They believed they were rooted because they were the past. They were mistaken; they were a portion of the past, but the whole past was France.
Les Miserables, Saint Denis, Book First, Chapter I
In this passage Hugo refers
to the mindset of the French monarchy when they were restored
to power after Napoleon
Bonaparte was ousted
from power in 1815. Before the Revolution in 1789, the monarchy
had believed that they were most powerful and important people
in France. This was especially true of Louis XVI,
who beheaded by the revolutionary government in 1793. During
his early reign he famously said "l'état, c'est moi"
which means "I am the State." He could be held completely
accountable for the state of all affairs concerning France (Speilvogel,
The aristocracy, and the
monarchy in particular, were the ultimate trendsetters in French
society. This was the intention of Louis the XIV when he expanded
and revamped Versailles during his reign. He made the palace
the center of court life, and lured French nobles obsessed with
the mystique of princely power to the palace for extended stays.
The nobles became so distracted by the frivolities of court that
they ignored their estates, and Louis XIV's power was consolidated.
Louis became known as "the sun king" and left a legacy
of absolutism for his descendants (Spielvogel, 530).
When Louis XVIII, Louis
XVI's brother, assumed the throne in 1814 he expected to be treated
with the respect that his predecessors had received. Louis XVIII
was moderate and retained many of the Napoleon's policies. He
was unable to please royalists, who hoped that his return would
be the return to the strict monarchical system or pre-Revolutionary
times. Louis XVIII died in 1824 and was replaced by his cousin,
Charles X. Charles gave the royalists what they wanted: he tried
to re-establish the old regime. This outraged the people of France,
and in 1830 there was another revolution in France, and Charles
X was removed from power (Speilvogel , 744).