Tuesday 25 August 2009

I am the State

There were two things crucial in the formation of Louis as a king: his early experience of the disorders induced by the Fronde and the education in statecraft he received form his observations of Cardinal Mazarin, himself a pupil and protégée of Cardinal Richelieu. From the Fronde he took the lesson that it was necessary to limit- and severely limit-the power and independence of the French nobility; following the example set by the Cardinals, he further refined and magnified the agencies of the state. The two things, it might be said, came together in his person and his court. At Versailles he created a great political theatre, a universe, with himself, in the role of Apollo, the Sun God, at the very centre. The nobility was tied to, and often ruined by, attendance of the king; the bureaucracy, the standing army and the treasury radiated from his person. L'Etat c'est a moi-I am the state. It really does not matter if he ever used those words; they express an essential-and fatal-truth

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