TL Discussion: No Revolution in France
The following was first purposed by me in a thread I started here:
What follows below is my rough draft of a TL to that effect; questions, comments, advice and criticism are all welcomed, as is general discussion.
In early 1747, Louis-Ferdinand (b. 1729), dauphin of France and only son of Louis XV was married to the princess Maria Josepha of Saxony. The marriage was the dauphin’s second, his previous wife, the Spanish infanta María Teresa having died in childbirth the year before (and her young daughter and namesake, Marie-Thérèse, only surviving her by two years).
The dauphin and his wife would have eight children:
King Louis XV of France dies at Versailles in early May, having contracted smallpox several weeks before; the king is sixty-four years old and has reigned for nearly six decades. The king is succeeded by his grandson, the dauphin Louis-Joseph-Xavier, who accedes to the throne as King Louis XVI of France and Navarre.
Early Years: 1774-1776
Louis, the man:
Aged only twenty-three, Louis XVI is a young monarch, though he is nevertheless considered very worthy of his crown.
Well educated in everything from statecraft to philosophy, King Louis is known to have reformist sympathies and to be highly influenced by the Enlightenment.
Nevertheless, in personality, the king is known to be very similar to his great-great-great-grandfather, Louis XIV, having an iron will, a firm belief in the divine right of kings and an overwhelming desire to preserve his absolutism at all costs (and against all who would dare to oppose it).
The king is, however, different from his ancestor in the respect that he also believes that it is a sovereign’s duty to rule wisely and benevolently, preferably influenced by the Enlightenment and its philosophies.
While pious enough, Louis is not however a dévot by any means, and it is known that some of his opinions and views even border on Gallicism.
Despite all of this, the king is also a Bourbon through and through, and is known to share the strong sexual appetite that many of his forebears have possessed; indeed, his desires are almost comparable to those of his grandfather Louis XV (whom he seeks to emulate in all things and has always worshiped and seen as a sort of quasi-paternal figure in his life, ever since the death of his father the dauphin). There is one very important difference between the two kings however: unlike his grandfather, Louis XVI is a borderline misogynist, who believes that female intervention in politics is akin to disaster. He will, thus, not allow any of his mistresses to cross from the bedroom over to the council table.
This attitude, indeed, extends to the king’s wife, Maria Carolina of Austria (b. 1752), with whom there is little love lost.
Louis and Maria Carolina (called “Marie-Caroline” in France) have been married for over six years, ever since he was sixteen and she fifteen. The marriage was arranged to cement the new alliance between Austria and France and was, at the time, the triumph of the duc de Choiseul, the king’s secretary of state for foreign affairs. But much has changed since then.
Choiseul’s disastrous fiscal policy, his quarreling with King Louis XV’s powerful mistress Madame du Barry, and most of all, his support for war with Britain have led to his downfall and he is currently living in exile at his country chateau. Further, Franco-Austrian relations have been souring lately to a certain degree due to Choiseul’s downfall and the decidedly anti-Austrian attitude of the current ministry (though nothing has yet manifest in this direction).
In response, the new queen, Marie-Caroline, is known to be allying herself more closely to the pro-Austrian party at court, and she is known to meddle in politics as much as she can to secure favorable relations with her homeland. This has increased tensions between the king and his wife, as her blatant favoritism of the Austrian party has led to a strained marriage and an increase in anti-Austrian feelings in the new king as a reaction to his wife’s intrigues.
Their marital unhappiness notwithstanding, the couple have managed to at least produce several children; indeed, from 1770 to 1779 the queen will bear her husband seven children, of which four will survive to adulthood: the dauphin Louis-François (b. 1770), Marie-Thérèse (b. 1772 and known as “Madame Royale”), Philippe-Charles (b. 1775 and known as “the duc de Normandie”), and Louise-Élisabeth (b. 1779).
Louis, the king:
After the death of King Louis XV, the court immediately moves with all haste to the palace of Fontainebleau, to allow for Versailles to be aired and disinfected. While he is there, the new king immediately sets to work taking over the reins of government.
Refusing to bow to pressure from the court aristocracy, King Louis decides to retain his father’s unpopular chancellor, René de Maupeou, and his equally unpopular controller-general of finances, Joseph-Marie, the abbé Terray. The move is heavily criticized by many belonging to both the old nobility and the newer, civil nobility. Nevertheless, refusing to bow to public pressure, the king decides to continue with his grandfather’s policy of reform.
The reforms of Maupeou over the last few years (and by association his fellow minister Terray) have been very controversial. While Maupeou has managed to stabilize French finances and considerably increase government revenue, his methods have not been popular with the nobility. The chancellor has reformed two very important French taxes, the vingtième and the capitation, and managed to legally force the nobility to pay them (many aristocrats having thus far managed to successfully commit large-scale tax evasion, even though they are only legally exempt from the taille and a few other minor taxes). He has also secured private deals with a majority of the farmer generals (the privatized tax collectors of France) and managed to ensure favorable government terms for the leasing of tax collection.
Maupeou has also come into conflict with the Parlement of Paris, the superior court charged with registering royal laws and edicts (and having the right to issue remonstrations against legislation it deems objectionable). The Parlement, whose members are all of the leading families of the civil nobility, has attempted to resist many of Maupeou’s reforms and this has resulted in conflict with the crown. This conflict was suspended after a lit de justice was held by King Louis XV three years before, in which he forced the body to register a series of decrees which not only implemented Maupeou’s reforms, but also severely limited the body’s right of remonstrance, and legally abolished its right to implement a general strike (on pain of confiscation of goods).
After these reforms were passed through, the Parlement of Paris was suspended by royal edict, and its functions handed over to the royal council pending its reform.
Ignoring the protests of the nobility, the ever-absolutist and strong willed King Louis XVI decides to continue his grandfather’s reforms. Royal assent is thus given to Maupeou’s plans for a general overhaul and reform of the national judicial system.
1774-1775, the year of reform:
Maupeou’s recommendations for reform are as follows:
Also at this time, the king takes personal command of foreign policy, ensuring that delicate matter of Anglo-French relations is handled well. King Louis knows that war with Britain at this point would be suicidal for French finances, still recovering from the near-bankruptcy imposed by the Seven Years War. Thus, he decides to pursue a careful policy of neutrality. Further, he decides on a decidedly anti-Austrian policy, alienating the shrinking Austrian party at court. Looking west, Louis XVI allies himself more closely with the Spanish, renewing the old family pact between the two branches of the house of Bourbon (as the king knows full well that in the event of a breakdown of Anglo-French relations, he will need all the support he can muster). Interestingly enough, the kingdom of Naples also takes on a more anti-Austrian policy at this time, even though its king, Ferdinando IV, is currently married to the youngest daughter of the Empress Maria Theresia, Maria Antonia (herself a sister of Queen Marie-Caroline). Many foreign observers comment that this is partially due to the apparent infertility of the queen of Naples, who has henceforth been incapable of conceiving a child (and indeed, will only manage to finally do so in late 1777, due to a condition which causes her to have an irregular fertility cycle). In one of his final acts for the year of 1774, Louis dismisses his secretary of state for foreign affairs, the seemingly incompetent duc d’Aiguillon, and replaces him with the ageing (but experienced) cardinal de Bernis, a well known proponent of realpolitik in the sphere of foreign affairs.
Meanwhile, in response to her husband’s current policies, Queen Marie-Caroline begins intriguing with such courtiers as the exiled duc de Choiseul and the anti-British comte de Vergennes. Their aims are simple: to block further reforms at all cost and ensure the restoration of favorable relations with Austria. The group is known as the “new Austrian party” at court; King Louis makes a point of refusing patronage to its members, much to his wife’s ire.
Later in 1775, in early June, Louis XVI is crowned at Reims amidst great pomp and ceremony (and at some expense for newly recovering state coffers). The ceremony is meant to be a show of strength for the king, and indeed, royal absolutism in general.
1776 and its events:
In the early part of 1776, Louis XVI receives the report of the judicial commission. The report, having come just as the establishment new system of Parlements has been completed, is not favorable. The legal system of France is revealed to be completely chaotic, with hundreds of different local systems and a patchwork of provincial judiciaries which are anything but uniform. Upon reading the commission’s report, Louis accepts their recommendations for a new system of courts, in which the former two-tiered system is reformed into a three-tier court system, extending uniformly from Parlements, to présidiaux, to prévôtés, with all other local systems and anomalies being scrapped. Nevertheless, against the advice of Maupeou, the king turns down the purposed legal code, seeing it as too threatening to royal absolutism. Instead, a new commission is appointed to draft a code more favorable to him, while edicts are soon after registered by the regional Parlements which provide for the creation of a new, salaried judicial system, with the new reforms scheduled to be fully functional by the end of 1778.
It is during this time that the king also manages to skillfully avoid conflict with Great Britain by denouncing the recent American declaration of independence from its motherland. Louis sees this view as in line with his own personal beliefs on the nature of royal power anyway, as rebellious subjects are not something that he feels that any god-anointed sovereign should willingly support. While this strains Franco-Spanish relations, as King Carlos III is currently contemplating sending aid the revolutionaries, tensions are easily smoothed out by the skillful cardinal de Bernis (something which the Americans will later suffer for).
Also this year, in a private communication with Catherine II of Russia, Louis XVI assures the empress of his support for the partition of Poland and Russian claims there, essentially abandoning France’s historic alliance with Poland (though by this time he and a majority of educated opinion see any struggle for Poland’s behalf as useless). A similar communication is sent to Prussia, and the king agrees to support Russo-Prussian designs for that kingdom. No such dispatch is sent to Empress Maria Theresia, however, and this snub further manages to contribute to a general decline in good relations between the two realms. The message is clear: Austrian pretensions in Poland will not be supported, though the French will, for the time being, refrain from condemning them outright (mostly due to fiscal concerns).
Interesting, have you fought of what the French anti-Austrian attitude would do to the War of Bavarian Succession? Personal I think a peaceful solution would become more likely without Austrian hope of French support, with Austria receive South Bavaria against Charles Theodore getting the Austrian Netherlands and Oberpfalz and Prussia receiving Brandenburg-Ansbach and Brandenburg-Bayreuth as counterweight to Austrian growth.
Last edited by Valdemar II; May 21st, 2008 at 04:49 AM..
While known for his voracious sexual appetites, King Louis--as of the beginning of 1777--has thus far declined to take an official maîtresse-en-titre, limiting his activities to illicit and short lived extra-marital affairs. This soon changes when Gabrielle de Polastron, comtesse de Polignac, manages to catch the eye of the king. The countess, herself beautiful, witty aristocratic, and charming is a natural candidate for a royal mistress at Versailles. Soon after they begin their affair, Louis XVI makes her husband a duke, thus promoting Gabrielle to the title of duchesse de Polignac. The cuckolded Polignac is hastily dispatched to the provinces as governor of Toulouse, and Louis soon after installs his wife in the former apartments of Madame de Pompadour at the palace of Versailles, thus signifying her new elevation as his maîtresse-en-titre and the de facto first lady of the court; and indeed, she soon becomes the leader of fashion and patronage at the royal court, becoming greatly influential in securing pensions and favors for her supporters. To cement her position, Louis procures a legal separation for his lover the following year, pensioning off her husband in Toulouse.
Enter Madame de Polignac, 1777
These events will soon trigger an eventual estrangement between the king and his wife, as Marie-Caroline is already immensely unhappy with her situation. The royal couple will cease sexual relations after the birth of their youngest daughter in 1779; the king, when asked how this new “child of France” should be addressed, is said to have cynically replied “Madame Dernière” (“Madame the last”).
Madame de Polignac and King Louis XVI will have three children, all of whom will survive to adulthood and be legitimated by royal decree in 1782: a son, Louis-Aimé (b. 1778 and styled, not without irony, “comte de Toulouse” from birth, though he is later created duc de Vendôme) and two daughters, Adélaïde-Louise (b. 1780) and Françoise-Sophie (b. 1781), styled as “Mademoiselle de Tours” and “Mademoiselle de Nantes” respectively. By the king’s own decision, the children are brought up with his own in the royal nursery, much to the humiliation of Queen Marie-Caroline.
Meanwhile in late 1777, just as the king and his chancellor are celebrating the implementation of the new justice system and the acceptance of the commission’s new and revised law code (this one much more the king’s liking), a diplomatic crisis is soon brought to the forefront. In Bavaria, the Elector Maximilian III dies, and his cousin, Karl IV succeeds him. The new elector is very pro-Austrian, in a country which traditionally is very pro-French. Further, he has been involved in several under the table negotiations with Emperor Joseph II of Austria (son and co-ruler of Empress Maria Theresia). The Emperor has agreed to cede the Austrian Netherlands to the duke, in exchange for lower Bavaria.
1778-1779, trouble in Bavaria and the Americas
This arrangement is seen as a threat by King Frederick II of Prussia, who does not wish to see an increase in Austrian power in southern Germany, and its resulting centralization in that region. Further, the French also oppose the negotiations, as Louis XVI is strongly opposed to a stronger Austria in any form. The Austrians know that neither the French nor the Prussians will support their actions. Tensions begin to mount, and King Frederick soon threatens war, putting forward another cadet of the house of Wittelsbach, the duke of Zweibrücken, as a better candidate for the vacant Bavarian throne.
For several weeks, dispatches are exchanged daily between Vienna, Versailles and Berlin, and many in Europe believe that war is imminent. Finally, the Austrians agree to back down, as they soon realize that the Franco-Austrian alliance has completely collapsed and that they will likewise get little support from their other major ally, Great Britain (which at this time is embroiled in its own conflicts in the colonies). Not wishing to face war with Prussia, Saxony and France all at once, Emperor Joseph II repudiates his agreements with the new elector of Bavaria and manages to smooth things over.
At the same time, in America, the refusal of the French and Spanish states to support or recognize the American colonists in their revolt leads to a lack of reinforcements and moral, and an eventual defeat by the British at the battle of Monmouth, signifying a turning point in the war. This, followed by a massive naval defeat at Castine the following summer and similar defeats in the southern colonies, forces the revolutionary army, under the command of General Washington, to fall back north and pull out of Virginia into Maryland. The British manage to inflict several more crushing defeats over the next year, with little resistance, as the number of patriots slowly shrinks and the revolutionary army is plagued by desertion. Finally, after a three-month-long siege, Washington surrenders at New York in 1779. He is later hanged for high treason; the British will now spend the next few years reorganizing their colonies and firmly placing them back under crown rule, destroying the last remaining resistances. The resulting effort ensures that they do not play a major role in European politics for several years to come.
In light of the exceptional success of his new reforms (especially the new legal code and system and the stabilization of state finances), King Louis rewards chancellor Maupeou with the rare and coveted honor of premier ministre (or “first minister”, last awarded to the prince de Condé in 1723).
The era of Maupeou, 1780-1785
With his new found power and influence, Maupeou continues spearheading his past reforms, much to the pleasure of his master.
That same year, in late November, Empress Maria Theresia dies in Vienna, leaving her son the Emperor Joseph II as sole ruler. While there is still a strong anti-Austrian feeling at Versailles, many hope that relations between the two realms will at least improve, as Joseph II has a reputation for being much more accommodating than his mother (even having gone so far as to restore favorable relations with Empress Catherine II in Russia).
At the same time, in early 1781, cardinal de Bernis manages to conclude the Barcelona Compact with Spain, which both reaffirms the past Bourbon family pacts and ties the two branches of the dynasty closer together by betrothing the infanta María Amalia (b. 1779) to the dauphin Louis-François. As the dauphin is currently ten years old and the infanta only two, the marriage is scheduled for late 1791. This is nevertheless considered a success by King Louis, as he has greatly desired a complete renewal of favorable relations between his cousin King Carlos III and himself, and his pro-Spanish foreign minister has thus delivered quite well.
To the east, cardinal de Bernis also manages to conclude a new treaty with the Elector of Saxony, his cousin Frederick Augustus III. To seal this new alliance, intended to secure French influence in Germany with the breakdown of the age old Bavarian alliance (that duchy now being seen as to pro-Austrian for the king’s liking), is sealed with the betrothal of the king’s sister, seventeen-year-old Madame Élisabeth to the elector’s brother and heir presumptive, twenty-six-year-old Anton of Saxony (b. 1755). After the dowry and marriage contract are hammered out, the two are married by proxy later that year at Versailles, and in person in January, 1782, at Dresden.
Meanwhile in early 1782, Queen Marie-Caroline, frustrated and completely shut out of politics (not to mention lacking any viable influence over her husband) suffers a final marital breakdown with her husband. This comes after the king delivers (in the view of the queen) a final humiliation to his wife by legally legitimizing his three bastards by Madame de Polignac. As the popularity of Polignac and her de facto dominance of the court has essentially regulated Marie-Caroline to a secondary position (at least socially, though not by precedence or rank of course), she is already greatly resented by the queen. Unlike many previous royal mistresses, Madame de Polignac is very vain and cares little for the feelings of her rival and continues to treat the queen rudely, much to the general scandal and surprise of the court of Versailles, especially considering that her suite of apartments in Versailles and her position as a dame de chambre (lady-in-waiting) to the queen put the two in constant contact (and thus struggle).
Seeing this legitimization as the final straw, Marie-Caroline throws years of propriety (not to mention sexual frustration) to the winds and decides to take a lover of her own, to satisfy her needs and strike back at her husband and “sa pute” (“his whore”).
The queen’s choice falls upon Louis-René-Édouard, cardinal de Rohan and bishop of Strasbourg. While cardinal de Rohan is both very handsome and from one of the most ancient and aristocratic families in France, he is nevertheless nearing forty-eight years old at this time. Interestingly enough, the cardinal is also the king’s grand almoner, and thus the head of his religious household. King Louis decides to turn a blind eye to the affair, seeing little need to act given his wife’s discretion. The rumors, however, continue to multiply and spread, and gossip explodes at Versailles in response to the scandal – after all, no queen of France has been known to have committed adultery since the time of Queen Marguerite de Valois in the late sixteenth century.
The next three years are somewhat quiet and uneventful in Europe, though domestically, a ministerial crisis nearly ensues in France when the controller-general of finances, abbé Terray, dies suddenly of a stroke in 1782, leaving the post vacant. This has the effect of throwing the anti-Maupeou faction attempting to maneuver one of its own to the position, without success. Instead, King Louis ignores both Maupeou’s recommendation and those of his rivals by appointing his own candidate, Jean-François Joly de Fleury. As Joly de Fleury is from one of the most respected and long serving families of the civil nobility and is also quite compliant to the king’s wishes, this move is seen as purely diplomatic, and it has the effect of repairing relations with the civil nobility and placating them with one of their own in power. However, Maupeou remains in secure control of the reigns of finance behind the scenes, and Joly de Fleury becomes nothing more than a mere figurehead for the ministry.
Cardinal de Bernis, for his part, fails to prevent a league of neutrality and commercial alliance between the Baltic powers of Russia, Sweden and Denmark, which is achieved via the treaty of Stockholm, signed in 1784. This pact is seen as greatly hostile to French trade interests in the area and has the effect of damaging Franco-Russian relations. The cardinal offers his resignation, but the king, seeing the value of a good minister, refuses and allows him to remain, though at the price of a loss of the former level of favor he once enjoyed.
The court, meanwhile, gears up for the inevitable: it is known by early 1784 that the all-powerful first minister and chancellor Maupeou, now at his zenith, is suffering from consumption. As the first minister is now past seventy, he is not expected to recover, and as a result factions soon start to spring up at court, all vying to be his eventual successor and replacement.
The factions are loosely organized as follows by late 1784:
The liberal party:
So-called because of its support for even more liberal policies and shift towards a more benevolent style of government. While the majority of voices of the party favor a style of government in the form of strict adherence to the model of enlightened despotism (highly influenced by Voltaire), there are more radical members who would prefer a less absolutist style of rule and more popular involvement in politics. The party is led by the king’s cousin, Philippe d’Orléans, duc de Chartres (b. 1747), who later inherits the vast estates of his father the following year in 1785, becoming duc d’Orléans and first prince of the blood at that time (not to mention the wealthiest man in France after the king).
The dévot party:
After years of being shut out of power, the dévot faction has reemerged onto the political scene, much in response to the lack of piety and loose morals of the court. The party is much more conservative than the liberals and supports an absolutist style of government more along the lines of benevolence than enlightenment. The party is also notable because it calls for the restoration of the Jesuits, suppressed since 1774 by papal bull. It is led by duc de Penthièvre (a legitimated prince of the blood) and the prince de Condé (whose family traditionally opposes their Orléans cousins at every opportunity).
The Artois party:
So-called because of it is led by the king’s youngest brother, the ambitious comte d’Artois. The party is even more conservative than the dévots, though without the religious implications (especially given that its leader is an arch-libertine of sorts). The Artois party advocates a more traditional style of government, with preference to be given to the old aristocracy over the civil nobility and a return to a more reactionary form of royal rule, without the “liberal” philosophies of the Enlightenment. As can be expected, this party is closely associated in coalition with the dévot faction and contains many members of the former anti-Austrian faction.
The pro-Austrian party:
The regrouped party of the queen, who now sees her chance in finally making a grab for political influence. The pro-Austrian faction counts both her lover, cardinal de Rohan, and the ageing duc de Choiseul (dead by the following year). While largely moderate in terms of political policy, it nevertheless finds itself drawn closer to the liberals in coalition, and the queen is soon seen entertaining the duc d’Orléans in her apartments.
The king, however, is quite far from a fool. He sees factions as nothing more than political pawns to maneuver and play off against each other to preserve his own absolutism.
A splendid royal coup, 1785
When Maupeou finally dies in late 1785, having retired to his country chateau in Picardy a few weeks before, the king is thus very calm and seemingly removed from the excitement of the court surrounding him.
It is now that he makes an unexpected move: he scraps the last remains of the Maupeou ministry, its purpose served, and dismisses his secretary of state for foreign affairs, cardinal de Bernis. The last few years have been ones of disappointment for the king in his cardinal, and he has thus far attempted to at least give the ecclesiastic a second chance. Nevertheless, Bernis has simply been unable to manage the increasingly complex patchwork of alliance that are European foreign affairs for some time. The cardinal, ageing and wishing to escape the pressures of public life, is thus granted his wish and goes into quiet retirement at his archbishopric in Albi.
In his place, the king appoints another churchman: Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, bishop of Autun (b. 1754).
Talleyrand, though only thirty-one, has managed to make an early name for himself. Born to an ancient and wealthy noble family and the nephew of the powerful archbishop of Reims, Talleyrand has, through both his own skills and those of his uncle, managed to rise in the ranks of the church quite early. He has been known to enjoy the patronage of the late Maupeou and has already been seen as a rival to cardinal de Bernis, his brief tenure as ambassador to Prussia being seen as highly successful and having earned him the king’s favor.
While the king makes it known soon after Maupeou’s death that he has no intention of appointing a new first minister and intends to oversee his government directly, many now realize that with the preferment he is showing to Talleyrand, the young bishop will soon rise to be de facto head of government anyway, dashing the hopes of all the court factions simultaneously (and thus resulting in a large scale courtship of the minister on their part, to curry favor and patronage).
Meanwhile, as his chancellor and keeper of the seals (the position now vacant with Maupeou’s death), the king appoints Chrétien-François de Lamoignon de Basville (b. 1735); the appointment of Basville attracts much attention as he is a known associate of the liberal faction at court (though a more conservative one), and while gossip and intrigues soon abound due to the decision, it is eventually realized that the action is nothing more than that of a king who sees himself above the many factions of the court.
The new ministry also has a new supporter: Madame de Polignac, who has managed to gain a degree of political influence over the king, despite the fact that the king sees female political meddling as foolish and something to be resisted at all costs. The increasing patronage and influence of “the Polignac” (as she is known) over the next few years will cause a complete reshuffle of alliances at court, having the effect of driving the queen away from the liberals and pushing her into the arms of the dévots and conservatives, thus essentially creating two basic factions: the liberals (consisting of Polignac, Orléans and others) and the dévots (consisting of Artois, the queen and others, including the dauphin’s tutor, Jean-Auguste de Chastenet de Puységur, bishop of Saint-Omer (b. 1740), of which there will be later consequences).
France would be monarchy even today.
The last twenty-three years have been a time of relative peace and prosperity for Europe. Aside from several diplomatic crisis and rebellion in the British colonies, little catastrophe or severe war has taken place. The French have even, thanks to the skillful reforms of the late Maupeou and Terray, been able to engineer a complete fiscal recovery from the horrid crisis of 1771.
Europe on the brink of war, 1786
However, not all is well in Europe at this time. The so-called Baltic League, contrived by Sweden, Denmark and Russia in an attempt to promote commerce and mutual defense is not functioning as well as many expected. As the long term trade and political implications of the league have been seen as dangerous to French interests, this news has managed to please King Louis XVI immensely.
In Sweden, King Gustav III is becoming increasingly absolutist. Until this time, he has been a semi-constitutional monarch, allowing for his Rikstag (parliament) to gain more and more influence over state affairs. However, the body has responded to the king of Sweden’s leniency by demanding more and more power, and taking every opportunity to gain ascendancy over the monarch. Some even have gone so far as to demand a written constitution.
Shocked by the actions of his legislature, Gustav III, who now is finding himself unable to implement several important economic reforms due to the parliament’s refusal to pass them, finally resorts to the tactics of his predecessors: he simply dissolves parliament and refuses to summon it again, deciding to once again rule without it. From this point onwards, the king begins to take a more direct approach to government, becoming more and more an absolutist.
As the king takes more of an active role in foreign policy, he begins opening up negotiations for a peaceful Swedish annexation of Norway from Denmark, as he sees an eventual appropriation of that kingdom as a primary long term goal (this having been a great desire of past kings of Sweden that has never yet been achieved--an all too tempting ambition for a man bordering on megalomania). Further, when the king’s ambassador in Copenhagen informs him that the Danish state is finding Norway increasingly difficult to administer effectively, Gustav III becomes more direct with his demands. While his tactics are on the surface diplomatic, the king’s enlargement of his naval and armed forces makes the Danish wary enough to begin taking a firmer stance on the Norwegian issue.
Talleyrand (recently made a cardinal by Pope Pius VI), ever skillful in statecraft, soon pursues a pro-Danish policy, at the king’s behest, as King Louis is eager to shatter the fledgling Baltic League as soon as possible. In a series of dispatches received from the Stadtholder Willem V, the Dutch secure a secret alliance with the French in the Breda agreement, in which the pledge their support to the Franco-Danish cause, in the event that a breakdown in negotiations results in war.
At this time, there are also other important European interests to consider. The military successes of Russia in the Balkans and Crimea against the Ottomans has greatly alarmed King Frederick II of Prussia, who dislikes the idea of a potential Russian Turkey. He also allies with the Danish, seeing a Baltic war as a welcome distraction for Empress Catherine II from her southern theatre. Further, King Ferdinando IV of Naples also dislikes the idea of Russian influence in the Mediterranean.
Great Britain, wishing to avoid open warfare due to the scale by which such an event is likely to occur, attempts to play the role of mediator between the Danish and the Swedes, thought the prince regent Frederick of Denmark is distrusting of the British foreign secretary the Duke of Leeds, due to the strong commercial ties which the British have with Sweden.
The resulting conference at Holstein is a disaster, thanks in part to the work of the Prussian and French plenipotentiaries, who both have been instructed by their respective masters to block all possible outcomes favorable to either Baltic stability or British interests.
With tensions mounting on both sides, Europe begins preparing for war. War, however, does not come about in the Baltic, but rather, the Channel of all places. The British, who suspect that the Dutch have concluded some form of secret agreement with the French, soon stop trusting them politically. In a daring violation of international sovereignty, the British navy forcibly search several Dutch trade vessels off the coast of Dover, after hearing rumors that Dutch merchants are smuggling weapons into Denmark through British channels. As Great Britain does not want a European war, they see this as a necessary, if illegal, action. Ironically, they end up being the catalyst for just such an a occurrence, as the Dutch do not take too kindly to his humiliation: the last in a long series of such tensions between the two naval powers.
The Dutch States General declares war on the British on the morning of January 2, 1787. The lines are now drawn, and all of Europe will soon be at war.
King Louis is now faced with a dilemma. Should it be war, or careful neutrality? While the king begins contemplating a policy of careful compromise, not wishing to go to war with Britain and throw away over a decade of good relations between the two realms, his plans are soon interrupted.
Seizing the moment for action, King Gustav of Sweden declares war on the Danish, on grounds of his existing alliance with Britain and the technical alliance which the Danish are currently engaged in with the Dutch (though they have thus far declined to pledge support to the Dutch cause). Essentially, the British now find themselves embroiled in a war they did not want in the first place, the Swedish now have their pretext for a Norwegian campaign, Prussia has its long desired war in the northern theatre to distract the Russians (whichever side they choose to take), the Dutch can finally have the chance to settle the Anglo-Dutch score, and the French have managed to implement the destruction of the long detested Baltic League (which has more or less collapsed). Europe is at war.
The Swedish engage the Danish in the naval battle of Larvik soon after, taking the chance to strike as soon as possible. While the battle ends in a quick Swedish victory, it is still essentially indecisive, as the Danish fleet manages to retreat mostly intact.
The Three Years War, 1787-1790
The following week, Empress Catherine II of Russia, irritated by the escalation of a conflict which she sees as a direct result of Prussian aggression and bad management on the part of the continental powers, enters the war on the side of Sweden, condemning the actions of the Dutch Republic. Prussia immediately declares war on Russia, its new king, Frederick Wilhelm II eager to live up to the reputation of his recently deceased uncle King Frederick II (now surnamed “the Great”).
King Louis wastes no time, as he sees France must act swiftly. Talleyrand is sent to the Hague. There he, and representatives from Naples, Saxony, Prussia, the Netherlands, Denmark and Spain (the last in honor of the long respected Family Pact and Barcelona Compact) sign a treaty of mutual defense. At the same time, a similar conference is held in Vienna, where a treaty is signed between Sweden, Bavaria, Great Britain, Portugal, Russia and Austria.
By mid-1787, King Louis XVI has dismissed his current war minister and appointed in his place the comte de Vergennes, a known Anglophile. Soon French forces invade the Austrian Netherlands, occupying Flanders and Brabant, aided by Dutch reinforcements. The British parliament, angry at the height to which the conflict has escalated and determined to bring a quick and decisive end to the war against all odds, orders that troops be diploid into Flanders to relieve the Austrian forces there. While British success on land is mixed, they do manage to score several decisive Naval victories against the Dutch by the year’s end, at Zeeland and Frisia, knocking the Dutch out of the war by 1788 and forcing the republic to sue for peace on very favorable terms for the British.
Meanwhile, Swedish forces encounter little resistance in Norway and manage to overrun the south of the kingdom, while at the same time taking back Scania from the Danish. The Russians meanwhile engage Prussia in Poland with only mild success. This comes mainly because Empress Catherine II has counted on Austrian support there and finds herself under reinforced.
For their part, the Austrians are now forced to deal with the Ottomans, as the French have managed to conclude an alliance with the Turks at the expense of both Austrian holdings in Hungary and Russian ambitions in the Balkans.
By late 1788, the war has reached a stalemate. While the French manage to inflict a devastating naval defeat on the British at the battle of Dunkirk (defeating the myth of British naval supremacy), they are likewise setback by the bloody and humiliating Russian military defeat of the Prussians (under the inexperienced command of King Frederick Wilhelm) at Kalisz. The Spanish, tied up in Portugal with newly arrived British reinforcements, are unable to send enough aid to the French to be of any service. It is only in 1789 that the duc d’Ayen manages to take Luxembourg for the French and at least ensure French victory on the Austrian front, though French prospects elsewhere continue to sink with the defeat of Franco-Danish forces at Kongsberg in Norway.
Still seething after their disastrous defeat in Poland by the Russians, the Prussians under the command of King Frederick Wilhelm finally manage to restore their fortunes with a successful Austrian campaign in the summer of 1789 which allows them to occupy the whole of Bohemia for a time--to the ire of Emperor Joseph II.
While many now believe that the war will be much longer and bloodier than they first thought, three very crucial events in 1790 are enough to change that:
The first takes place early in the year with a particularly rough winter of 1789-1790, which decimates Swedish forces occupying Norway, forcing King Gustav to retreat back into Scania.
The second is the entrance of the thus far neutral kingdom of Sardinia into the war on the side of the French. At this time, the kingdom of Naples has been experiencing a growing anti-French feeling, due to the devastation the war has caused at home (a result of a string of several terrible naval defeats by the British). The Franco-Sardinian alliance, though technically beneficial to the war effort of Naples and its allies, is nevertheless seen as a betrayal by King Ferdinando IV, who has always viewed the Sardinians as his rivals for power in Italy. The king, whose finances are also greatly damaged by the strain of war, soon abandons his allies, suing for peace with Austria and Great Britain and betraying the family compact.
Nevertheless, the Spanish still manage to drive the British back into Portugal at Badajoz and thus gain the upper hand in the Iberian theatre once and for all. The Franco-Prussian forces in the Austrian Netherlands also are victorious this year, scoring a massive defeat in Brabant against a combined force of Anglo-Austrian troops and are soon calling for peace. And finally, at the infamous naval battle of Grena, the Russians are able to completely destroy the Danish fleet and secure dominance in the Baltic.
The result is a complete shift in the balance of power, placing France and Russia in dominant military positions, and thus essentially making the interests of Great Britain, Sweden, Denmark and Austria all subordinate (though they were the original combatants in the war). Peace talks soon begin and a ceasefire is negotiated for the time being.
While expensive, the war has nevertheless been popular in France, due to the nation’s minimal losses and general victories. However, not all of Europe is left unmarred. Bohemia, the Austrian Netherlands and Poland are all left devastated, as they have been the scene of most of the conflict. The militaries of both Naples, the Dutch Republic and Denmark are also ruined and the prestige of the British greatly navy damaged. On the positive side, however, Russia has managed to assert its military dominance in eastern Europe, gaining an upper hand in Polish affairs.
The congress of Munich is held soon after, and deemed a success, much to the credit of Talleyrand and his fellow Prussian and Russian plenipotentiaries. The agreement is as follows:
Naples will cede Malta to the British, who will give Gibraltar back to the Spanish. The French, for their part, gain both Flanders and Luxembourg (though Brabant and the rest of the Austrian Netherlands are retained by Joseph II). As for the question of Norway, the Danish will cede that kingdom to Sweden, but with the understanding that if the male line of the house of Oldenburg in Sweden ever is to fail, then Norway will revert back to the Danish again; further, the Danish may keep Scania. However, it is Russia which could be said to benefit the most out of this agreement, as Catherine II is ceded all of Finland by agreement with the king of Sweden, though this comes at the price of Russia promising to conclude a treaty of peace with the Ottomans at the year’s end, which they do soon after in the treaty of Adrianople.
The treaty is signed soon after, in March, 1791, ending over three years of long and bloody warfare.
The year 1791 is one of triumph for France and King Louis XVI. With a renewed since of national pride among the people, the king at his zenith of popularity, and a restoration of French international prestige to a place in which it has not been since before the Seven Years War, King Louis XVI now finds himself in a very good position indeed. Both Russia and France have gained the most from the Three Years War, and many see them as the new rising powers in Europe.
More reforms, 1791-1793
International relations are nevertheless becoming a difficult mess to sort out now that peace has been concluded, and King Louis XVI’s has now found himself taking a more anti-Neapolitan stance than he had ever imagined would be needed, for he sees the actions of King Ferdinando IV during the war as a great betrayal of the Bourbon family pact. Further, the new King Carlos IV of Spain (having succeeded his father Carlos III in 1788) also is unhappy with his brothers’ actions, and the Bourbon family quarrel has the end result of driving Naples farther into the arms of an ever-consoling Emperor Joseph II of Austria. Nevertheless, Sardinia remains a staunch French ally, and Louis XVI instructs Talleyrand immediately to do all he can to support the growing ambitions of the house of Savoy in Italy.
King Louis also begins repairing his relations with Great Britain, now damaged in the war, and manages to ensure at least beneficial commercial relations between the two nations in the compact of Calais (partly thanks to Talleyrand), though a lasting hostility remains on the part of both parties, especially with the Anglophobic comte de Vergennes as war minister.
The king has more success with Russia, as Catherine II has always been at least sympathetic to the French, and had only entered into war against them as a matter of politic. After much negotiation, a separate treaty of peace is concluded with them at St Petersburg in early 1792.
Earlier in the year, soon after the conclusion of the congress of Munich, the king’s eldest daughter, eighteen-year-old Marie-Thérèse is married by proxy at Versailles to her cousin, Victor-Emmanuel, duke of Aosta and heir presumptive to the throne of Sardinia. She is soon after sent to Turin and the two are married in person at the Palais-Royal there, and brings with her a large dowry in cash and jewels. As the groom’s brother (the prince of Piedmont) is the husband of Marie-Thérèse’s aunt, Madame Clotilde, a special dispensation has been granted by the pope, as is custom.
Meanwhile, at Versailles in December of 1791, another wedding is celebrated when the twenty-year-old Louis-François, dauphin of France, is married to his twelve-year-old cousin, the infanta María Amalia of Spain (henceforth known as “Marie-Amélie” in her new kingdom). The couple will have four children, of which three will survive infancy: Marie-Louise (b. 1793), Louis-Charles, duc de Bourgogne (b. 1795), and Louise-Thérèse (b. 1799).
The celebrations accompanying the weddings are purposefully as expensive and grand as possible, as King Louis is determined to assure his court that rumors of a growing deficit are false. However, the king knows well enough that the Three Years War has been expensive, and while French finances are not in extreme danger, it would be best to use a degree of foresight and learn from the mistakes of his predecessors.
Another royal wedding will follow the next year: that of the king’s second son, seventeen-year-old Philippe-Charles, duc de Normandie, to his cousin, fifteen-year-old Adélaïde-Eugénie d’Orléans (known as “Mademoiselle d’Orléans”). The marriage is a triumph for the liberal party at court, as the royal bride’s father is the duc d’Orléans himself, and thus it is taken as a sign of royal favor in the direction of the duke’s family. The groom is soon after created “duc de Berry” and is also promised the estates of his childless uncle, the comte de Provence, after that prince’s death. The new duc de Berry and his wife will have five children, of which only two daughters will survive infancy: Caroline-Louise (b. 1794 and known as “Mademoiselle” from her birth) and Anne-Sophie (b. 1796 and styled “Mademoiselle de Berry).
Further, the king’s youngest daughter, Madame Louise-Élisabeth, is betrothed to her brother-in-law, Fernando, the prince of the Asturias and heir to the throne of Spain (b. 1784), with the marriage scheduled for early 1799.
The king thus dismisses his collector-general of finance, François Joly de Fleury, appointing in his stead Antoine-Jean Amelot de Chaillou. Chaillou is charged with one of the most ambitious reforms of Louis XVI’s reign since the reorganization of the judicial system: reformation of the tax system. Following the instructions of the king, Chaillou scraps the old system of indirect taxation and instead introduces a system of direct taxation, complete with salaried civil servants as collectors. The radical reforms, which are implemented from 1791-1793 have the effect of alienating the farmers general (who have thus far held a licensed monopoly on tax collection), and soon they are angry enough to petition the king “against this grave and dangerous error.” King Louis is unmoved by their pleas, however, and is determined to ensure better management of French finances, along with a more direct system of tax collection in which the state does not end up making less of a profit than its own tax farmers.
Though the tax farmers are angry and vocal in their opposition, the king nevertheless goes through with implementing the reforms of his finance minister, as he knows full well that most hostility will be directed towards Chaillou, who is expendable enough to be dismissed easily if needed. And, as Louis XVI is not encumbered by a rebellious Parlement of Paris as his predecessors were, the reforms are able to go about smoothly and quietly, thus bringing taxation directly under state control (and much to its future profit in years to come).
The year of 1793 comes to a close with one final reform on the king’s part. Though the new legal code has already been long in use since its implementation in 1778, King Louis XVI decides to act in accordance with the trend of enlightened sovereignty and amend the code once more: as of 1793, the death penalty is abolished in France, as it has already been in Austria and Tuscany, thus ushering in much support from both the liberal party at Versailles, as well as enlightenment philosophers throughout Europe.
Great TL so far with some really interesting developments. How much changed in the Carribean because of the War? Does Britain have the Cape now?
Between 1765~1775 Hundreds of Americans moved to North Florida, and built Roads, Drainage Canals, and other infrastructure.
When the Spanish took over in 1784, they chased the Americans out, and the Infrastructure fell to pieces.
ITTL the Building will continue with major effects on the Creek and Seminole Wars of the 1810~1840 period.
There is no way that they can go back to the status quo pre war, American had been Governing themselves, and growing distinct from England for too long.
Washington and the Others will be considered Martyrs, and I would expect a second rebellion within 30 years.
Washington And Jefferson Maed Menee A Joek.
Van Buren Had Tue Pae, Taylor's Frieyeeng Pan Broek.
Lincoln Just Gaat Hoem Graetlee Usttaanishd:
The British might very well grant some concessions to the populace to keep them happy, of course, and I'm sure that would win over plenty of people. But without foreign help, I think the revolution was doomed.
Oh, and also, FYI, the term "British Crown" is generally used in reference to Her Majesty's Government; even legislation is technically passed by the "Queen-in-Parliament" no matter what the political realities are.