The Dawn of the French Revolution
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The Dawn of the French Revolution
Prize Fighter versus The Underdog: Aristocracy versus Bourgoise
The French Revolution is thought to be one of the most extreme revolutionary movements of all time. It brought about a great upheaval of French society which replaced the “old regime” with a modern society. The Revolution was sparked by a clash between two powerful opposing powers, both on the rise. The clash was between the resurgent French aristocracy and the country’s rising bourgeois class. A parallel can be made to elucidate the conflict between the two antagonists: The aristocrats can be seen as the champion Prize Fighter, who’s been around a long time. The bourgeoisie can be seen as the underdog, or “new kid on the block” who’s come to steal the title; and that is just what they do.
During Louis XIV’s rule over France, the French aristocrats were almost completely powerless. Louis had managed to gain complete control over them, and even use them as puppets to his own and the country’s benefit. Louis XIV was able to control his aristocracy because he was a very smart and innovative ruler, and with Versailles, he managed to subordinate the nobles to him without them knowing it. Louis XIV’s successors, Louis XV and XVI, on the other hand, were not nearly as good statesmen as he was. With the loss of Louis XIV also came the loss of control of the French aristocracy. It’s obvious with the death of Louis XIV, that the aristocracy, no longer under suppression of the king, was able to rise up from their meekness, regain power, and once again thrive in France. In fact, distinguished government offices were practically monopolized by nobility during the reign of Louis XVI.
The bourgeoisie was another rising power in France during the time of Louis XV and Louis XVI. The bourgeois social class was made up of some 2 million “well off” people, who were ranked between the nobility and the workers and peasants. People of the bourgeois class were mostly businessmen; bankers, lawyers, and overseas merchants. The bourgeoisie began to gain power and influence around the same time the aristocrats were on the rise. Between 1713 and 1789 French foreign trade increase fivefold, thus fueling the growth of the bourgeoisie, who were mainly involved with international trade and business. As the bourgeoisie became economically more powerful, they also began to resent social all of the soccial distinctions the nobility received. The bourgeoisie began to recognize the inequality in social standings and government positions, and they resented the fact that the nobility were slowly taking over. With the growing bourgeois class also came a growing rivalry between the two French powers and a cause for a movement: the French Revolution.
There are a few reasons why the people of France began the revolution. The bourgeoisie made up only a small portion of the country’s population, and they were not the only ones who antagonized the aristocracy. By the 1780s the majority of French public opinion had changed. All people wanted a more just judicial system, religious toleration, and above all else they wanted a reformation of the way France was governed. The idea of governmental reformation was the people’s main objective in the revolution. The common people wanted a more democratic system of government in which they could hold a place in French governmental affairs. At the time just before the actual revolution, France was ruled by Louis XVI and his queen Marie Antoinette. These two played a significant role in making the royal government very unpopular. In fact, people disliked Marie Antoinette so much that they made a name for her which sounded like the French word for “bitch”. People also disliked the king because they thought he had too much power.
Louis did in fact have many unjust powers over his subjects. He utilized a power called lettres de cache or “sealed letters”. Sealed letters enabled the king to warrant imprisonment or exile of any person in France, who he would named in the letter. This was not the only way in which the king could impose in unjust authority. There was a wide range of other powers which enable Louis to simply do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. The French disliked the sealed letters more than any
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Kingdom of France, Dauphins of France, Social classes, Knights of the Golden Fleece, Smallpox survivors, Bourgeoisie, Louis XV of France, Estates General, French Revolution, Ancien Rgime, Parlement, French nobility
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