January 16, 2012
On Saturday afternoon, we attended a history lecture given by Vincent Delaveau about the construction of the Royal Estate during the 17thcentury. The Royal Domain started out as a very small region, centralized around Paris, but quickly spread to the rest of France. France started out as a smaller country, almost half its current size. In the 12thcentury, France looked as it does in the left side of the figure below. The Royal Domain, or where the king actively ruled, was an area with good agriculture and much commercialization. The first king of France was elected, whereas the selection of following kings became a question of familial line since the role was simply passed on to the king’s son or another male in the family.
The point that mostly aggressive came across in this conference was that the king of France was viewed as a divine figure. He was not questioned, as he was assumed to always be correct. In addition, if anything went wrong or not as planned, it was quickly blame on someone else. For a long time, the title of king was referred to as the ‘King of Franks’ instead of the ‘King of France’, which shows the authority the king had over the French people. In fact, the king was considered a successor of Christ and his mission was to send his subjects to paradise. Many kings took this role to heart including Louis XIV who would touch people in an effort to cure them of their illness. In 1539, King François I issued an ordinance saying that all acts of law should be in French (they were previously in Latin) so that everyone could understand, thus making it easier for him to rule.
This lecture made me think of how different things are in France today. Sarkozy, the current leader of France, is certainly not viewed as a divine figure, is definitely not assumed to be always correct, and when things go wrong he is often the first to be blamed. S&P recently downgraded France’s credit score from AAA to AA, and Sarkozy non-supporters surely believe he is the cause. Today in France, the power is spread among numerous people, as many would be afraid to have the power concentrated in the hands of one person, as it was during the days of monarchy.
Other than our conferences, lectures and on-site visits, we were given a lot of free time to explore Paris on our own. We took advantage of the Friday evening we had off because at that time, the Louvre is free for people less than 26 years of age. The Louvre is enormous, and many people say that it takes more than a week to be able to see everything. The entrance to the museum leads into a large courtyard with a beautiful fountain and the pyramids designed by an MIT alumnus (the same pyramids that were in the movie, Angels and Demons). Inside, we saw many different types of art, sculptures and even Napoleon’s apartments. Although we did not get the chance to see everything, we did get the chance to see the Mona Lisa, one of the most popular paintings at the Louvre.