From Renaissance Monarchy to Absolute Monarchy: French Kings, Nobles, and Estates

Front Cover
JHU Press, May 29, 1997 - History - 444 pages

Scholars of early modern France have traditionally seen an alliance between the kings and the bourgeoisie, leading to an absolute, centralized monarchy, perhaps as early as the reign of Francis I (1515-47). In From Renaissance Monarchy to Absolute Monarchy, eminent historian J. Russell Major draws on forty-five years of research to dispute this view, offering both a masterful synthesis of existing scholarship and new information concerning the role of the nobility in these changes.

Renaissance monarchs, Major contends, had neither the army nor the bureaucracy to create an absolute monarchy; they were strong only if they won the support of the nobility and other vocal elements of the population. At first they enjoyed this support, but the Wars of Religion revealed their inherent weakness. Major describes the struggle between such statesmen as Bellièvre, Sully, Marillac, and Richelieu to impose their concept of reform and includes an account of how Louis XIV created an absolute monarchy by catering to the interests of the nobility and other provincial leaders. It was this "carrot" approach, accompanied by the threat of the "stick," that undergirded his absolutism.

Major concludes that the rise of absolutism was not accompanied, as has often been asserted, by the decline of the nobility. Rather, nobles were able to adapt to changing conditions that included the decline of feudalism, the invention of gunpowder, and inflation. In doing so, they remained the dominant class, whose support kings found it necessary to seek.


What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


ONE The Establishment of the Renaissance Monarchy
two The Flowering of the Renaissance Monarchy
three The Late MedievalRenaissance Nobility
FOUR The Wars of Religion
five Henry IV
six The Reprieve 16101620
seven France Finds a King 16201624
eight Richelieu andMarillac 16241629
nine Marillac and the Provincial Estates
ten The Triumph of Richelieu and Mazarin
eleven The Nobility
twelve Louis XIV
thirteen Kings Nobles and Estates in Retrospect

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1997)

J. Russell Major is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Renaissance History Emeritus at Emory University. His many books include The Monarchy, the Estates, and the Aristocracy in Renaissance France, Representative Government in Early Modern France, and The Western World: Renaissance to the Present.

Bibliographic information