It was in the period from the mid-fifteenth to the mid-sixteenth century that the idea of the state built upon monarchical legitimacy, linked to the capacity of the crown effectively to draw upon the wealth of its subjects as well as to regulate their affairs, was for the first time fully established. Norbert Elias denied, in his classic analysis of the ‘civilising process’, that the Absolute State was an instrument of class power. Instead, he saw it as a balancing act; no king could face down a whole society but, vis-à-vis individuals or groups, his power would outclass them. If we take Elias’s definition of the core of the modern state as the monopoly of violence and of the power to tax, then very significant moves towards this were made in the generations between Louis XI and Henri II. As has been emphasised, the ‘rise of the modern state’ is a process which should not be artificially allocated to any short period. There are elements of it present from the late thirteenth century and the process continued into the nineteenth. As Colette Beaune showed, the building-blocks for the idea of a French identity were being assembled in the early Middle Ages. However, the emergence of France from the great crisis of the Hundred Years War gave a new impetus to the formation of a French kingdom that would not again fall apart. By 1560, the stage had not yet been reached when governmental collapse was out of the question but the nucleus of a stable system had been established.
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