the Fifth Week of Lent
Louis Xiv, of France
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
grandson of Henry IV, and third of the Bourbons, was born in 1638. The regency of his mother, Anne of Austria, controlled by cardinal Mazarin (q.v.), continued during the minority of the sovereign. So far, indeed, as the policy of Mazarin was concerned, it prevailed until his death in 1661, when Louis first really assumed for himself the reins of government, and indicated the principles of his administration. During the minority of its youthful sovereign the country had been distracted by civil wars. those of the Fronde, partly through Spanish influences, partly through an unsatisfied and factious element of the French nobility. Perplexing difficulties, moreover, and even actual conflicts of the regent and her minister with the Parliament and States General, had more than once arisen, usually terminating, however, in the triumph of the former, Louis himself, in his eighteenth year, dismissing one of these bodies, and forbidding any future exercise of some of its most important functions. The internal difficulties, so far as due to the hostile policy of the Spanish court, were disposed of by the marriage of Louis with the infanta Maria Theresa in 1660, through the skillful management of Mazarin. The effect of these troubles, however, was to shape, to some degree, the policy of Louis, and to enable him to carry it out successfully. That policy was to avoid all conflict of authority by centring all power in the person of the sovereign.
The administration of Louis, extending over a period of great significance in the secular condition and history of Europe, concerns us here in view of its principles and results religiously and ecclesiastically; for, while it may be said that one of the grand objects of this administration was to supersede Austria as the paramount Catholic sovereignty of Europe, it sought this end in connection with the destruction and diminution of Protestantism, not only in France, but elsewhere. To enable us to consider his policy as it affected the religious condition of France and Europe, the course of his civil and military administration must, however, be first examined.
Louis's civil policy — the consolidation of all power in the hands of the sovereign, detaching the crown from its alliance with all the legislative, judicial, and municipal institutions — he himself has best interpreted for us. "The worst calamity which can befall any one of our rank," is his language to the dauphin, "is to be reduced to that subjection in which the monarch is obliged to receive the law from his people.... It is the will of God that every subject should yield to his sovereign implicit obedience... I am the state!" These assertions of supreme prerogative are put forth, indeed, in connection with a recognition of accountability to the divine Source from which such powers are derived; but below him there was no accountability, no limitation to the action of his royal vicegerent. Consistently with this theory was the operation of his internal administration. The first and most effective instrument for the carving out of such policy was a thorough military organization. This was perfected to a degree hitherto unknown, among its new features the most effective to the end proposed being the emanation of all commissions, promotions, and distinctions from the king; doing away altogether with,the possibility of the existence of such a balance of power as had previously been maintained, and rendering impossible all limitation of prerogative. The States-General — the great central legislative representation of the clergy, nobles, and commons — ceased to exist. The provincial states, having a more limited function of the same nature, shared the same fate. The Parliaments, from registering, protecting, and partly legislative bodies, became simply judicial tribunals to execute, under the forms of law, the decrees of a royal master. That in the thorough working out of this system Louis exhibited rare administrative ability cannot be denied. "That he possessed the peculiar capacity of selecting efficient subordinates is no less manifest. That, moreover, under his rule there was a great evolution of administrative, military, and literary capacity is equally undoubted. Not so salutary or favorable were the results, however. Louis's policy eventually broke down the resources of the country; and it set in operation certain tendencies, which only worked themselves out in the crash of the French Revolution.
But this concentration of all power in the person of the sovereign had in view the carrying out of an external as well as an internal policy. "Self- aggrandizement," to use his own words, "is at once the noblest and most agreeable occupation of kings," and this he did not always pursue under the real requirements of truth and right. "In dispensing with the strict observance of treaties, we do not," said he, "violate them; for the language of such instruments is not understood literally; it is conventional phraseology, just as we use complimentary expressions in society." These two sentences are the text, of which the internal policy of Louis may be regarded as constituting the commentary. His reign, counting from the death of Mazarin, was characterized by four great wars, occupying altogether forty-two years, or seven ninths of its continuance. The first of these was his attack upon Spanish Flanders, and this in violation of the treaty of the Pyrenees, made at his marriage, by which all claim of inheritance, in right of his wife, to Spanish territory was solemnly renounced. Out of this contest, at first opposed, but afterwards (1670) assisted by England, for a long time varying in successes, but, on the whole, to the advantage of France, Louis, by the treaty of Nimeguen, 1678, came forth with the possession of a large addition of territory, a part of which was the duchy of Lorraine, and to which he afterwards added Strasburg, then a free German citypossessions which remained a part of France until restored to Germany by the war of 1870. Next, to provoke a war of nine or ten years' duration was his claim for his sister, the duchess of Orleans, to a portion of the Palatinate, enforced by an invasion of the territory in question. To repel this movement the League of Augsburg was formed, consisting of the emperor of Germany, the kings of Spain, Denmark, and Sweden, the duke of Savoy, and eventually of the king of England. This war, characterized by the devastation of the Palatinate and the sack of Heidelberg, terminated with the Peace of Ryswick, 1697, leaving Louis without a navy, his finances embarrassed, his people impoverished, and many of them suffering from actual starvation. But by far the greatest contest was provoked by Louis's claim for his family to the succession of the crown of Spain, for which there were three competitors — Louis, the emperor Leopold, and the elector of Bavaria. Through the influence of the pope and of the Spanish nobility, Louis had succeeded in procuring the succession for his grandson, the duke of Anjou. To this Holland, under threat of invasion, had been forced to accede; and William of England, unable to secure the cooperation of Parliament in the way of resistance, was obliged to pursue the same course. Leopold, however, began hostilities, and in a short time England, Holland, and Denmark united with him in the Second Alliance, and the conflict only ended in 1713 with the Peace of Utrecht, leaving the duke of Anjou upon the throne of Spain, but at the expense to France of the damage and humiliation of many defeats, and the loss of many colonies, besides a distinct provision against the union of France and Spain under the same monarch. During this last contest, moreover, with external enemies, there had been an internal war destroying the national resources, that of the Camisards in the Cevennes, infuriated and maddened by religious persecution into rebellion. (See CAMISARDS).
Louis's religious and ecclesiastical policy is exhibited in connection with. his treatment of the national Church, and its central head, the papacy; his action with reference to a division of sentiment among different portions of this national Church; and, last of all, in his treatment of his Protestant subjects. As to the national Church, it may be said that he found the machinery of ecclesiastical despotism made to his hands, in the concordat of Leo X and Francis I, already mentioned. His peculiarity consisted in the skill with which such machinery was worked, the thoroughness and extent of its operation. The "liberties of the Gallican Church," which usually meant the liberty of the monarch to control all temporalities, and to fleece all classes of the beneficed clergy without dividing the wool with the pope, was energetically asserted during the reign of Louis. His effort was to free the national Church from the control of the papacy; through his appointments, to make it subservient to his general policy. His treatment of the pope, especially in connection with the question of the privilege of the French ambassador at Rome, was harsh and overbearing; and although compelled, in 1691, to yield in certain assertions of prerogative, it but slightly affected the exercise of his ecclesiastical supremacy. His bishops were, many of them, learned, able, and eloquent. There was a higher standard, both of literary taste and of ecclesiastical propriety, than in reigns preceding. Their writings constitute this period, in some respects, one of the most brilliant in the history of the Church of France. But these writings contain no vigorous protest against the vices and cruelties of their royal master, and many of them are implicated in the support of his most flagrant cruelties and acts of oppression. It was perfectly understood that no other course would be tolerated. His own account to Massillon of the effect produced upon him by his court preachers will enable us to understand the character of their preaching. "I have heard a great many speakers in my chapel, and I have been very well pleased with them; when I hear you, I am displeased with myself." But the unfavorable testimony of this one faithful witness, and of at least one other not less faithful, Fenelon, could not counteract the flattery of so many others. The difficulty with the Jansenists constitutes, perhaps, one of the most striking illustrations of this despotic policy in ecclesiastical and religious matters. In this contest between Jesuitism and a purer form of Romanism, the pope, and, through the pope and the Jesuits, Louis, became a party. (See JANSENIUS).
It is, however, in the course pursued towards his Protestant subjects that the policy of Louis may be recognized; that the ecclesiastical and religious history of his reign has an interest altogether unique and peculiar, namely, the position of the Huguenots and Dissenters, holding, under the law, certain legal privileges — among others, the exercise of freedom, not only of religious opinion, but of worship. The old-fashioned orthodox practice of extermination by fire and sword had been already tried, more than once, without success. At the close of every such unsuccessful effort, terms had been made insuring them conditions of existence. Prior to the Edict of Nantes, such terms constituted rather a truce than a peace; and when the contesting parties had rested a little, the truce ended and the conflict was renewed. This, however, was not the case with the Edict of Nantes, which really constituted a peace, and was more favorable to the Huguenots than any preceding arrangement; and, although containing in it some objectionable features, became to the Protestants the charter of their existence. They and the Catholics, under different ecclesiastical laws, were alike under the law of the land — enjoyed its sanctions, lived under its protection.
Louis, whose great doctrine was uniformity and submission in all things, therefore proposed for himself the task, not of violating this great compact with his Protestant subjects, but of doing away with the necessity of its existence by bringing them all within the national Church. Urged forward in this attempt by his mistress, Madame de Maintenoln, wholly under the control of the Jesuits, and by the latter themselves, on the plea that by such a course he would merit the forgiveness of heaven for the many sins of his youth, especially his illicit connection with Madame de Montespan, two great agencies were immediately set in operation to the attainment of this result — those of bribery and intimidation. Conversions were sought by purchase, or by appeals to the interests or ambition of the Farties concerned: Special provision was made for the purchase of such conversions by a fund collected of one third of the profits of all ecclesiastical benefices, and placed in the hands of a Huguenot renegade, to be used for this purpose. The matter went so far that there was a regular scale of prices for converts of different grades, and large successes were published as the result of this mode of operation. To cut off the temptation of relapse, so as to insure the price of a second conversion, an edict was issued condemning all relapsed persons to banishment for life and confiscation of their property. With these efforts, moreover, which only reached the weak and worthless, was combined the other element of harassment and intimidation. Commissions of Romish clergy were instituted, sometimes upon their own motion, sometimes upon popular complaint. and with the well-understood approval of court officials, to investigate the legal titles of churches of the Huguenots, which for the purpose had been called in question. One infelicity in the position of the Protestants, even under the Edict of Nantes, was that which was connected with what may be called the Church territorial system. They were territorially in the dioceses of Romish bishops, in the parish limits of Romish priests, in some indefinite manner regarded as in their pastoral charge, and these annoying questions of Church property could thus be easily started. The result, in many cases where these titles were called in question, was a long, vexatious litigation, ending in the decision that it was imperfect, and that the church building should be shut up and demolished. The decisions of the sovereign were well known, and loyalty, ambition, and interest alike found their expression and exercise through these agencies in the rank of proselytism.
As, however, these proved insufficient to the attainment of the desired end, and the law still guaranteed the legal existence of the as yet unconverted Protestants, more vigorous steps were taken prior to the final one in the direction of annoyance and severity. Without, therefore, revoking the existing law, it was subverted by new edicts of the most vexatious and harassing character. Many of these may be found detailed under the article (See HUGUENOTS).
There was, however, another form of operation in this effort of exterminating Protestantism by conversion. Human wickedness, in this effort, found out the way to commit a new crime. This new crime, unique and preeminent in the achievements of malicious ingenuity, had to be described by a new name, and the world thus heard for the first time of the Dragonnade — the dragooning of people out of one religion into another. The process was that of quartering soldiers — Romanists, of course, the bigotry of the Romanist being combined with the brutality of the soldier — in the families and houses of Protestants. The commanders were instructed to quarter them on Protestant families, and to keep them there until the families were brought over to the Catholic faith, and then to transfer them to others of the same character and for the same object. As the army employed for this purpose was a large one, so whole districts at once were subjected to this intolerable annoyance and oppression.
Multitudes, of course, yielded; and where they subsequently recanted their act of weakness, they became subject to banishment and confiscation. The suffering involved may be more easily imagined than described. "The dragoons," says one who passed through it, "fixed their crosses to their musquetoons, so as the more readily to compel their hosts to kiss them; and if the kiss was not given, they drove the crosses against their stomachs and faces. They had as little mercy for the children as for the adults, beating them with these crosses or with the flats of their swords, so violently as not seldom to mains them. The wretches also subjected the women to their barbarities: they whipped them, they disfigured them, they dragged them by the hair through the mud or along the stones. Sometimes they would seize the laborers on the highway, or when following their carts, and drive them to the Romish churches, pricking them like oxen with their own goads to quicken their pace." If, in any case, these outrages were resisted, and there was anything like a Protestant gathering, the result was a massacre. The mere collection of such population, to indicate that they were not all carried over to the national Church, was thus treated. Upon the assumption, therefore, that these agencies, after having operated for four or five years, had accomplished their intended purpose; that Protestantism, to any calculable degrees had ceased to exist, in 1685 the Edict of Nantes, as no longer of any use or necessity, was abrogated. To proclaim the falsehood and cruelty of this pretense, and the proceedings based upon it, they were followed by enactments against the non-existent Protestantism (see volume 4, page 396, Colossians 1). The only privilege left to the Protestants was the permission of enjoying their religion in private. The non-intent of this concession was best exhibited by the declaration of an ordinance of Louis himself thirty years later (1715), "that every man who had continued to reside in France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 had given conclusive proof that he was a Catholic, because only as a Catholic he would have been allowed to dwell there, and, therefore, if any man persisted in Protestantism, he must be treated as a relapsed heretic. In other words, if such a one emigrated in 1685 as a Protestant, he was condemned to the galleys. If he did not, he was regarded as a Catholic, and at any subsequent period could be proceeded against for his Protestantism as a relapsed Catholic."
Within five months after his ordinance against Protestants just mentioned the career of Louis terminated. To use the language of another, "He was an infirm and aged man. He had survived his children and his grandchildren. He had been overwhelmed by the victories of Eugene and Marlborough. He was oppressed with debt. He was hated by the people who had idolized him, and was compelled to listen to the indignant invectives which the whole civilized world poured forth against his blind and inhuman persecutions. He died declaring to his spiritual advisers that, being himself ignorant of ecclesiastical questions, he had acted under their guidance and as their agent in all that he had done against either the Jansenists or the protestant heretics, and on those his spiritual advisers he devolved the responsibility to the Supreme Judge." There can be no question that in many cases the persecuting policy of Louis was quickened by the influence of Madame de Maintenon and her ecclesiastical advisers; that in many cases his subordinate agents pursued courses of outrage and cruelty exceeding his intentions; that such men as Bossuet, Arnauld, Flechier, and the whole Gallican Church, in approving this policy, identified themselves with it in its guilt and in its consequences; but, after all, it was essentially his policy. It was the carrying out in ecclesiastical the autocratic principle enunciated with reference to civil matters. The concentration of all power in the hands of the sovereign required that he should be not only the State, but the Church.
Louis dying September 1, 1715, was succeeded by his great-grandson, Louis XV. His son the dauphin and his eldest grandson died at an earlier period. Some of his children, the fruit of an adulterous connection with Madame de Montespan, were legitimized during his lifetime, but the act was annulled after his death. In regard to other children from similar connections no such action was taken. After the death of his first wife he privately married Madame de Maintenon. The works of Louis are contained in six volumes. They are occupied with instructions for his sons, and with correspondence bearing upon the history of his times. His reign may be regarded as one of the most brilliant in the annals of French literature. In the department of theological and controversial literature this was peculiarly the case, while in that of pulpit eloquence there was an array of talent and genius beyond parallel.
Literature. — Voltaire, Siecle de Louis XIV; Pellisson, Histoire de Louis XIV; Dangeau, Journ. de la cour de Louis XIV; Lettres de Madame le Maintenon; Larrey, Hist. de France sous le Regne de Louis XIV; Capefigue, Louis XIV son Gouvernement, etc. (1837, 6 volumes, 8vo), James, Life and Times of Louis XIV (Bohn's ed., Lond. 1851, 2 volumes, 12mo); Smedley, Hist. Ref. Rel. in France (N.Y. 1834, 3 volumes, 18mo), Barnes's Felice, Hist. Protest. France (Lond. 1853, 12mo); Hagenbach, Kirichengesch. 5:86 sq.; Stoughton, Eccles. Hist. Engl. (Ch. of Restoration, see Index in volume 2); Hase, Ch. Hist. (see Index); Ranke, Hist. Papacy, 2:272 sq., 293; Student's France (Harper's), page 410 sq.; Vehse, Mem. of the Court of Austria, 2:14 sq.; Quart. Rev. (Loud.), 1818 (July); Brit. and For. Rev. 1844, page 470 sq. See also the references in the articles (See FRANCE) and (See HUGUENOTS). (C.W.)
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Louis Xiv, of France'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​l/louis-xiv-of-france.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.