What if there wasn’t a French revolution

Could this be?

The revolution could happen later. It would be difficult to completely avoid France. The fact is that problems in the country have accumulated since the middle of the 17th century – from the time of Louis XIV. The Sun King received from two cardinals (Richelieu and Mazarin) a strong, developing state with serious international positions and stable sources of income. Louis did not increase the pace. The Sun King often repeated: “The state is me.” This principle also worked during his reign. Colossal state funds were spent on the personal needs of the king.

Raising his personal greatness to absolute, Louis forgot about the state. This policy was continued by Louis XV, who mixed him on the throne . But if the great-grandfather trusted the affairs of the state to sufficiently skilled advisers, such as Colbert and Lavoie, then with great-grandson, chaos reigned in the management system, and key decisions were often made by friends or relatives of one of the royal favorites.

Over the one and a half centuries of the reign of two Louis, French society has divided a real chasm. The rich and the poor were distinguished not so much by income as by way of life. And if some had palaces, titles, lands and personal armies, then others had nothing. The situation was aggravated by several hungry years. France experienced famine at the very beginning of the 18th century, then twice in the 1720s, then several more times in the 1740s and 1750s.

The famine claimed hundreds of lives, but did not affect the situation of the masters of Versailles and Paris. Kings and their entourage calmly engaged in international politics, waged wars, entered into alliances, but did not even try to restore order in internal affairs. The court was well aware of the social and economic difficulties. But his attitude towards them was perfectly formulated by the Marquis de Pompadour : “After us, at least the flood.”

Louis XVI inherited a pile of unresolved problems. The only trouble is that he no longer had the opportunity not to pay attention to her. The treasury was empty, domestic trade did not develop, and not only the mob, but also the elite began to express dissatisfaction. The scattered nobility gradually ceased to be an ally of the crown. In other words, shocks could not be avoided, but their consequences could be less terrible. If Louis XVI in the first years of his reign did not pretend that there were no problems, and did not try to slip through difficulties, as did his grandfather and a very distant ancestor (Louis XIV was the 16th great-great-great-grandfather), then perhaps this king would have saved both power and head.

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The first scenario. A constitutional monarchy

The “no money, but you hold on” method worked very well for 150 years, but became completely useless under Louis XVI. Perhaps the point is in the personality of the king himself. He was a weak-willed man, dependent and even timid. As you know, Louis for a long time hesitated to do a small operation to remove an inferior skin growth on the genitals. French doctors have done such operations since the end of the 16th century, and this procedure did not pose any danger.

Worse was another: the events that began to take place in 1789 were perceived by the king as a kind of annoying misunderstanding. He did not see protests, demonstrations, political meetings and the construction of barricades of global processes. Louis thought, like Bulgakov’s Thalberg, who considered the Hetmanism a “stupid operetta”.

Something like this Louis thought of revolution . The yard made concessions in the hope of gaining time, but in the meantime he had hatched plans for revenge. As you know, attempts to win back everything in the end cost the king his head. That’s just with the death of Louis on the scaffold, the Bourbon dynasty did not stop. The brothers of the king, especially, of course, the younger – the future Charles X – would not agree with the Convention. But the plan to enthrone his son existed and had the right to life.

That unfortunate boy, whose entire short life consists of continuous tragedies and mysteries, went down in history as Louis XVII , although he did not rule France for a single minute. If the Convention could have seated him on a throne and formed a strong government with him, then the country could become a constitutional monarchy for a long time. The only thing that the cabinet of ministers should have been coalition. And even people suitable for this were. If you fantasize, then you can think of such a government: the Prime Minister – Georges Danton, the Minister of Foreign Affairs – Charles-Maurice Talleyrand , the Minister of the Interior – Foucher, the Minister of War – Napoleon Bonaparte, some general Lafayette could be entrusted to the Ministry of the nobility (the return and rehabilitation of those who were forced to leave France during the years of the revolution). Finally, we must also share power with the Jacobins. Robespierre could become Colonial Minister. Something we forgot. Oh yes, the Ministry of Finance. But here we have a candidate – Turgot, who struggled to save the French treasury from complete collapse.

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If such a government were strong enough, then all further shocks would have been avoided. Neither the Vendee uprising, nor the dictatorship of the Jacobins, nor the Directory, nor the Napoleonic coup. Napoleon, with all his talent, would not have gone to overthrow a strong government, for he would not have received the necessary support in military circles for this. But further more. A new France would gradually be recognized by all European states. Here you have the rightful Bourbon on the throne, so you won’t dig in, and there is no threat of collapse of the old world either.

Military dictatorship

But what if this government were weak? What if the coalition was immediately mired in mutual squabbles? The first option is a military dictatorship. Here, in general, everything is clear. In fact, the seizure of power by Napoleon was a military dictatorship, but then it was not called that. It’s just that the light does not converge in a wedge on Napoleon. Any of the strong generals could seize power, fortunately, in France there were no problems with them.

So anyone could demolish the cabinet and put the country on a war footing. At least the same Bernadotte, who was a rabid revolutionary by his youth and wore the tattoo “death of the monarchy” until his death. Let me remind you that he met old age with a Swedish crown on his head. To laugh: even the father of Alexander Dumas could be such a dictator-general.

Foreign intervention

Europe very closely followed what was happening in France. And this attention was quickly replaced by anxiety, and that by horror. Of course, weakening a competitor is good. But here is the trend itself … Some gray people dared to raise their hands on the monarchy, limited the power of the king, and then executed him. Power passed unclear to anyone. The monarchs of the rest of Europe were very concerned that something like this could happen to them. Moreover, the case is not an isolated one. At first, a group of British colonies declares independence, but okay – the United States is on the edge of the world. But 13 years pass, and similar events unfold in the heart of Europe. England, Russia, Prussia and Austria were very scared. The general rhetoric around the revolution is somewhat reminiscent of what Russian politicians said at the height of events in Ukraine at the end of 2013.

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Only instead of “Let’s not allow the Maidan” was something like “Let’s not allow the Bastille ”. England was the first to plan the military invasion of France and the power restoration of the absolute power of the Bourbons. The anti-French coalition, as we know, finally won. But she was already defeating Napoleon. And at first, the Allies simply did not dare to launch a full-scale invasion. If it had happened, France would probably have been divided into spheres of influence, and some puppet king would have sat in Paris to rule.

Europe and the world

Such things are quite difficult to evaluate, but the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars greatly changed the minds of their contemporaries. And now this process could not be stopped by any policy. In fact, the monarchs were afraid of just that. A little time passed, and the revolution went in shoals. First in South America, then in Europe. The world was crumbling, people no longer saw the need for the power of the monarchy. But what is the Vienna Congress, if not a global summit that tried to return what could not be returned? Restore the old order, the sentence of which has already been signed. The catastrophe of the monarchy was delayed, but not prevented. Had there not been a revolution in France, and the delay would have been even longer. The only question is what victims turned the fracture, if it happened 20-30-50 years later.

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