France Crisis of Monarchical Absolutism 3

The Decline of French Power in Europe and the Crisis of Monarchical Absolutism Part III


Despite the policy of acquiescence in front of England, followed since the time of Fleury, acquiescence that went so far as to recall Dupleix who was conquering India from France, the maritime and colonial rivalry fatally led to war. England joined with Frederick II, while France with the two treaties of Versailles (1756 and 1757) radically changed its international policy, allying itself with Maria Theresa and with Russia. This overthrow of alliances had a very remarkable value and exerted its effects in the history of France until the advent of the republic. The unfavorable outcome of the war seemed to confirm public opinion, adverse to the bond. The alliance with Vienna marks the definitive separation between the monarchy and the nation: the accusations made against Louis XV and the Pompadour from the town will be repeated against Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Yet, in bringing about this turn in French foreign policy, something more than the vanity of a favorite had acted. The serious step had been calculated and was decided, as appears from the instructions of Bernis to the Choiseul, under the assault of the Germanic threat. France had contributed too much to the enlargement of Prussia; now it was necessary to stop its upward motion. On the other hand, the integrity of Poland had to be maintained at all costs: the new ties with Austria and Russia did not have to cost the sacrifice of the old faithful ally. Hence a tangle of

For this reason, in 1757, the foreign minister Bernis tried to avoid war; but the almighty favorite had him replaced with the Duke of Choiseul, who began his duties by signing the third treaty of Versailles which reaffirmed the obligations of France towards its allies without obtaining any help in the fight against England in return. During the government of Choiseul, military operations were hampered by the changes of commanders that Versailles appointed and dismissed according to the whims of the Pompadour. Meanwhile, the death of Tsarina Elizabeth, who was succeeded by Peter III and shortly after Catherine II, caused the defection of Russia. Then Choiseul, after an attempt at peace with England, made useless by Pitt’s intransigence, concluded the Family Pact with Spain(1761) to which the kings of Parma and the Two Sicilies adhered. This pact, together with the Austrian alliance, brought about the great league of Catholic states dreamed of by Louis XIV. Finally, the treaties of Paris and Hubertsburg (1763) put an end to the war. While England acquired most of the French colonies and Frederick II definitively obtained Silesia, while Austria secured the imperial crown to the son of Maria Theresa and obtained full freedom of action towards the East, France remained isolated, without an army and without marina, deprived of its best colonies and diminished in its prestige as a great nation.

According to thereligionfaqs, Pompadour’s death (1764) gave hope for a moment that healthier influences would induce the king to a better policy. Choiseul made a great effort to reconstitute the army and navy and reorganize the colonial administration. The effects of the Treaty of Paris had to be canceled, at least in part, and a revenge against “les tyrans des mers” had to be prepared. The attention was turned to the Mediterranean: an attempt was made to start from the family pact, and to balance the advantage obtained by England with the recent purchase of Menorca, pressing on Genoa for the sale of Corsica. The annexation of Corsica (1768), the definitive absorption of the Duchy of Lorraine (1766) and the possession of the principality of Dombes (1762) constitute the French territorial gains during the reign of Louis XV.

But all this was not enough to re-establish the moral unity between subjects and sovereign within. The Choiseul obtained from the king the suppression of the Jesuits, an act that brought him great popularity. But an edict against parliaments, inspired by Chancellor Maupeou, renewed the disagreement with the court. The Duke of Choiseul, who had fallen from grace for a failed colonial attempt in Guiana and for having spent large sums in the conquest of Corsica, but above all for having opposed the new favorite Du Barry, was dismissed and his place was taken by d’Aiguillon. To annihilate the opposition of the Paris parliament, Maupeou, in agreement with Abbot Terray, controller general, and with d’Aiguillon, entrusted their functions to the councilors of state (1770). In the same year took place the wedding of the dolphin with Marie Antoinette of Austria, to which the court was immediately hostile, for the hostile attitude it held in front of Du Barry. Meanwhile, the Austrian government, taking advantage of d’Aiguillon’s inexperience, was secretly negotiating Poland’s affairs with Prussia and Russia, to the detriment of its ally. Neither the king nor his ministers realized the importance of the treaty of partition, stipulated between those nations (1772), absent France.

In Paris, the “Maupeou parliament” aroused general opposition: the princes of the blood had joined the people and the journalists: Orléans, Chartres, Conti. Some good measures were not worth him, such as the institution in Paris and in the province of higher councils or courts that allowed a sharp decrease in court costs, and the abolition of the venality of offices, which nevertheless produced other inconveniences for the abuses that occurred. in their concession. The memoirs of Beaumarchais, in his quarrel with Goezmann, councilor of the new parliament, gave him the coup de grace in public opinion. But Louis XV insisted on keeping him in office: the fate of the chancellor was decided by the death of the king on 10 May 1774.

France Crisis of Monarchical Absolutism 3