“It is necessary that the ambassador of His Majesty is minister of the Catholic King; who, without having the title, performs the functions; who helps the King of Spain to know the state of his affairs and to govern on his own”. The instructions given by Louis XIV to the Count of Marcin, his representative in Madrid, conclude with a forceful: “Nothing must be hidden in Spain from France’s Ambassador”.
The involvement of Louis XIV in the Spanish succession conflict was part of a hegemonist project whose starting point was the union of the two Bourbon crowns, the French and the Spanish, in the person of his grandson Philip of Anjou, future Philip V of Spain and even likely future king of France.
In that context, the incredibly famous Sun King chose to have all the necessary mechanisms to directly control both the private and political life of Philip V. Within those mechanisms, the most reliable agents of Versailles were his ambassadors, in particular Henri d’Harcourt, the Count of Marcin, the Cardinal César d’Estrées and Michel-Jean Amelot, authentic prime ministers of the first Spanish Bourbon, as historian José Manuel de Bernardo Ares studied in great detail.
The case of Marcin is especially significant. The new ambassador appeared in Zarzuela in August 1701, sent by Louis XIV on an express mission to reform the system of government in depth on all fronts: “war, trade, administration of finances and justice”. For that, one of the most important measures was to promote the Office, a sort of cabinet that exercised as Versailles real delegation, being among its members, and also standing out, Marcin.
Another great example was Michel-Jean Amelot, ambassador between 1705 and 1709, who, exceeding ad infinitum the work corresponding to him, collaborated, quite directly, always at the request of Louis XIV, to set in motion the institutional, administrative and economic reforms that allowed the configuration of a centralized and unitarian monarchy in the French style, counterpoint of the monarchy created and strongly decentralized that reigned with the Austrians.
The fall from grace came with the war disasters of 1709 in the War of Succession, when Louis XIV left his grandson to his fate and he chose to push Amelot away from the power and give him the functions of an ambassador.