The reign of Louis XV (1723-1774)

On the death of the regent, Louis XV acceded to the throne. But the real power was held first by the Duke of Bourbon, then by Cardinal de Fleury, who managed to redress the economy. In 1730, the clergy refused Christian burial to the famous actress Adrienne Lecouvreur, whose body was thrown on the city dump. Louis XV governed by himself between 1743 and 1758. The same year as the disastrous Battle of Rossbach (1757), the publication of the Encyclopedia was forbidden. The king entrusted the ruling of the kingdom to the Duke of Choiseul, who indirectly favoured parliament and the philosophers' opposition. In 1770, with the arrival of the Maupeou, Aiguillon and Terray triumvirate, tougher measures were taken. A growing interest in all forms of science developed and would be pursued under the following reign. France's cultural influence had never been so profound (Voltaire was summoned to the court of Frederick II of Prussia), but, in foreign affairs, despite a number of military successes, the nation appeared politically weakened, as the loss of Canada in 1763 was to prove.

The Marquise de Pompadour became the king's mistress in 1745, the year in which Voltaire was appointed historiographer to the king. She was to play an important role in the domain of arts and letters. She secured a post for her brother, the Marquis de Marigny, as Administrator of Royal Residences. Carefully prepared for his new duties, the latter judiciously gave commissions to artists of the rocaille style, like Boucher and Fragonard, as well as to more classical artists, like Greuze, Vernet, CarleVan Loo and Vien.