Louis XIV

"Only God is Great"

The Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century triggered a fresh wave of bloody conflict in Medieval Europe—a tract of real estate across which evolving nations had suffered tumultuous relations for many dark centuries. Protestant regions broke up Rome’s monopoly on authority in Europe. Neutralizing an authority is one thing; replacing it is quite another matter, and Europe tumbled into near-anarchy. Nation warred against nation and region against region in an all-out scramble to gain control of the rudder of Europe’s destiny.

Out of the context of these chaotic and violent times sprouted a philosophy of governance known as “Monarchial Absolutism.” Absolutist political theory held that Europe’s only hope for avoiding anarchy was for monarchs of the emerging European nations to wield unrestrained power. The cohesive influence Rome had once supplied Europe could be recovered, so it was proposed, by monarchs willing to impose their will with absolute sovereignty over their subjects. (One may detect a less than ideal environment for the human rights of dissenters under such a system. The half of that tragic subplot has never been told.)

Historians generally recognize Louis XIV of France (1638-1715) as the quintessential absolutist monarch. Crowned at age five (a monarchial absolutist pre-schooler—you fill in the blanks!), Louis reigned in earnest from 1660 until his death. That translates into fifty-five years of absolute sovereignty over every aspect of French life. Every citizen, of what was at that time the most powerful nation on the continent, was expected to conform to Louis’ every belief, obey his every demand, and honor his every decision. Imagine!

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