This chapter explains the difficulties facing the French absolute monarchy in the years preceding the French Revolution. It discusses the major ideas of the Enlightenment and the changes in mentalities that took place in the last decades of the Old Regime. Prerevolutionary France was indeed an absolute monarchy—that is, one in which all sovereign powers, including the right to make laws and to enforce them, the right to appoint judges and officials, and the right to make war and to sign treaties, were exercised exclusively by the king. Throughout the second half of the eighteenth century, royal ministers recognized that the French government needed more revenue if it was going to maintain its international standing and meet its domestic obligations. While the American Revolution inspired thoughts about political change, exposes of the private lives of royal ministers, royal mistresses, and even members of the royal family discredited the government in France.