Culture and Society in Early Modern France

Early Modern France

The House of Bourbon which was a branch of the Capetian cadet, a monarchy, ruled the kingdom of France in the early modern period, beginning from the Renaissance (circa 1500–1550) to the Revolution (1789–1804). This coincides with the Ancien Régime or the "old rule". The country of France grew during this period until it resembled as the extent of the present day France. This territory also included the first French colonial empire overseas.

The early modern France was dominated by a figure which was widely known as the "Sun King" or Louis XIV ( reigned from 1643 to 1715 which was one of the longest reigns in history). He eliminated the remains of medieval feudalism whilst establishing a centralized state under the absolute monarch, a system that carried on until the French Revolution and beyond.

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Culture of the Early Modern France

During the periods of 15th to 17th century there was an artistic and cultural movement in France known as the French Renaissance. The word Renaissance means" rebirth”. The French Renaissance starts roughly from the French invasion of Italy in 1494 whilst the reign of Charles VIII until the death of Henry IV in 1610. Some of the artistic, technological or literary developments linked with the Renaissance arrived in France earlier like by way of the Burgundy court or the Papal court in Avignon This period saw notable developments in the culture of France, there was, a widespread feeling of humanism among people , the zeal to explore the "New World" , striking new developments in new techniques and artistic forms in the forte of printing, architecture, sculpting, painting , music, sciences, literature and the elaboration of new codes of sociability, etiquette and discourse.


After the French invasion of Italy In the latter part of the 15th century and the closeness of the Burgundy court which had close Flemish connections introduced the French with the goods, paintings, and the creativity of the Northern and Italian Renaissance. The initial artistic advancements in France were often introduced by the Italian and Flemish artists like the famous Jean Clouet and his son François Clouet and the Italians like Rosso Fiorentino, Francesco Primaticcio and Niccolò dell'Abbate. we see instances where the French were fascinated by art and adapted multicultural artistic values. one instance is such that In 1516, Francis I of France invited Leonardo da Vinci to the Château d'Amboise and offered him the Château du Clos Lucé, then called Château de Cloux, to stay and work, so Leonardo the famous painter and inventor, arrived with three of his paintings, namely the Mona Lisa, Sainte Anne, and Saint Jean Baptiste which is now kept by the Louvre museum of Paris.

culture and society in early modern france

The art of this period was very often inspired by the pictures and sculptures developed in the late Italian era and were commonly referred to as Mannerism. these mannerisms were characterized by figures which were elongated and graceful and a relied on visual rhetoric.

During this time France saw a number of incredible artists like painter Jean Fouquet of Tours (who achieved amazingly realistic portraits and remarkable illuminated manuscripts) and the sculptors Jean Goujon and Germain Pilon.


The construction and building Châteaux of the Loire Valley was one of the most iconic accomplishments of the French renaissance. since it was no longer assumed to be a fortress this place was remarkable piece of architecture which was complimented by the rich lands and gardens along with the beautiful rivers.

The trend of these artistic and architectural master pieces carried on all through France. some instances are when the old Louvre castle in Paris was also reconstructed under the direction of Pierre Lescot. it became the essence of a new Renaissance château. Catherine de' Medici too got a palace built for herself to the west of Louvre naming it the Tuileries palace with its main features being extensive gardens and a grotte.


The prime characteristic of the French Renaissance was their symmetrical and geometric planting beds or parterres; plants in pots; paths of gravel and sand; terraces; stairways and ramps; moving water in the form of canals, cascades and monumental fountains, and extensive use of artificial grottes, labyrinths and statues of mythological figures. They were used to depict Renaissance ideals of measure and proportion.


Burgundy was the place which was known for the origination of some of the most well known musicians in Europe in the early and middle 15th century. Many of the most famous musicians in Europe either came from Burgundy, or went to study with composers there. Till the end of the 15th century, there was a beginning of the distinction between the songs of the French royals and aristocrats along with church music.


Literature in the modern France constituted mainly of writings from the French invasion of Italy in 1494 to 1600 during the reign of Charles VIII of France till the death . The period between the rule of Francis I (from 1515 to 1547) and his son Henry II (from 1547 to 1559) are believed to be the pinnacle of the French Renaissance. During this period we see a rapid increase in the printing of pamphlets, tracts, satires and memoirs; short-story collections along with collections of oral tales and anecdotes ;Etc.

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Society of Early Modern France

France had a population of 22 million people in the 1700s, highest in all European countries and 96% of their population consisted of peasants. 17th century saw some rich peasants having ties with the market economy providing capital investment necessary for agricultural growth. Another section of the society was the "stable" core. also Very few women held any power except some queens as well as the heads of Catholic convents held power.

The Educational aspirations of youngsters was increasing day by day and were becoming institutionalized rapidly in order to provide functionaries to the church and state with the to serve as their future administrators. Girls were schooled too, but not to assume political responsibility.

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