10.2a.4b Portrait of Louis XIV
This oil painting portrays Louis XIV in an ornate patterned ceremonial robe. He holds an elegant stance which shows off his shoes, adorned with bright red bows, and maintains a haughty expression towards the viewer. He holds a scepter in one hand. An ornate sword hangs from his side and is visible from beneath the folds of his robes.
Jean Bodin was a French lawyer and writer. He wrote this excerpt in 1576 as part of a long book on public law. At that time, there was a civil war going on in France between the king’s government and the Catholics on one side and noble rebels and Protestants on the other side. It is possible that the death, disruption, and stress of civil war influenced Bodin to desire peace and order under a strong king. He was living in Paris, in the household of the king’s brother, and might have written to please his patron. Bodin’s ideas became important tools for later French kings, such as Louis XIV, who were trying to create absolute power. These ideas are often called “the divine right of kings,” meaning that kings ruled because God gave them the right to do so. Visual caption for Portrait of Louis XIV This is a portrait of King Louis XIV of France, who reigned from 1638 to 1715. Bodin did not write about Louis XIV, who became king long after Bodin died. However, Bodin would certainly have admired Louis XIV, who ruled as an absolute monarch and called himself “the Sun King.”
Jean Bodin’s legal justification for unlimited royal sovereignty, although dense and difficult, offers students evidence of the kinds of arguments made for absolute monarchy. The literacy strategy at the end of this set will help all of your students, especially English learners, take apart and comprehend the text. You might discuss it in combination with King James I, Speech to Parliament, 1609, as the framework explains. Make sure students understand that while these ideas are European, monarchs around the world desired this kind of power. As you discuss the sourcing with students, point out that Jean Bodin was not a king and not a noble; he was from the middle group of prosperous, educated people. Other people from this social group later became revolutionaries. In other words, this social group contained both people who supported and opposed the traditional social order and absolute monarchy.