The Grand Siecle & The Age Of Enlightenment

  • © Nathalie Baetens

The Grand Siecle & The Age Of Enlightenment

Under the Ancien Régime – a form of "Absolute Monarchy" - the 17th and 18th centuries testify to the importance of France and its influence over the courts of the entire world.

The 17th century would come to be considered by Voltaire as "one of the great centuries of civilisation". By "Grand Siècle", is understood the 17th century of Louis XIII, the Just (1601-1643) and above all, of Louis XIV, the "Sun-King" (1638-1715). Louis XIII, with Richelieu, continued the Wars of Religion and re-established order in the kingdom, despite the depredations of the Thirty Years War between France and Spain. Louis XIV, with Mazarin and his ministers, strengthened the defences of the French kingdom while warring with the Low Countries and Spain. The construction of the château of Versailles and the artistic environment flowing from it, made famous, among others, the gardener A.Le Nôtre, the architect F.Mansart, the painters N. Poussin, Ph. de Champaigne and Ch. Le Brun, the writers Molière, J. de La Fontaine, J.Racine and P.Corneille.

Known as the "Age of Enlightenment", the 18th century in France enlightened the intellectual world in Europe with its new philosophical ideas. This movement came from some great thinkers under Louis XV "the Beloved" (1715-1774) and Louis XVI (1754-1793): Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot and the Encyclopaedists, J.J. Rousseau and Buffon. Louis XV became involved in the Polish War of Succession, while Louis XVI died on the guillotine, a victim, in part, of the rationalist thinking of the Age of Enlightenment which criticized the social and religious hierarchies of the period immediately before the French Revolution.