The book investigates the mechanisms of power and the priorities of social groups in France during the reign of Louis XIV. Concentrating on the period between 1661 and 1715, the years of the king's personal rule, the author challenges both the historians who have described Louis as an absolute monarch and the more recent scholars who have stressed the effectiveness of provincial institutions in limiting the exercise of royal authority. Instead he emphasizes the informal nature of government, bringing out the role of factions and families at every level of the administration and in all parts of the realm. He also argues that, after the civil and international wars of Mazarin's ministry, the crown had neither the resources nor the inclination to embark on a programme of innovative reforms. Louis tried to restore the prestige of the monarchy by ruling traditionally, avoiding provocation, respecting local privileges and distributing patronage even-handedly. Using a wide range of archival and printed sources, the author presents both new evidence and new conclusions, thus providing a perspective on the social values and power structures of the age which has important implications - for the study of Louis XIV and also for the study of later "Ancien Regime" France.
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