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“L’état C’Est à Moi”: Louis XIV and the State

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Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idées book series (ARCH,volume 132)

Abstract

The relationship between king and state in the French monarchy of the Ancien Régime, although generally taken to be one of the plainest pieces of historical knowledge, is actually in an essential respect one of the least understood.1 The customary picture of French kingship in the centuries before the Revolution may be summed up in two phrases, “L’état c’est moi” and “la grâce de Dieu” (usually Englished as “divine right”): “L’état c’est moi” here implies an administrative monarchy equated with the person of the king, and “la grâce de Dieu” is concerned with the justification rather than the description of the monarchy. Yet close scrutiny of the historical literature reveals a current of uneasiness — something has been increasingly pushed into the background, something which ought to be in the very foreground of any study of the monarchy of the Ancien Régime, namely, that the king was the proprietor of the state, that he felt, even if he never literally said, “L’état c’est à moi2 The practice and the words of French kings and statesmen for many centuries, and most of all during the seventeenth, the zenith century of French monarchy, can be clearly understood only if we accept the principle that the dynastic king was, among other things, the owner of the kingdom.3

Published originally in French Historical Studies, 2/1 (Spring 1961). Reprinted with permission.

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© 1992 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

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Harline, C.E. (1992). “L’état C’Est à Moi”: Louis XIV and the State. In: Harline, C.E. (eds) The Rhyme and Reason of Politics in Early Modern Europe. International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idées, vol 132. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-011-2722-6_14

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-011-2722-6_14

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Dordrecht

  • Print ISBN: 978-94-010-5207-8

  • Online ISBN: 978-94-011-2722-6

  • eBook Packages: Springer Book Archive