europe
  • The legacy of Louis XIV by 1715: the last years of the reign; the problem of the succession; the annulment of the King’s will and the formation of the regency of Orleans