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HistoryVersailles through the centuries

Places of power

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The Councils

XVIIth-century theologians, in particular Bossuet, developed the idea of the divine right of kings, asserting that a monarch derives his right to rule directly from God. Two fundamental laws defined the king’s exercise of power: the law of succession and the law of the kingdom’s inalienability, which ensured that the monarch was not subject to the will of the people, the aristocracy or any other estate of the realm and excluded women from succession to the throne.

The King’s Councils
After Louis XIV’s first minister Mazarin died in 1661, the king decided not to fill the office with anybody else, effectively putting himself at the head of all France’s affairs. He ruled surrounded by his ministers, secretaries of State, officers, etc., stating his will and defining his policies in the King’s Councils. Louis XIV reorganised them early in his personal reign and four main councils still existed in 1715.

The High Council
The king met with his ministers of State in the High Council, which met at least three times a week to address major domestic and foreign policy issues.

The Council for the Interior
The Council of the Interior met once every weeks. The chancellor, ministers of State, secretaries of State, controller-general of finance and Monsieur, the king’s brother, participated in this council, which was open to all the royal family’s members. It council was also the political training ground for the Dauphin and his sons.

The Royal Council of Finance

This council met twice a week and consecrated Colbert’s increasingly important role as controller-general of finance.

The Council of Conscience
The role of this council, which mainly included the king and his confessor, was to distribute ecclesiastical benefices. The meetings took place in private, with the king surrounded by a few trusted men in key positions. This is where veritable dynasties of families of State service developed: Colbert, Le Tellier, Phélypeaux, etc.

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