Louis XIV: Great King or Tyrant?

Louis XIV: Great King or Tyrant? (Please explain!)

  • Great King

    Votes: 34 73.9%
  • Tyrant

    Votes: 12 26.1%

  • Total voters
    46
May 2019
9
Bellingham, WA
Perhaps it's a false choice. Perhaps what is needed to be a great king/leader precludes what is needed to be a good person. Or perhaps our expectation of "goodness" is so fluid that it isn't easy to apply.

Perhaps so, but we can still hold out hope for truly great leaders to emerge, and I'm sure there have been some somewhere.
 

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,210
Welsh Marches
Thank you, but you don't need to refer me to an article by a journalist to gain an understanding of Churchill, and I was specifically refering to your (actually absurd) remark that he regarded the Irish as being less than human! Naturally I have nothing against speaking the truth, but history is complex and one tends to lose the essential nuances - and indeed often totally miss the picture - if one approaches it merely to pass moral judgements from a position of supposed superiority. Though I admit that threads of this type invite such a response.

Well now, you say you don't need an article by a journalist. Is that because your understanding of Churchill is so comprehensive? What is there to miss? I think you're just messing with me.... It's Churchill's and yes, his ilk's very real position of supposed superiority that I'm talking about, and that is simply a part of history. Here's this:

Churchill's failure to take responsibility for the Gallipoli disaster in 1915; Churchill's lack of knowledge about the drastic sea change in Irish nationalism after the Easter Rising; Churchill's insensitive language in parliament towards the Irish, where he claimed that allowing a nation across the Irish Sea to become a Republic was akin to offering a country up to a miserable gang of human leopards in West Africa; and then there is Churchill's cheap and inappropriate swipe at the Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence MacSwiney: just before he died on hunger strike in a Brixton prison in 1920.
This just shows how you approach impedes any proper historical discussion, I was neither defending nor attacking Churchill, merely pointing out that your remark that Churchill regarded the Irish as 'less than human' was crass and absurd, and exemplifies the way in which a certain moralistic approach to history can lead all too easily to oversimplification or - as in this case - starightforward misrepresentation! Churhill's attitude to Ireland and the Irish was actually quite complicated, and needs to be interpreted in its historical context; and the best approach to achieving that is not to click around on Google to look for statements by him that offend modern sensibilities. On this specific matter, I would recommend 'Churchill and Ireland' by Paul Bew, but judging by your posts, I suspect that you're merely concerned to show off your own superior virtue by presenting him as some kind of stage villain. I never intended to get embroiled in a general discussion of Churchill's record, that isn't the subject of the thread.
 
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May 2019
9
Bellingham, WA
This just shows how you approach impedes any proper historical discussion, I was neither defending nor attacking Churchill, merely pointing out that your remark that Churchill regarded the Irish as 'less than human' was crass and absurd, and exemplifies the way in which a certain moralistic approach to history can lead all too easily to oversimplification or - as in this case - starightforward misrepresentation! Churhill's attitude to Ireland and the Irish was actually quite complicated, and needs to be interpreted in its historical context; and the best approach to achieving that is not to click around on Google to look for statements by him that offend modern sensibilities. On this specific matter, I would recommend 'Churchill and Ireland' by Paul Bew, but judging by your posts, I suspect that you're merely concerned to show off your own superior virtue by presenting him as some kind of stage villain. I never intended to get embroiled in a general discussion of Churchill's record, that isn't the subject of the thread.

Offend modern sensibilities? Tell that to the Irish, or any other oppressed conquered people. And okay, I'd be very interested in reading that book, thank you. And your assessment and attack upon my personal demeanor is wholly unnecessary and uncalled for. You're only showing yourself to be exactly what you just called me. I have read more that the pieces I've quoted, and will check out that book. Historical context, as I've acknowledged, is very important to understanding things, but still racists are racists and morality and hypocrisy are always very real issues.

Over and out, thanks for the tip on the book and try talking without the personal attacks next time.
 

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,210
Welsh Marches
Offend modern sensibilities? Tell that to the Irish, or any other oppressed conquered people. And okay, I'd be very interested in reading that book, thank you. And your assessment and attack upon my personal demeanor is wholly unnecessary and uncalled for. You're only showing yourself to be exactly what you just called me. I have read more that the pieces I've quoted, and will check out that book. Historical context, as I've acknowledged, is very important to understanding things, but still racists are racists and morality and hypocrisy are always very real issues.

Over and out, thanks for the tip on the book and try talking without the personal attacks next time.
I'm afraid this is one of the problems of communicating in this way over the internet, rather than having a back-and-forth discussion face-to-face, that criticism of people's views or approaches shades over all too easily into personal attack, and that one is inclined to get tetchy (especially because most of us don't have the time or inclination to type out the long posts that any proper consideration of the matters in question would require); I apologize for any rudeness.
 
Feb 2019
854
Serbia
I want to ask how do you define ''tyrant'' and ''great''? If a tyrant is someone who is just an absolutist, then yes, he was. If a tyrant is an absolutist who abuses his power and torments his people then yes and no. His wars certainly brought death, pain and financial expenses to France but also gave it glory, prestige and advancements.

If a great is a great conqueror and administrator who expands his nation and strengthens it then he most certainly was great, however if a great is someone who cares about human rights and some equality then he was not.

I think he was great overall and was the one who made France into the most powerful nation in Europe but also brought about consequences which would be felt in 1789.

We should not judge a 17th century French king by the standards of the 21st century common man. In his time he was one of the best rulers in mainland Europe and in his time he made France greater than their rivals. In the last 3rd of his reign he pulled France through the 9 Years' War and the War of the Spanish Succession. These wars were costly and exhausting and it is up to debate on who won so this is a darker mark on Louis' record but otherwise he was pretty successful.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,741
The extraordinary bit of Louis XIV's reign is that he managed to set things up in such a fashion that for the following 150 years France itself was never a theatre of war. That in contrast to the preceding century(ies) where France, like most of Europe, would with a certain frequency be devastated by warfare. Effectively France made sure war happened to others but not itself, allowing it to derive best use of its other advantages of population and relative wealth, none of which was really compromised by warfare.

Otoh the very success of the French monarchy is one of these things that might well have allowed the system to survive itself, without making necessary reforms. Without shocks arriving through agents from outside France, eventually the order was challenged through an explosion from inside France.
 
Sep 2016
1,271
Georgia
Effectively France made sure war happened to others but not itself, allowing it to derive best use of its other advantages of population and relative wealth, none of which was really compromised by warfare.
Though we also should not forget disastrous famines of 1693 - 1694 and 1709. They were hard blow to population of France. Not to mention, that a Huguenot revolt started in Cevennes and Vaunage during War of Spanish Succession.

Plus France had to sustain a massive army for so many years and campaigns, which was very costly.
 
Sep 2016
1,271
Georgia
In the last 3rd of his reign he pulled France through the 9 Years' War and the War of the Spanish Succession. These wars were costly and exhausting and it is up to debate on who won so this is a darker mark on Louis' record but otherwise he was pretty successful.
Well, I would say that Louis didn't win Nine Years War and War of Spanish Succession.

France lost pretty much all of it's acquisitions after 1679 and even Lorraine got restored to it's duke, which actually was in possession of France after Dutch War. Louis managed to retain only Lower Alsace and Strasbourg. He also recognized William as King of England.

This is France before 1688 and at it's peak :


 
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Mar 2016
1,222
Australia
Accusations of Louis XIV being a tyrant really need to be put into the context of just how awful the governance of France as a country was before his reign, when you had powerful lords and magnates frequently ignoring or disobeying the central government because things like taxation and national unity weren't in their own personal interests, and they strutted about like glorified mercenary captains ruling their own little fiefs like warlords. Kings were assassinated, civil wars were frequent, and the country was stuck in a permanent state of anarchy and complete decentralisation. Louis experienced personally for the first decade of his life what weak royal authority looked like, when he was mobbed in his own bedroom by "revolutionaries" and fled back and forth across the country as nobles betrayed him, his family and the lawful government. Of course one can understand why he would hold such a resentment towards the nobility for his entire life, and spend so much time, effort and resources on curbing their power and independence completely - just read the history of France to see how bad things can get for the entire country when the king cannot assert his power properly.

People should not feel sympathy for the nobles he dominated - in many cases they were loathsome, selfish and ignorant men that valued their own wealth and power over the wellbeing of the country. Louis's attention was on France as a whole, not just some of his own personal estates. Louis's only genuinely reprehensible and tyrannical actions were in regards to the Huguenots and their persecution and suppression, which was, however, very common in pre-18th century Europe. But even then, if one really wanted to defend him on that point, they could argue that he did not want any chances of another Wars of Religion breaking out (however unlikely we now know it would have been).
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,741
Though we also should not forget disastrous famines of 1693 - 1694 and 1709. They were hard blow to population of France. Not to mention, that a Huguenot revolt started in Cevennes and Vaunage during War of Spanish Succession.

Plus France had to sustain a massive army for so many years and campaigns, which was very costly.
Well sure, but those were exceptions compared to the previous periods. The frailty of the subsistance model for these early modern states was a general feature, and it really only shows that France wasn't some kind of immune fairyland place. Famines occurred in many places, not just during wars (even if those seem to have raised the risk and exacerbated the effects). 1693 was an unusually cold winter followed by and unusually wet spring however. Not even Louis could control the weather after all.

As for the revolts, those were also remnants of the previous period. As has been discussed in this thread, then blackest mark against Louis is his policies towards the Hugenots. But he didn't create that situation. Though he might well have been seen to over-react to it.

As for the army situation, it's an old observation that all countries have one – either their own, and lacking one that of some other nation. The point of the French way of warfare beginning with Louis was to make sure the armies were NOT in France, causing havoc, but making that happen somewhere else. Which for the most part succeeded.

Really, the early modern state at the time of Louis really only had one task, and that was "national defense". (Later additions in turn have been general public education, followed by public health.) International politics could effectively be summed up as making wars, and then when successful (as was hoped) concluding favourable and profitable peaces. As for Louis record, it clearly wasn't as stellar as he might have liked, but France was still making sure someone else had to beat the brunt of being the Theatre of War.
 
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