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Louis XIV
Louis XIV (1638–1715), by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1701)
King of France and of Navarre
Reign 14 May 1643 – 1 September 1715
Coronation 7 June 1654
Predecessor Louis XIII
Successor Louis XV
Spouse Maria Theresa of Spain
Françoise d'Aubigné
Louis, le Grand Dauphin
Princess Anne Élisabeth
Princess Marie Anne
Princess Marie Thérèse
Philippe Charles, Duke of Anjou
Louis François, Duke of Anjou
Full name
Louis-Dieudonné de France
House House of Bourbon
Father Louis XIII of France
Mother Anne of Austria
Born 5 September 1638(1638-09-05)
Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France
Died 1 September 1715 (aged 76)
Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France
Burial Saint Denis Basilica, Saint-Denis, France

Louis XIV (5 September 1638 – 1 September 1715), known as the Sun King (French: le Roi Soleil), was King of France and of Navarre.[1] His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days, and is the longest documented reign of any European monarch.[2]

Louis began personally governing France in 1661 after the death of his prime minister, the Italian Cardinal Mazarin.[3] An adherent of the theory of the divine right of kings, which advocates the divine origin and lack of temporal restraint of monarchical rule, Louis continued his predecessors' work of creating a centralized state governed from the capital. He sought to eliminate the remnants of feudalism persisting in parts of France and, by compelling the noble elite to inhabit his lavish Palace of Versailles, succeeded in pacifying the aristocracy, many members of which had participated in the Fronde rebellion during Louis' minority.

For much of Louis's reign, France stood as the leading European power, engaging in three major wars—the Franco-Dutch War, the War of the League of Augsburg, and the War of the Spanish Succession—and two minor conflicts—the War of Devolution and the War of the Reunions. He encouraged and benefited from the work of prominent political, military and cultural figures such as Mazarin, Colbert, Turenne and Vauban, as well as Molière, Racine, Boileau, La Fontaine, Lully, Le Brun, Rigaud, Le Vau, Mansart, Perrault and Le Nôtre.

Upon his death just days before his seventy-seventh birthday, Louis was succeeded by his five-year-old great-grandson who became Louis XV. All his intermediate heirs—his son Louis, le Grand Dauphin; the Dauphin's eldest son Louis, duc de Bourgogne; and Bourgogne's eldest son Louis, duc de Bretagne—predeceased Louis.


Birth and ancestry

Louis XIV was born on 5 September 1638 in the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye to Louis XIII and Anne of Austria. His birth came after twenty-three years of his estranged parents' childlessness, leading contemporaries to regard him as a divine gift, and his birth, a miracle. Thus, he was named "Louis-Dieudonné" (Louis-God-given)[4]; also he bore the traditional title of French heirs apparentDauphin.[5]

Louis was a product of noteworthy European ruling houses. His paternal grandparents were Henri IV and Marie de' Medici; and both his maternal grandparents were HabsburgsPhilip III of Spain and Margaret of Austria. Through them, Louis was descended from various historical figures, such as Holy Roman EmperorsCharles V and Frederick Barbarossa. Other ancestors included the first monarchs of a united Spain—Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon—and the founder of Russia's first dynastyRurik the Viking. Louis was also a descendant of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy and the poet, Charles d'Orléans, as well as the last of the great CondottieriGiovanni de' Medici. Most importantly for his and his descendant's rights to the throne, Louis was descended in the direct legitimate male line from Saint Louis, and through him, from Hugh Capet, the first King of France. Tracing Louis's ancestry to the tenth generation, genealogist C. Carretier calculated his ancestry to be approximately 28% French, 26% Spanish, 11% Austro-German and 10% Portuguese, the rest being Italian, Slavic, English, Savoyard and Lorrainer.[6]

Although Anne produced the heir, Louis, and his brother, Philippe, Louis XIII doubted her political abilities. He thus decreed that a regency council should rule on Louis' behalf in the event of a minority. He nonetheless did name her the head of the council.

Minority and the Fronde

On 14 May 1643, upon Louis XIII's death and his young son's accession to the throne, Anne had his will annulled by the Parlement de Paris (a judicial body comprising mostly nobles and high clergymen), abolished the regency council and became sole regent. She then entrusted power to Cardinal Mazarin.

Europe after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648

Subsequently, in 1648, Mazarin successfully negotiated the Peace of Westphalia. Although war continued between France and Spain until the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, the Peace of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years' War in Germany. Its terms ensured Dutch independence from Spain, awarded some autonomy to the various German princes, and granted Sweden seats on the Reichstag and territories to control the mouths of the Oder, Elbe and Weser. However, it profited France the most. Austria ceded to France all Habsburg lands and claims in Alsace and acknowledged French de facto sovereignty over the Three Bishoprics. Moreover, eager to emancipate themselves from Habsburg domination, petty German states sought French protection. This anticipated the 1658 formation of the League of the Rhine, leading to the further diminution of Imperial power.

As the Thirty Years' War petered out, a civil war—the Fronde—erupted. It effectively checked France's ability to exploit the Peace of Westphalia. Mazarin had largely pursued the policies of his predecessor, Cardinal Richelieu, augmenting the Crown's power at the expense of the nobility and the Parlements. The Frondeurs, political heirs of the turbulent feudal aristocracy, originally sought to protect their traditional feudal privileges from an increasingly centralized and centralizing royal government. Furthermore, they believed their traditional influence and authority was being usurped by the recently ennobled (the Noblesse de Robe) who administered the Kingdom and on whom the Monarchy increasingly began to rely. This belief intensified their resentment.

In 1648, Mazarin attempted to tax members of the Parlement de Paris. The members not only refused to comply, but also ordered all his earlier financial edicts burned. Buoyed by the victory of Louis, duc d’Enghien (later le Grand Condé) at Lens, Mazarin arrested certain members in a show of force. Ironically, Paris erupted in rioting. A mob of angry Parisians broke into the royal palace and demanded to see their king. Led into the royal bedchamber, they gazed upon Louis, who was feigning sleep, were appeased and quietly departed. The threat to the royal family and Monarchy prompted Anne to flee Paris with the King and his courtiers. Shortly thereafter, the conclusion of the Peace of Westphalia allowed Condé's army to return to aid Louis and his court.

Portrait of Louis, the Victor of the Fronde, portrayed as Jupiter. This painting, from 1655, is currently on display at the Palace of Versailles.

As this first Fronde (Fronde parlementaire, 1648–1649) ended, a second (Fronde des princes, 1650–1653) began. Unlike that which preceded it, tales of sordid intrigue and half-hearted warfare characterised this second phase of upper-class insurrection. This rebellion represented to the aristocracy a protest against and a reversal of their political demotion from vassals to courtiers. It was headed by the highest-ranking French nobles, from Louis's uncle, Gaston, duc d'Orléans, and first cousin, la Grande Mademoiselle; to more distantly-related Princes of the Blood, like Condé, his brother, Conti, and their sister, Anne-Geneviève de Bourbon, duchesse de Longueville; to dukes of legitimised royal descent, like Henri, duc de Longueville, and François, duc de Beaufort; and to princes étrangers, such as Frédéric Maurice, duc de Bouillon, and his brother, the famous Marshal of France, Turenne, as well as Marie de Rohan, duchesse de Chevreuse; and scions of France's oldest families, like François, duc de La Rochefoucauld.

Louis's coming-of-age and subsequent coronation deprived the Frondeurs, claiming to act on his behalf and in his real interest against his mother and Mazarin, of their pretext for revolt. Thus, the Fronde gradually lost steam and ended in 1653, when Mazarin returned triumphant after having fled into exile on several occasions.

Personal reign and reforms

Louis XIV, King of France, in 1661.

On Mazarin's death in 1661, Louis assumed personal control of the reins of government. He was able to utilize the widespread public yearning for peace, law and order, resulting from prolonged foreign war and domestic civil strife, to further consolidate central political authority and reforms at the feudal aristocracy's expense. Praising his ability to wisely choose and encourage men of talent, Chateaubriand noted that "it is the voice of genius of all kinds which sounds from the tomb of Louis".[7]

Louis commenced his personal reign with administrative and fiscal reforms. In 1661, the treasury verged on bankruptcy. To rectify the situation, Louis chose Jean-Baptiste Colbert as Contrôleur général des Finances in 1665. However, Louis first had to eliminate Nicolas Fouquet, the Surintendant des Finances. Fouquet was charged with embezzlement. The Parlement found him guilty and sentenced him to exile. However, Louis commuted the sentence to life-imprisonment and also abolished Fouquet's post. Although Fouquet's financial indiscretions were not really very different from Mazarin before or Colbert after him, his ambition was worrying to Louis. He built an opulent château at Vaux-le-Vicomte where he lavishly entertained a comparatively poorer Louis. He appeared eager to succeed Mazarin and Richelieu in assuming power, and indiscreetly purchased and fortified Belle Île. These acts sealed his doom.

Divested of Fouquet, Colbert reduced the national debt through more efficient taxation. The principal taxes included the aides and douanes (both customs duties), the gabelle (a tax on salt), and the taille (a tax on land). Louis and Colbert also had wide-ranging plans to bolster French commerce and trade. Colbert's mercantilist administration established new industries and encouraged manufacturers and inventors, such as the Lyon silk manufacturers and the Manufacture des Gobelins, a producer of tapestries. He also invited to France manufacturers and artisans from all over Europe, like Murano glassmakers, Swedish ironworkers, and Dutch shipbuilders. In this way, he aimed to decrease foreign imports while increasing French exports, hence reducing the net outflow of precious metals from France.

Louis and his family portrayed as Roman gods in a 1670 painting by Jean Nocret. L to R: Louis's aunt, Henriette-Marie; his brother, Philippe, duc d'Orléans; the Duke's daughter, Marie Louise d'Orléans, and wife, Henriette-Anne Stuart; the Queen-mother, Anne of Austria; three daughters of Gaston d'Orléans; Louis XIV; the Dauphin Louis; Queen Marie-Thérèse; la Grande Mademoiselle.

Louis also instituted reforms in military administration through Le Tellier and, his son, Louvois. They helped to curb the independent spirit of the nobility, imposing order on them at court and in the army. Gone were the days when generals protracted war at the frontiers, while bickering over precedence and ignoring orders from the capital and the larger politico-diplomatic picture. No longer too were senior positions and rank the sole prerogative of the old military aristocracy (the Noblesse d'épée). Louvois, in particular, pledged himself to modernizing the army, re-organizing it into a professional, disciplined and well-trained force. He was devoted to providing for the soldiers' material well-being and morale, and even tried to direct campaigns.

The law also did not escape Louis's attention, as is reflected in the numerous Grandes Ordonnances he enacted. Pre-revolutionary France was a patchwork of legal systems, with as many coutumes as there were provinces, and two co-existing legal traditions—customary law in the northern pays de droit coutumier and Roman civil law in the southern pays de droit écrit.[8] The Grande Ordonnance de Procédure Civile of 1667, also known as Code Louis, was a comprehensive legal code attempting a uniform regulation of civil procedure throughout legally irregular France. It prescribed inter alia baptismal, marriage and death records in the State's registers, not the Church's, and also strictly regulated the right to remonstrance of the Parlements.[9] The Code Louis played an important part in French legal history as the basis for the Code Napoléon, itself the origin of many modern legal codes.

One of Louis's more infamous decrees was the Grande Ordonnance sur les Colonies of 1685, also known as Code Noir. Although it sanctioned slavery, it did humanise the practice by prohibiting the separation of families. Additionally, in the colonies, only Roman Catholics could own slaves, and these had to be baptised.

Patronage of the arts

Painting from 1667 depicting Louis as patron of the fine arts.

The Sun King generously financed the royal court, and supported those who worked under him. He brought the Académie Française under his patronage, and became its "Protector". He allowed Classical French literature to flourish by protecting such writers as Molière, Racine and La Fontaine, whose works greatly influence to this day. Louis also patronised the visual arts by funding and commissioning various artists, such as Charles Le Brun, Pierre Mignard, Antoine Coysevox and Hyacinthe Rigaud whose works became famous throughout Europe. In music, composers and musicians, like Lully, Chambonnières and François Couperin, thrived and influenced many others.

The Cour royale and the Cour de marbre at Versailles

Louis converted a hunting lodge built by Louis XIII into the spectacular royal Palace of Versailles through four major building campaigns. Excepting the current chapel built in the last decade of the reign, the third building campaign had already given Versailles its present appearance. Louis officially moved the royal court there on 6 May 1682. Versailles was a dazzling, awe-inspiring setting for state affairs and the reception of foreign dignitaries; the King alone assumed the attention, which was not shared with the capital and people. Several reasons have been suggested for the creation of the extravagant and stately palace, as well as the relocation of the monarchy's seat. One such is that of contemporary writer, Saint-Simon, who speculated that Louis viewed Versailles as an isolated power center where treasonous cabals could be more readily discovered and foiled.[10] Alternatively, the Fronde caused Louis to allegedly hate Paris, which was abandoned for a country retreat; however, his many improvements, embellishments and developments of Paris, such as the establishment of a police and street-lighting[11], lend little credence to this theory.

In Paris, Louis constructed the "Hôtel des Invalides"—a military complex and home to this day for officers and soldiers rendered infirm either by injury or age. While pharmacology was still quite rudimentary, les Invalides pioneered new treatments and set new standards for hospice treatment. The conclusion of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1669 induced Louis to demolish the northern walls of Paris in 1670 and replace them with wide tree-lined boulevards.[12]

The Louvre and many other royal residences were also renovated and improved. Originally, Louis hired Bernini to plan additions to the Louvre. However, these plans would have meant the destruction of much of the existing structure, replacing it with an Italian summer villa in the centre of Paris. Bernini's plans were eventually shelved in favour of Perrault's elegant colonnade. With the relocation of the court to Versailles, the Louvre was given over to the Arts and the public.[13]

In June 1686, on the advice of his secret wife, Madame de Maintenon, Louis signed letters patent creating the "Institut de Saint-Louis" at Saint-Cyr for "filles pauvres de la noblesse" (poor noble girls) between the ages of seven and twenty.[14] Construction had begun two years previously. "Saint-Cyr" was at the time the only educational institution for girls in France that was not a convent. Admission of the 250 students was dependent on evidence documenting at least four generations of nobility on their father's side.[14] Mme de Maintenon took great pleasure in this school and was finally to die there.[14]

Royal styles of
King Louis XIV
Par la grâce de Dieu, Roi de France et de Navarre

Blason France moderne.svg

Reference style His Most Christian Majesty
Spoken style Your Most Christian Majesty
Alternative style Monsieur Le Roi

Early wars in the Low Countries

The death of Philip IV of Spain in 1665 precipitated the War of Devolution. In 1660, Louis had married Philip IV's eldest daughter, Maria Theresa, as part of the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. The marriage treaty specified that Maria Theresa was to renounce all claims to Spanish territory for herself and all her descendants. However, Mazarin and Lionne had incorporated a word ("moyennant") making the renunciation conditional on the full payment of a Spanish dowry of 500,000 écus.[15] This was never paid and would later play a part persuading Charles II of Spain to leave his empire to Anjou (later Philip V of Spain)—the grandson of Louis and Maria Theresa.

Notwithstanding the non-payment of the dowry, the War of Devolution had the "devolution" of lands as pretext. In Brabant, children of the first marriage traditionally were not disadvantaged by their parents’ remarriages, and still inherited property. Louis's wife was Philip IV's daughter by his first marriage, while the new King of Spain, Charles II, was his son by a subsequent marriage. Thus, Brabant allegedly "devolved" on Maria Theresa. This excuse led to the War of Devolution.

Internal problems of the Dutch Republic aided Louis's designs on the Spanish Netherlands. The most prominent politician in the United Provinces at the time, Johan de Witt, Grand Pensionary, feared the ambition of the young William III, Prince of Orange. He feared the dispossession of supreme power and the restoration of the House of Orange to the influence it had enjoyed before the death of William II, Prince of Orange. However, shocked by the rapidity of French successes and fearful of the future, the Dutch turned on their French allies and ended the Second Anglo-Dutch War with England. Joined by Sweden, they formed a Triple Alliance in 1668. The threat of escalation and a secret treaty partitioning the Spanish succession with the Emperor, the other major claimant, induced Louis to make peace.

Louis XIV in 1673

The Triple Alliance did not last very long. In 1670, Charles II of England, bribed by France, signed the secret Treaty of Dover, allying with France. The two kingdoms, along with certain Rhineland princes, declared war on the United Provinces in 1672, sparking off the Franco-Dutch War. The rapid invasion and occupation of most of the Netherlands precipitated a coup, toppling De Witt and placing William III in power. While Spain, the Emperor and the rest of the Empire joined William III, the English withdrew from the war by the Treaty of Westminster in 1674.

Despite diplomatic reverses, the French continued to triumph against overwhelming opposing forces. A few weeks in 1674 saw the fall of the Spanish territory of Franche-Comté to French armies under Louis. Greatly outnumbered, Condé defeated William III's coalition army, comprising Austrians, Spaniards and Dutchmen, at the Battle of Seneffe, forestalling a descent on Paris. In the 1674–1675 winter, the outnumbered Turenne, conducting a daring and brilliant campaign, beat the Imperial armies under Raimondo Montecuccoli, expelling them from Alsace across the Rhine, and recovering the province. Through a series of feints, marches and counter-marches at the close of the war, Louis besieged and captured Ghent, a critical action dissuading the English Parliament from declaring war on France. It also allowed Louis to impose peace on the allies in a very superior position. After six years, war exhausted Europe, and negotiations commenced, accomplished in 1678 with the Treaty of Nijmegen. While Louis returned all captured Dutch territory, he gained more territory in the Spanish Netherlands and retained Franche-Comté. Thereafter, he intervened in the Scanian War, forcing Brandenburg-Prussia into the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Denmark-Norway into the Treaty of Fontainebleau and the Peace of Lund, all in 1679.

Silver coin of Louis XIV, dated 1674
Obverse. The Latin inscription is LVDOVICVS XIIII D[EI] GRA[TIA] ("Louis XIV, by the grace of God"). Reverse. The Latin inscription is FRAN[CIÆ] ET NAVARRÆ REX 1674 ("King of France and of Navarre, 1674").

Nijmegen further increased French influence in Europe, but did not satisfy Louis. He dismissed his foreign minister Simon Arnauld, marquis de Pomponne in 1679, viewed as timorous and as having compromised too much with the allies. Louis also maintained his army but, instead of pursuing his claims through purely military action, he utilised judicial processes to extend his territory further. The ambiguous nature of contemporary treaties allowed Louis to claim the dependencies and lands of territory ceded to him in previous treaties, but which effectively were distinct.

Louis sought cities and territories such as Luxembourg and Casale, for their strategic position on the frontier, and access to the Po river valley in the heart of northern Italy respectively. He also desired Strasbourg, an important strategic outpost through which various Imperial armies had previously crossed the Rhine into France. Strasbourg was a part of Alsace, but had not been ceded with the rest of Habsburg-ruled Alsace in the Peace of Westphalia. Louis seized these and other territories in the period leading up to and during the War of the Reunions. Infuriated by Louis's capture of parts of the Spanish Netherlands, Spain declared war. However, abandoned by their Austrians allies and minimally supported by the Dutch, the Spanish were quickly reduced, and, by the Truce of Ratisbon in 1684, ceded most of the conquered territories to France for a duration of 20 years.[16]

Non-European relations and the colonies

French colonies multiplied in the Americas, Asia and Africa. Descending down the Mississippi, discovered in 1673 by Jolliet and Marquette, Cavelier de La Salle claimed the vast Mississippi basin in 1682 and named it "Louisiane", after Louis.

Meanwhile, diplomatic relations were initiated with distant countries. In 1669, Suleiman Aga led an Ottoman embassy, reviving the old Franco-Ottoman alliance.[17] Moreover, in 1682, the Sultan of Morocco, Moulay Ismail, allowed consular and commercial establishments,[18] and Moroccan ambassador Abdallah bin Aisha was sent to the court of Louis XIV in 1699. In 1715, Louis received a Persian embassy.

Siamese embassy of King Narai to Louis XIV in 1686, led by Kosa Pan. Painting by Nicolas Larmessin.

Siam also dispatched an embassy in 1684, reciprocated by the French magnificently the next year under Chevalier de Chaumont. This, in turn, was succeeded by another Siamese embassy under Kosa Pan superbly received at Versailles in 1686. Another embassy was reciprocated in 1687 under Simon de la Loubère and French influence grew at the Siamese court, which granted France Mergui as a naval base. However, Narai's death and the execution of his pro-French minister Phaulkon ended this era of French influence in 1688 with the Siege of Bangkok.[19]

France also actively participated to the Jesuit China missions, as Louis XIV sent in 1685 a mission of five Jesuits "mathematicians" to China in an attempt to break the Portuguese predominance: Jean de Fontaney (1643–1710), Joachim Bouvet(1656–1730), Jean-François Gerbillon (1654–1707), Louis Le Comte (1655–1728) and Claude de Visdelou (1656–1737).[20] While French Jesuits were found at the court of the Manchu Kangxi Emperor in China, Louis received the visit of a Chinese Jesuit, Michael Shen Fu-Tsung, by 1684.[21] Furthermore, several years later, he had at his court a Chinese librarian and translator— Arcadio Huang.[22][23]

Height of power

By the early 1680s, therefore, Louis had greatly augmented French influence in the world. Domestically, he successfully increased the Crown's influence and authority over the Church and aristocracy.

Louis initially supported traditional Gallicanism, which limited papal authority in France, and convened an Assemblée du Clergé in November 1681. Before its dissolution eight months later, the Assembly had accepted the Declaration of the Clergy of France, which increased royal authority at the expense of papal power. Without royal approval, neither bishops could leave France nor appeals be made to the Pope. Moreover, government officials could not be excommunicated for acts committed in pursuance of their duties; and while the King could make ecclesiastical law, all papal regulations without royal assent were invalid in France. The Pope unsurprisingly repudiated the Declaration.[3]

By attaching them to his court, Louis also achieved increased control over the French aristocracy. Pensions and privileges necessary to live in a style appropriate to their rank were only possible by waiting constantly on Louis.[10] Moreover, by entertaining, impressing and domesticating them with extravagant luxury and other distractions, Louis expected them to remain under his scrutiny. This prevented them from passing time on their own estates and in their regional power-bases, from which they historically waged local wars and plotted resistance to royal authority. Louis thus compelled and seduced the old military aristocracy (the noblesse d'épée) into becoming his ceremonial courtiers, further weakening their power. Louis's actions could find their rationale in the Fronde, which had resulted in his judging that royal power depended on commoners and relatively-newer bureaucratic aristocrats (the nobles de robe), who could be simply dismissed, filling the high executive offices, rather than a grandee of ancient lineage whose entrenched influence was more difficult to destroy.

The Doge of Genoa at Versailles on 15 May 1685
Reparation faite à Louis XIV par le Doge de Gênes.15 mai 1685 by Claude Guy Halle, Versailles

In fact, Louis's final victory over the nobility ensured the end of major French civil wars until the Revolution about a hundred years later. Indeed, John A. Lynn calculated that a significant reduction in years with civil war occurred after Louis.[24]

While the 1680s would see France becoming more isolated from its former allies[25], by 1685, Louis's power did stand at its apogee. His policy of Reunions had brought France to its greatest extent during his reign. Furthermore, bombardment of the Barbary pirate strongholds of Algiers and Tripoli resulted in favourable treaties and the liberation of Christian slaves. Also, Genoese support of Spain in previous wars led Louis to command in 1684 the naval bombardment of Genoa. This produced Genoese submission and an official apology by the Doge at Versailles.

English pamphlet criticizing Louis XIV and Mehmed IV for their respective roles in the Siege of Vienna in 1683 ("Without the help of the Most Christian/ Against the Most Antichristian/ Monarch").

Moreover, Louis informed the Turks of his neutrality in an Austro-Turkish war and even massed troops during the Reunions on the western frontier of the Holy Roman Empire.[26] Reassured, the Turkish allowed the 20-year Austro-Turkish Peace of Vasvár to lapse and moved on the offensive.[27] Thus began the Great Turkish War in 1683 which would last till 1699 and which greatly distracted the Emperor from French endeavours. The Ottoman Grand Vizier nearly captured Vienna before being defeated by the King of Poland and his Polish-Imperial army. Notwithstanding the end of immediate danger to Vienna, however, Leopold I was still neither in a position to reverse Louis's gains by the Truce of Ratisbon nor able to fully concentrate on the War of the League of Augsburg later.

Personal life

Maria Theresa died in 1683. On his queen's demise, Louis remarked that she had caused him unease on no other occasion. She gave birth to six children. Only one survived to adulthood, the eldest known as le Grand Dauphin or "Monseigneur".

However, Louis had not remained faithful for long after their marriage in 1660. He took as mistresses Mademoiselle de La Vallière; Madame de Montespan; and Angélique de Fontanges.

Consequently, he produced many illegitimate children, most of whom were married to members of cadet branches of the royal family.

Nonetheless, Louis proved more faithful to his second wife, Madame de Maintenon, whom he secretly married probably on 10 October 1683 at Versailles.[14] Although never announced or discussed publicly, this marriage was an open secret and would last until his death.[28]

Revocation of the Edict of Nantes

Louis XIV in 1685, the year he revoked the Edict of Nantes.

The suggestion that Madame de Maintenon caused the persecution of Protestants and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which had awarded Huguenots political and religious freedom, is now being questioned.[29] Louis himself saw the persistence of Protestantism as a disgraceful reminder of royal powerlessness; after all, the Edict was Henry IV's pragmatic concession to end the longstanding Wars of Religion. Moreover, since the 1555 Peace of Augsburg, the prevailing contemporary European principle to assure socio-political stability was "cuius regio, eius religio"— the religion of the ruler should be the religion of the realm.[30]

Responding to petitions, Louis initially excluded Protestants from office, constrained the meeting of synods, closed churches outside Edict-stipulated areas, banned Protestant outdoor preachers, and prohibited domestic Protestant migration. He also disallowed Protestant-Catholic intermarriages if objections existed, encouraged missions to the Protestants and rewarded converts to Catholicism.[31] Despite this discrimination, Protestants did not rebel, instead there occurred a steady conversion of Protestants, especially the noble elites.

However, in 1681, things changed. "cuius regio, eius religio" generally had also meant that subjects who refused to convert could emigrate. Louis banned emigration and effectively insisted all Protestants must be converted. Secondly, following René de Marillac and Louvois's proposal, he began quartering dragoons in Protestant homes. While legal, the dragonnades inflicted on Protestants severe financial strain and atrocious abuse. Between 300 000 and 400 000 Huguenots converted as it entailed financial rewards and exemption from the dragonnades.[32]

On 15 October 1685, citing the extensive conversion of Protestants which rendered privileges for the remainder redundant, Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes with that of Fontainebleau.[3] Louis may have been seeking to placate the Catholic Church that chafed under his numerous restrictions, or he may have acted to regain international prestige after the defeat of the Turks without French aid, or even to end the last remaining division in French society dating to the Wars of Religion.[33] Perhaps, he may have just been motivated by his coronation oath to eradicate heresy.[34]

In any case, the Edict of Fontainebleau exiled pastors, demolished churches, instituted forced baptisms and banned Protestant groups. Defying royal decree, about 200 000 Huguenots (roughly 27% of the Protestant population, or 1% of the French population) fled France, taking with them their skills. Thus, some have found the Edict very injurious to France.[35] However, others believe this an exaggeration; while many left, most of France's preeminent Protestant businessmen and industrialists converted and remained.[36] The reaction to the Revocation was mixed. French Catholic leaders applauded, but Protestants across Europe were horrified, and even Pope Innocent XI, still arguing with Louis over Gallicanism, criticised the violence.

The League of Augsburg

Causes and conduct of the war

Louis in 1690.

The War of the League of Augsburg (1688–1697) had two immediate causes with French influence in the Rhineland at stake. First, the death of Charles II, Elector Palatine in 1685 caused a succession crisis, in which Louis's sister-in-law Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate had interests.[37] The death of Max Henry, Archbishop of Cologne produced another succession crisis in 1688.[38]

Moreover, growing concern about France led to the formation of the 1686 League of Augsburg by the Emperor, Spain, Sweden, Saxony and Bavaria; it intended to return France at least to its Treaty of Nijmegen borders.[39] Conversely, the Emperor's refusal to change Ratisbon into a permanent treaty amplified Louis's fear that the Emperor's Balkan victories entailed an imminent attack on the Reunions.[40]

Lastly, the birth of James II's son and Catholic heir, James Stuart, precipitated the "Glorious Revolution". Protestant William III of Orange sailed for England with troops despite Louis's warning that France would regard it as a casus belli. James II was deposed, and his throne appropriated by his daughter and son-in-law, Mary II and William III (now also of England). Vehemently anti-French, William III pushed his new kingdoms into war, thus transforming the League of Augsburg into the Grand Alliance. In 1688, however, this was yet unsettled. Expecting the expedition to absorb William III and his allies, Louis dispatched troops to the Rhineland to compel confirmation of Ratisbon and acceptance of his demands about the succession crises, as his ultimatum to the German princes indicated. He also sought to protect his eastern provinces from Imperial invasion by depriving the enemy army of sustenance, thus explaining the pre-emptive devastation of much of southwestern Germany (the "Devastation of the Palatinate").[41]

Louis XIV at the Siege of Namur (1692).

French armies were generally victorious throughout the War because of Imperial Balkan commitments, French logistical superiority which enabled a much earlier campaign start, and the quality of French generals like Condé's famous pupil, François Henri de Montmorency-Bouteville, duc de Luxembourg. His triumphs at Fleurus, Steenkerque and Neerwinden preserved northern France from invasion and dubbed him "le tapissier de Notre-Dame" for the numerous captured enemy standards he sent to decorate the Cathedral.[42]

Marshal de Luxembourg

Although the attempt to restore James II failed at the Battle of the Boyne, which led to the fall of Jacobite Ireland, France accumulated a string of victories from Flanders in the north, Germany in the east, Italy and Spain in the south, to the high seas and the colonies. Louis personally supervised the capture of Mons and the reputedly impregnable fortress of Namur; and Luxembourg's capture of Charleroi gave France the defensive line of the Sambre. France also overran most of the Duchy of Savoy after Marsaglia and Staffarde. While naval stalemate ensued after the French victory at Beachy Head and the Allied victory at Barfleur-La Hougue, the Battle of Torroella exposed Catalonia to French invasion culminating in the capture of Barcelona. Although the Dutch captured Pondicherry, a French raid on the Spanish treasure port of Cartagena (in present-day Colombia) yielded a fortune of 10 000 000 livres.[42]

In 1690, Sweden first offered to mediate. By 1692, both sides evidently wanted peace, and secret bilateral talks had already begun.[43] By the Treaty of Turin in 1696, which finally hastened the end of the War, Victor Amadeus, Duke of Savoy separately concluded peace and switched sides. Thereafter, negotiations for a general peace began in earnest, culminating in the Treaty of Ryswick.[44]

Treaty of Ryswick

The Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 ended the War of the League of Augsburg, and the Grand Alliance. By manipulating their rivalries and suspicions, Louis divided his enemies and broke their power.

Although Louis returned Catalonia and most of the Reunions, he secured permanent French sovereignty over all of Alsace, including Strasbourg, thus guaranteeing the Rhine as the Franco-German border to this day. Louis's generosity to Spain despite French military superiority, which could have resulted in more advantageous terms, has been read as a concession to foster pro-French sentiment; it may ultimately have induced Charles II to name Louis's grandson, Philippe, duc d'Anjou, as heir.[45]

Besides the return of Pondicherry and Acadia, Louis's de facto possession of Saint-Domingue was recognised. Compensated financially, he renounced interests in the Electorate of Cologne and the Palatinate, and returned Lorraine to its duke, albeit under restrictive terms allowing unhindered French passage. The Treaty allowed the Dutch to garrison forts in the Spanish Netherlands as a protective "Barrier" against possible French aggression, and recognised William III and Mary II as joint sovereigns of the British Isles. Consequently, Louis withdrew support for James II.

The Treaty may not be as great a diplomatic defeat as it appears. Louis fulfilled many of his 1688 ultimatum aims.[46] In any case, to him peace in 1697 was victory.[47]

War of the Spanish Succession

Europe on the eve of the War of the Spanish Succession (1700)

Causes and build-up to the war

The Spanish succession finally came to the fore after the Treaty of Ryswick. Charles II ruled a vast, much-prized empire, comprising Spain, Naples, Sicily, Milan, the Spanish Netherlands and numerous colonies. But he was severely inbred and had no direct heirs.

The main claimants were French and Austrian, and closely linked to Charles II. The French claim was derived from Anne of Austria (Philip III of Spain's eldest daughter) and Marie-Thérèse (Philip IV's eldest daughter). Based on the laws of primogeniture, France had the better claim as it originated from eldest daughters in each generation. However, the princesses’ renunciations to the throne complicated matters; nevertheless, Marie-Thérèse's renunciation was considered null and void owing to Spain's breach of the marriage agreement.

Philip V, King of Spain

In contrast, no renunciation tainted Charles, Archduke of Austria's claims. He descended from Maria Anna (Philip III's youngest daughter).

The English and Dutch feared that a French or Austrian-born Spanish king would threaten the balance of power and thus preferred the Bavarian Joseph Ferdinand, Leopold I's grandson, through his first wife Margaret Theresa of Spain (Philip IV's younger daughter). But, to appease the parties and avoid war, the First Partition Treaty divided the Italian territories between le Grand Dauphin and the Archduke, awarding the rest of the empire to Joseph Ferdinand. Presumably, the Dauphin's new territories would become part of France when he succeeded Louis.[48] Passionately against his empire's dismemberment, Charles II reiterated his 1693 will, naming Joseph Ferdinand his sole successor.[49]

Sixth months later, the Bavarian died. Louis and William III again concluded a Partition Treaty, allocating Spain, the Low Countries and colonies to the Archduke, and Spanish lands in Italy to the Dauphin.[50] Acknowledging that his empire could only remain undivided by bequeathing it entirely to a Frenchman or an Austrian, and pressured by his German wife, Maria Anna of Neuburg, Charles II named the Archduke Charles as sole heir.

Acceptance of the will and consequences

Louis in 1701.

On his deathbed in 1700, Charles II unexpectedly changed his will. Past French military superiority, the pro-French faction and even Pope Innocent XII convinced him that France was more likely to preserve his empire intact. He thus offered the Dauphin's second son, Philippe de France, the entire empire, provided it remained undivided. Anjou was not in the direct line of French succession; thus his accession would not cause a Franco-Spanish union.[50] If Anjou refused, the throne would be offered to his younger brother, Charles de France, after which, to the Archduke Charles, and lastly, to the distantly-related House of Savoy.[51]

Louis was confronted with a difficult choice. He could agree to the partition and hopefully avoid a general war, or accept Charles II's will and alienate others. Initially, Louis may have inclined towards abiding by the partition treaties. However, the Dauphin's insistence persuaded Louis otherwise.[52] Moreover, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, marquis de Torcy pointed out that war with the Emperor would almost certainly ensue even if Louis only accepted part of the Spanish inheritance. He emphasised William III's unlikelihood to assist France in war because he "made a treaty to avoid war and did not intend to go to war to implement the treaty".[49] Eventually, Louis decided to accept Charles II's will. Philippe, duc d'Anjou became Philip V, King of Spain.

Most European rulers accepted Philip V as King of Spain, though some only reluctantly. Depending on one's views of the War as inevitable or not, Louis acted reasonably or arrogantly.[53] He confirmed that Philip V retained his French rights despite his new Spanish position. Admittedly, he may only have been hypothesising a theoretical eventuality and not attempting a Franco-Spanish union. However, Louis also sent troops to the Spanish Netherlands, evicting the Dutch garrisons from the "Barrier" and securing Dutch recognition of Philip V. In 1701, he transferred the asiento to France, alienating English traders. He also acknowledged James Stuart, James II's son, as king on the latter's death, infuriating William III. These actions enraged Britain and the United Provinces.[54] Consequently, with the Emperor and the petty German states, they formed another Grand Alliance, declaring war on France in 1702. French diplomacy, however, retained Bavaria, Portugal and Savoy as Franco-Spanish allies.[55]

Commencement of fighting

Beginning with Imperial aggression in Italy even before war was officially declared, the War of the Spanish Succession almost lasted till Louis's death, proving costly for him. Marlborough and Eugene of Savoy checked French initial success and broke the myth of French invincibility.

Marlborough and Eugene of Savoy's victory at Blenheim caused Bavaria's occupation by the Palatinate and Austria, compelling Maximilian II Emanuel to flee to the Spanish Netherlands. Portugal and Savoy defected to the Allies after Blenheim. Later, Ramillies and Oudenarde precipitated the capture of the Low Countries and an invasion of France, and the Battle of Turin forced Louis to evacuate Italy, leaving it open to Allied armies.

Defeats, famine and mounting debt greatly weakened France. Two massive famines struck France between 1693 and 1710, killing over two million people. In both cases the impact of harvest failure was exacerbated by wartime demands on the food supply.[56] By the winter of 1708-1709, Louis became willing to accept peace at nearly any cost. He agreed to surrender the entire Spanish empire to the Archduke, and even to return all that he gained over sixty years in his reign and revert to the frontiers of the Peace of Westphalia. However, he stopped short of accepting the Allies’ inflexible requirement that he attack his own grandson to force the humiliating terms on the latter. Thus, the war continued.[57]

Turning point

The Allies could not overthrow Philip V in Spain as clearly as France could not retain the entire Spanish inheritance. The Franco-Spanish victories at Almansa, Villaviciosa and Brihuega definitively drove Allied forces from central Spain. Moreover, the Allied pyrrhic victory of Malplaquet revealed the French difficult to defeat. At 21 000 casualties, the Allies suffered double that of the French[58], who eventually fully recovered their military pride at the decisive victory of Denain.

Map of France after the death of Louis XIV

In 1705, Leopold I died. His elder son and successor, Joseph I, followed him in 1711. The Archduke Charles subsequently inherited his brother's Austrian lands. If the Spanish empire then fell to him, it would have resurrected a domain as vast as that of Charles V. To the Maritime Powers, this was as undesirable as the feared Franco-Spanish union.[59]

Road to and conclusion of peace

Accordingly, Anglo-French talks began, culminating in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 between France, Spain, Britain, and the Dutch. In 1714, after losing Landau and Freiburg, the Emperor and Empire also made peace with France in the Treaty of Rastatt and that of Baden.

By the general settlement, Philip V retained Spain and the colonies, Austria received the Low Countries and divided Spanish Italy with Savoy, and Britain kept Gibraltar and Minorca. Louis agreed to withdraw his support for James Stuart, and ceded Newfoundland, Rupert's Land and Acadia in the Americas to Britain. Admittedly, Britain gained the most from the Treaty, but the final terms were very much more favourable to France than those of 1709 and 1710. France retained Île-Saint-Jean and Île Royale, and notwithstanding Allied intransigence, was returned most of the captured Continental lands, preserving its antebellum frontiers. Louis even acquired additional territory, such as the Principality of Orange, and the Ubaye Valley, which covered transalpine passes into Italy. Moreover, Louis secured the rehabilitation to pre-war status and lands of his allies, the Electors of Bavaria and of Cologne.[60]


Drugstore of Louis XIV, with details. Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, Paris.

After a reign of 72 years, Louis died of gangrene at Versailles on 1 September 1715, four days before his 77th birthday.

Reciting the psalm Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina (O Lord, make haste to help me), Louis "yielded up his soul without any effort, like a candle going out".[61] His body lies in Royal Basilica of Saint Denis outside Paris.

The Dauphin had predeceased Louis in 1711, leaving three children — Louis, Duke of Burgundy; Philip V; and Charles, Duke of Berry. The eldest, Bourgogne, followed in 1712, and was himself soon followed by his elder son, Louis, Duke of Brittany. Thus, on Louis XIV's deathbed, his heir was his five-year-old great-grandson, Louis, Duke of Anjou, Burgundy's youngest son, and Dauphin after his grandfather's, father's and elder brother's deaths in short succession.

Louis XIV (seated) with his son le Grand Dauphin (to the right), his grandson Louis, Duke of Burgundy (to the left), his great-grandson Louis, Duke of Brittany, and Madame de Ventadour, Brittany's governess, who commissioned this painting; busts of Henri IV and Louis XIII in the background.

Louis foresaw a minority and sought to restrict the power of his nephew, Philippe d'Orléans, who as closest surviving legitimate relative in France would become the prospective Louis XV's regent. Accordingly, he created a regency council as Louis XIII did in anticipation of his own minority with some power vested in his illegitimate son, Louis Auguste de Bourbon.[62]

Orléans, however, would have Louis's will annulled in the Parlement de Paris after his death and make himself sole Regent. He stripped Maine and his brother, Louis Alexandre de Bourbon, of the rank of "prince of the Blood", which Louis had given them, and significantly reduced Maine's power and privileges.[63]

Image and memory

The official image

Few rulers in world history commemorated themselves so grandly as Louis XIV.[64] Pamphleteers used a standard vocabulary, portraying him (in English alphabetical order) as august, conquering, enlightened, generous, god-given, heroic, illustrious, immortal, invincible, just, magnanimous, pious, triumphant and wise. In a word, he was "great", an adjective officially adopted in 1671. Indeed, LOUIS LE GRAND was generally written in capital letters even in a text in lower case.

Louis XIV used court rituals as a way to mirror and maintain the control he exerted in other areas of his rule, both domestic and international. Theater, sculpture, court ceremonies, dance, and music were all carefully planned and staged to reinforce his power and to represent his view of proper order down to the smallest detail. The master of ceremonies, court composer, and court dance master were key players in this process.

From the start of Louis' reign, Jean Baptiste Colbert set up a centralized and institutionalized system for creating and perpetuating the royal image. The two main approaches were the ancient paradigm and the rivalry with ruling powers, notably Spain. The traditional images of the king in majesty and the king at war persisted in official paintings and busts and in the almanacs that concertedly spread royal propaganda among the people at large. The traditional representation of the king as a Roman emperor can be seen in Le Brun's plans for major monuments and in sculptures. Apollonian themes created a mythological environment, with painted decor and sculptures, rather than true likenesses. Portrayal of the reign in metal (medal stamping) was only in its infancy. The major works of the decade were tapestries, and these were either allegorical, depicting the elements and the seasons, or realist, portraying royal residences and, in particular, the history of the king. This was the most significant means by which the monarchy was mythicized before the Hall of Mirrors was created at Versailles.[65]

Glorified portraits

Louis commissioned over 300 formal portraits of himself; he also commissioned "war artists" to follow him on campaign and record his military triumphs on the spot. About 700 different engravings of Louis have survived. In the 1680s, a series of twenty statues of the king were commissioned for public squares in Paris and in provincial towns. Freestanding permanent triumphal arches were also erected in Paris and the provinces for the first time since the decline of the Roman Empire. Sixteenth-century rulers often issued twenty or thirty medals to commemorate the major events of their reigns, but Louis struck more than 300, celebrating the story of the king in a bronze that was enshrined in thousands of houses.

His court lionized the painter Hyacinthe Rigaud, who helped to formulate what a state portrait should be. While Rigaud made a credible likeness of the king, his purpose was not to express Louis's character but to glorify the monarchy. His original "Portrait of Louis XIV of 1701", now in the Louvre, (see above for copy) was so popular that Rigaud had many copies made, both in full and half-length formats, often with the help of assistants. In this portrait from Rigaud's workshop, Louis XIV's ceremonial robes, elegant stance, and haughty expression proclaim his exalted status. Despite the vast expanses of canvas he covered, Rigaud remained concerned with the particular, describing the king's costume in great detail, even down to his shoe buckles.[66]

The earliest portraits of Louis as a child used the pictorial conventions of the day to present the future and then child king as already possessing the majesty becoming royalty, idealizing his person as the incarnation of the state. This idealization continued in later portraits, which not only avoided depicting any trace of the smallpox that the king suffered in 1647 but, by the 1660s, presented him as an Apollo or Alexander, vying with those seeking to reproduce his Habsburg traits. While the portraits at the end of his reign allowed the king's face to betray his advanced age, the conflict between the representation of Louis as a man and as king continued, as exemplified by the unnaturally young legs on which he stands in Riguad's painting of 1701.[67]

Versailles as power showcase

Palace at Versailles, 1722

His great château at Versailles integrated gardens, interior design, and the iconography of the paintings to express a royal plan to visually represent the power of the absolute monarchy personified by Louis. The Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors) at Versailles became the most prestigious section of the royal residence. Under the king's close supervision, Charles Le Brun (1619–90) finalized a political thematic decoration program for the hall in 1679 that retraces the important accomplishments of Louis's reign, ranging from his ascension to the throne to the War of Devolution (1667–68). Decorative arches place emphasis on the significant events of the war in Holland. The decorations, intended to demonstrate the king's grandeur, omit the defeats that his French army suffered and cover up the reality of the resulting Pyrrhic victory and the consequent responses of France's adversaries, which left Louis XIV's kingdom isolated.


The king loved ballet, and in the early years he danced regularly in court ballets. He performed four dancing roles in three of Molière's comédies-ballets (plays which were characterized by the inclusion of music and dance and written to be premiered before Louis XIV and his court): an Egyptian in "Le Mariage forcé" (1664), a Moorish Gentleman in "Le Sicilien" (1667) and Neptune and Apollo in "Les Amants magnifiques" (1670). However, the court performances differed from subsequent stagings in public theaters in Paris. In court, the music to accompany ballets performed by the king was suitably majestic, and the lyrics conveyed his power and benevolence as patron of the arts. In Paris performances, these parts no longer stood out from those of other ballet performers. In fact, those plays that most overtly promoted Louis XIV's royal image were not performed at all outside the court. These examples testify to Molière's readiness to adapt his plays according to the venue and the audience.[68]


Brought up to respect Catholicism, Louis was a pious and devout king. Seeing himself as the protector of the French Church, he made his devotions every day, wherever he was, following regularly the liturgical calendar. The royal religion, related and spread through the press, took place in the Chapelle Royale. Ostentation was a distinguishing feature of the daily Masses, annual celebrations, like those of the Holy Week, and special ceremonies.[69] Nevertheless, his informal alliance with the Ottoman Empire against the Habsburg Monarchy drew criticism on the grounds of aiding an Islamic empire against the forces of Christendom.[70]

Public opinion

Alongside official images and the discourse emanating from the court, Frenchmen followed a nonofficial discourse comprised mainly of clandestine publications, popular songs, and rumors, which provided an alternative interpretation of the king and his government. They focused the miseries caused by bad government, but also carried the hope for a better future in the event that the king escaped the influence of his ministers and mistresses and took the government into his own hands. On the other hand, petitions addressed either directly to the king or to his ministers exploited the traditional imagery and language of the monarchy and king, while the numerous denouncers of fake conspiracies against the king sought to manipulate the weaknesses of the monarchical system for their own ends. These varying images of the king abounded in self-contradictions that reflected the people's amalgamation of their everyday experiences with the ideal of the monarchy.[71]


According to Philippe de Dangeau's Journal, on his deathbed, Louis allegedly said to the future Louis XV:

"Do not follow the bad example which I have set you; I have often undertaken war too lightly and have sustained it for vanity. Do not imitate me, but be a peaceful prince, and may you apply yourself principally to the alleviation of the burdens of your subjects".[72]

However, following the fashion of Baroque piety, Louis may have judged himself too harshly.[72] He successfully placed a French prince on the Spanish throne, effectively ending the old Habsburg threat from across the Pyrenees; despite political instability, the Bourbons have survived and reign in Spain to this day. His foreign, military and domestic expenditure bankrupted the State and may have contributed to the Revolution, though this is questionable given that his successors had over seventy years between his death and the Revolution to initiate preventative reforms.[73] Moreover, it was the State, not the country, which was impoverished in Louis's time. One need only look to Lettres Persanes by the socio-political thinker-commentator Montesquieu to observe the wealth and opulence in France at the end of Louis's reign.[74]

Growth of France under Louis XIV (1643–1715)

Whatever the case, however, Louis strengthened the Crown's authority over the traditional feudal elites, marking the beginning of the modern State. He fought against several great European alliances, and often triumphed, presenting France ten new provinces, an overseas empire and the pre-eminent position in Europe. These political and military victories along with numerous cultural achievements earned France the admiration of Europe for its power, success, sophistication, products, values, and way of life. Louis's reign eventually served as an example to Enlightenment Europe, and French became the lingua franca for the entire European elite, even to Romanov Russia. Indeed, as Montesquieu wrote, "[Louis] established the greatness of France by building Versailles and Marly".[75]

Saint-Simon, who claimed Louis slighted him, criticised him thus:

"There was nothing he liked so much as flattery, or, to put it more plainly, adulation; the coarser and clumsier it was, the more he relished it".

However, the anti-Bourbon Napoleon honoured Louis as "the only King of France worthy of the name" and "a great king".[76] Even the German Protestant philosopher Leibniz commended him as "one of the greatest kings that ever was"[77], and Lord Acton went so far as to describe Louis as "by far the ablest man who was born in modern times on the steps of a throne."[78] Finally, comparing Louis to Augustus, Voltaire, the apostle of the Enlightenment, dubbed his reign "an eternally memorable age" and "le Grand Siècle" (the "Great Century").


The phrase "L'État, c'est moi" ("I am the State") is frequently attributed to him, though considered an inaccuracy by historians.[79]

Quite contrary to that apocryphal quote, Louis XIV is actually reported to have said on his death bed: "Je m'en vais, mais l'État demeurera toujours." ("I depart, but the State shall always remain").[80]

Style and arms

Louis's formal style was "Louis XIV, par la grâce de Dieu, roi de France et de Navarre", or "Louis XIV, by the Grace of God, King of France and of Navarre". His arms were Azure three fleurs-de-lis Or (for France) impaling Gules on a chain in cross saltire and orle Or an emerald Proper (for Navarre).

Order of Saint Louis

On 5 April 1693, Louis also founded the Royal and Military Order of Saint Louis (French: Ordre Royal et Militaire de Saint-Louis), a military Order of Chivalry.[81][82] He named it after Louis IX and intended it as a reward for outstanding officers. It is notable as the first decoration that could be granted to non-nobles and is roughly the forerunner of the Légion d'honneur, with which it shares the red ribbon (though the Légion d'honneur is awarded to military personnel and civilians alike).



In fiction

Alexandre Dumas portrayed Louis in novels, first as a child in Twenty Years After, then as a young man in The Vicomte de Bragelonne, in which he is a central character. French academic Jean-Yves Tadié argued that the latter novel really revolves around the beginning of Louis's personal rule.[83] Dumas's novel The Man in the Iron Mask recounts the legend that the mysterious prisoner was actually Louis's twin brother and has spawned numerous film adaptations.

In 1910, the American historical novelist Charles Major wrote "The Little King: A Story of the Childhood of King Louis XIV". Louis is a major character in the 1959 historical novel "Angélique et le Roy" ("Angélique and the King"), part of the Angelique Series. The protagonist, a strong-willed lady at Versailles, rejects the King's advances and refuses to become his mistress. A later book, the 1961 "Angélique se révolte" ("Angélique in Revolt") details the dire consequences of her defying this powerful monarch.

A character based on Louis plays an important role in The Age of Unreason, a series of four alternate history novels written by American science fiction and fantasy author Gregory Keyes.

While The Taking of Power by Louis XIV, directed by Roberto Rossellini in 1966, shows Louis's rise to power after the death of Cardinal Mazarin, Le Roi Danse (The King Dances), directed by Gérard Corbiau in 2000, reveals Louis through the eyes of Jean-Baptiste Lully, his court musician. Julian Sands portrayed Louis in Roland Jaffe's Vatel in 2000.

Louis features significantly in Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, specifically The Confusion, the greater part of which takes place at Versailles.


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  49. ^ a b Dunlop, Ian. "Louis XIV", p. 353, Pimlico London 2001.
  50. ^ a b Lynn, John A. (1999). The Wars of Louis XIV (1667-1714). Longman New York. p.268.
  51. ^ Kamen, Henry. (2001) Philip V of Spain: The King who Reigned Twice, Yale University Press, p. 6. ISBN 0300087187.
  52. ^ Dunlop, Ian. "Louis XIV", p. 358, Pimlico London 2001.
  53. ^ Lynn, John A. (1999). The Wars of Louis XIV (1667-1714). Longman New York. p.269, see footnote 1.
  54. ^ Lynn, John A. (1999). The Wars of Louis XIV (1667-1714). Longman New York. p.269-270.
  55. ^ Merriman, John (1996). A History of Modern Europe. W.W. Norton & Company. p. 321. 
  56. ^ Ó Gráda, Cormac; Chevet, Jean-Michel (2002). "Famine And Market In Ancient Régime France". The Journal of Economic History 62: 706–733. doi:10.1017/S0022050702001055.  [3]
  57. ^ Lynn, John A. (1999). The Wars of Louis XIV (1667-1714). Longman New York, p. 326.
  58. ^ Lynn, John A. (1999). The Wars of Louis XIV (1667-1714). Longman New York, p. 334.
  59. ^ Lynn, John A. (1999). The Wars of Louis XIV (1667-1714). Longman New York, p. 342.
  60. ^ Lynn, John A. (1999). The Wars of Louis XIV (1667-1714). Longman New York, p. 356-360.
  61. ^ Dunlop, Ian. "Louis XIV", p. 468, Pimlico London 2001.
  62. ^ Dunlop, Ian. "Louis XIV", p. 454-455, Pimlico London 2001.
  63. ^ Antoine, Michel. "Louis XV", p. 33-37, Hachette Litteratures, Paris (1997).
  64. ^ Burke, Peter (1992), "The fabrication of Louis XIV", History Today 42 (2) 
  65. ^ Sabatier, Gérard (2000), "La Gloire du Roi: Iconographie de Louis XIV de 1661 a 1672", Histoire, Economie et Société 19 (4): 527–560 .
  66. ^ See also Schmitter, Amy M. (2002), "Representation and the Body of Power in French Academic Painting", Journal of the History of Ideas 63 (3): 399–424, ISSN 0022-5037, 
  67. ^ Perez, Stanis (2003), "Les Rides D'apollon: L'evolution Des Portraits de Louis XIV", Revue D'histoire Moderne et Contemporaine 50 (3): 62–95, ISSN 0048-8003 
  68. ^ Prest, Julia (2001), "Dancing King: Louis XIV's Roles in Molière's Comedies-ballets, from Court to Town", Seventeenth Century 16 (2): 283–298, ISSN 0268-117x . Fulltext: Ebsco
  69. ^ Sébastien Gaudelus, "La Mise en Spectacle De La Religion Royale: Recherches sur la Devotion de Louis XIV", Histoire, Economie et Société 2000 19(4): 513-526.
  70. ^ The history of England from the accession of James II p. 303 Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay, Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green, 1864.
  71. ^ Jens Ivo Engels, "Denigrer, Esperer, Assumer La Realite. Le Roi de France perçu par ses Sujets, 1680-1750" ["Disparaging, Hoping, Taking on Reality: the French King as Perceived by His Subjects, 1680-1750"]. Revue D'histoire Moderne et Contemporaine 2003 50(3): 96-126.
  72. ^ a b Bluche, François. "Louis XIV", p. 890, Hachette Litteratures, Paris (1986).
  73. ^ Bluche, François. "Louis XIV", p. 506 & 877-878,Hachette Litteratures, Paris (1986).
  74. ^ Bluche, François. "Louis XIV", p. 876, Hachette Litteratures, Paris (1986).
  75. ^ Dunlop, Ian. "Louis XIV", p. 433, Pimlico London 2001.
  76. ^ Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleon's Notes on English History made on the Eve of the French Revolution, illustrated from Contemporary Historians and referenced from the findings of Later Research by Henry Foljambe Hall. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1905, 258.
  77. ^ Bluche, François. "Louis XIV", p. 926, Hachette Litteratures, Paris (1986).
  78. ^ Durant, Will and Ariel. "The Story of Civilisation (Volume 8): The Age of Louis XIV", Simon & Schuster, New York (1963), p. 721.
  79. ^ Charles Bremner, Times Blogs. "Things French kings never said". Retrieved 2009-11-29. 
  80. ^ (French) Marquis de Dangeau. "Mémoire sur la mort de Louis XIV (on page 24)". Retrieved 2009-11-29. 
  81. ^ Hamilton, Walter. "Dated Book-plates (Ex Libris) with a Treatise on Their Origin", P37. Published 1895. A.C. Black
  82. ^ Edmunds, Martha. "Piety and Politics", P274. 2002. University of Delaware Press. ISBN 0874136938
  83. ^ J-Y Tadié's annotations to The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Gallimard, 1997

Further reading

  • Acton, J. E. E., 1st Baron. (1906). Lectures on Modern History. London: Macmillan and Co.
  • Ashley, Maurice P. Louis XIV And The Greatness Of France (1965) excerpt and text search
  • Beik, William. Louis XIV and Absolutism: A Brief Study with Documents (2000) excerpt and text search
  • Beik, William. "The Absolutism of Louis XIX as Social Collaboration." Past & Present 2005 (188): 195-224. Issn: 0031-2746 Fulltext online at OUP
  • Bluche, François, Louis XIV, Paris: Hachette Littératures, 1986. (English translation by Mark Greengrass; published in 1990 by Franklin Watts.)
  • Buckley, Veronica. Madame de Maintenon: The Secret Wife of Louis XIV. London: Bloomsbury, 2008
  • Burke, Peter. The Fabrication of Louis XIV (1994) excerpt and text search
  • Cambridge Modern History: Vol. 5 The Age Of Louis XIV (1908), old, solid articles by scholars; complete text online
  • Carretier, Christian, "Les cinq cent douze quartiers de Louis XIV", Angers-Paris, 1980
  • Chaline, Olivier, Le règne de Louis XIV (Paris: Flammarion, 2005)
  • Church, William F. (ed.). The Greatness of Louis XIV. London: D.C. Heath and Company, 1972.
  • Cronin, Vincent. Louis XIV. London: HarperCollins, 1996 (ISBN 0002720728)
  • Dunlop, Ian. Louis XIV (2000), 512pp excerpt and text search
  • Erlanger, Philippe, Louis XIV, translated from the French by Stephen Cox, Praeger Publishers, New York, 1970, (English).
  • Fraser, Antonia. Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 0-297-82997-1); New York: Nan A. Talese, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 0385509847)
  • Goubert, Pierre. Louis XIV and Twenty Million Frenchmen (1972), social history from Annales School
  • Goyau, G. (1910). "Louis XIV". The Catholic Encyclopedia. (Volume IX). New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  • Holt, Mack P., "Louis XIV." The New Book of Knowledge. Scholastic Library Publishing, 2005.
  • Lewis, W. H. The Splendid Century: Life in the France of Louis XIV (1953) excerpt and text search; also online complete edition
  • Le Roy Ladurie, Emmanuel. The Ancien Regime: A History of France 1610 - 1774 (1999), survey by leader of the Annales School excerpt and text search
  • Lynn, John A. The Wars of Louis XIV, 1667-1714 (1999) excerpt and text search
  • Mitford, Nancy. The Sun King(1995), popular excerpt and text search
  • Rowlands, Guy. The Dynastic State and the Army under Louis XIV: Royal Service and Private Interest, 1661-1701 (2002) online edition
  • Rubin, David Lee, ed. Sun King: The Ascendancy of French Culture during the Reign of Louis XIV. Washington: Folger Books and Cranbury: Associated University Presses, 1992.
  • Shennan, J. H. Louis XIV (1993) online edition
  • Thompson, Ian. The Sun King's Garden: Louis XIV, André Le Nôtre And the Creation of the Gardens of Versailles. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 1582346313).
  • Wilkinson, Rich. Louis XIV (2007)
  • Wolf, John B. Louis XIV (1968), the standard scholarly biography online edition

External links

External links

Louis XIV of France
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty
Born: 5 September 1638 Died: 1 September 1715
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Louis XIII
King of France and Navarre
14 May 1643 – 1 September 1715
Succeeded by
Louis XV
French royalty
Preceded by
Louis XIII
Dauphin of France
5 September 1638 – 14 May 1643
Succeeded by
"le Grand Dauphin"
Preceded by
Gaston, Duke of Orléans
Heir to the Throne
as Heir apparent
5 September 1638 — 14 May 1643
Succeeded by
Philippe I, Duke of Orléans


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Louis XIV of France article)

From Wikiquote

Louis XIV of France

Louis XIV of France (baptised as Louis-Dieudonné) (5 September 16381 September 1715) ruled as King of France and of the Navarre from 1643. Louis established the French absolute monarchy and made France the main political power in western Europe in his time.


  • Il n'y a plus de Pyrénées.
    • The Pyrenees have ceased to exist.
      • On his grandson becoming King of Spain, quoted in Voltaire, Siecle de Louis XIV (1751), ch.28


  • L'Etat, c'est moi.
    • I am the state.
      • Attr. by Dulaire, Hist. de Paris (1834), vol.6, p.298; probably apocryphal
  • J'ai failli attendre.
    • I almost had to wait.
      • Regarded as apocryphal by E. Fournier, L'Esprit dans l'Histoire (4th ed. 1884). ch.xlviii

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LOUIS XIV. (1638-1715), king of France, was born at SaintGermain-en-Laye on the 5th of September 1638. His father, Louis XIII., had married Anne of Austria, daughter of Philip III., king of Spain, in 1615, but for twenty years the marriage had remained without issue. The childlessness of the king was a constant threat to the policy of his great minister Richelieu; for the king's brother and heir, Gaston of Orleans, was a determined opponent of that policy. The birth of the prince who was destined to reign as Louis XIV. was therefore hailed as a triumph, not less important than any of those won by diplomacy or arms. The death of his father made Louis XIV. king on the 14th of May 1643, but he had to wait sixteen years before he began to rule. Power lay for some time in the hands of the queen-mother and in those of her minister, Cardinal Mazarin, who found it difficult to maintain the power of the throne and the integrity of French territory during the domestic troubles of the Fronde and the last stages of the Thirty Year's War. The minister was hated as a foreigner, and the childhood of the king weakened the royal authority. Twice the court had to flee from Paris; once when there was a rumour of intended flight the populace was admitted to see the king in his bed. The memory of these humiliations played their part in developing later the autocratic ideas of Louis. Mazarin, in spite of all disadvantages, triumphed alike over his domestic and his foreign opponents. The Fronde was at an end by 1653; the peace of Westphalia (1648) and the peace of the Pyrenees (16J9) marked the success of the arms and of the diplomacy of France. Louis XIV. was now twenty-one years of age and was anxious to rule as well as to reign. The peace of the Pyrenees was a decisive event in his personal history as well as in that of France, for one of its most important stipulations referred to his marriage, He had already been strongly attracted to one of the nieces of Mazarin, but reasons of state triumphed over personal impulse; and it was agreed that the new friendship with Spain should be cemented by the marriage of Louis to his cousin, the Infanta Maria Theresa. A large dowry was stipulated for; and in consideration of this the king promised to forgo all claims that his wife might otherwise possess to the Spanish crown or any part of its territories. The dowry was never paid, and the king held himself free of his promise.

The marriage took place at once, and the king entered Paris in triumph in 1660. Mazarin died in the next year; but so strong was the feeling that the kings of France could only rule through a first minister that it was generally expected that Mazarin would soon have a successor. The king, however, at once announced his intention of being his own first minister; and from this resolution he never swerved. Whatever great qualities he may have lacked he certainly possessed industry and patience in the highest degree. He built up a thoroughly personal system of government, and presided constantly over the council and many of its committees. He was fond of gaiety and of sport; but neither ever turned him away from the punctual and laborious discharge of his royal duties. Even the greatest of his ministers found themselves controlled by the king. Fouquet, the finance minister, had accumulated enormous wealth during the late disturbances, and seemed to possess power and ambition too great for a subject. Louis XIV. found it necessary almost to conspire against him; he was overthrown and condemned to perpetual imprisonment. Those who had most of the king's confidence afterwards were Colbert for home affairs; Lionne for diplomacy; Louvois for war; but as his reign proceeded he became more self-confident and more intolerant of independence of judgment in his ministers.

His court was from the first one of great brilliance. In art and in literature, the great period, which is usually called by the king's name, had in some respects passed its zenith when he began to reign. But France was unquestionably the first state in Europe both in arms and arts, and within France the authority of the king was practically undisputed. The nation, proud of its pre-eminence and weary of civil war, saw in the king its true representative and the guarantee of its unity and success. Louis was singularly well fitted by his physical and intellectual gifts for the role of Grand Monarque and he played it to perfection. His wife Maria Theresa bore him children but there was no community of. tastes between them, and the chief influence at court is to be found not in the queen but in the succession of avowed mistresses. Mademoiselle de la Valliere held the position from 1662 to 1670; she was then ousted by Madame de Montespan, who had fiercely intrigued for it, and whose proud and ambitious temper offered a great contrast to her rival. She held her position from 1670 to 1679 and then gave place to the still more famous Madame de Maintenon, who ruled, however, not as mistress but as wife. The events that brought about this incident form the strangest episode in the king's private life. Madame de Maintenon was the widow of the dramatist Scarron, and first came into relationship with the king as governess to his illegitimate children. She was a woman of unstained life and strongly religious temperament; and it was by this that she gained so great an influence over the king. Through her influence the king was reconciled to his wife, and, when Maria Theresa died in 1683, Madame de Maintenon shortly afterwards (in 1684) became the king's wife, though this was never officially declared. Under her influence the court lost most of its gaiety, and religion came to exercise much control over the life and the policy of the king.

The first years of the king's rule were marked by the great schemes of Colbert for the financial, commercial, industrial and naval reorganization of France, and in these schemes Louis took a deep interest. But in 1667 began the long series of wars, which lasted with little real intermission to the end of the reign (see France). In the steps that led to these wars and in their conduct the egotistic ambition and the vanity of the king played an important part; though he never showed real military skill and took no share in any military operations except in certain sieges. The War of Devolution (or the Queen's War) in 1667-68 to enforce the queen's claim to certain districts in the Spanish Netherlands, led to the Dutch War (1672-78), and in both these wars the supremacy of the French armies was clearly apparent. The next decade (1678-1688) was the real turning-point in the history of the reign, and the strength of France was seriously diminished. The chief cause of this is to be found in the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The church had always opposed this settlement and had succeeded in altering it in many points. Now the new religious zeal and the autocratic temper of Louis XIV. came to the support of the church. The French Huguenots found their privileges decreased, and then, in 1685, the edict was altogether withdrawn. The results were ruinous to France. It was not only that she lost many thousands of her best citizens, but this blow against Protestantism deprived her of those Protestant alliances in Europe which had been in the past her great diplomatic support. Then the English Revolution came in 1688 and changed England from a wavering ally into the most determined of the enemies of France.

The war with the Grand Alliance, of which King William III. was the heart and soul, lasted from 1688 to 1697; and the treaty of Ryswick, which brought it to an end, deprived France of certain territories on her frontier. But Louis saw in the Spanish question a chance of more than making up for this loss. The Spanish king Charles II. was dying, and the future of the possessions of Spain was doubtful. The astute diplomacy of Louis succeeded in winning the inheritance for his grandson Philip. But this involved France and Europe in an immense war (1700) and by the peace of Utrecht (1713), though the French prince retained the Spanish crown, France had again to make concessions of territory.

Louis XIV. had shown wonderful tenacity of purpose during this disastrous war, and sometimes a nobler and more national spirit than during the years of his triumphs. But the condition of France was terrible. She was burdened with debt; the reforms of Colbert were ruined; and opposition to the king's regime began to make itself felt. Peace brought some relief to France, but the last years of the king's life were gloomy in the extreme. His numerous descendants seemed at one time to place the succession beyong all difficulty. But his eldest son, the dauphin, died in April 1711; his eldest grandson the duke of Burgundy in February 1712; and his great-grandson the duke of Brittany in March 1712. The heir to the throne was now the duke of Burgundy's son, the duke of Anjou, afterwards Louis XV. The king died on the 1st of September 1715, after the longest recorded reign in European history. The judgment of posterity has not repeated the flattering verdict of his contemporaries; but he remains the model of a great king in all that concerns the externals of kingship.

The reign of Louis XIV. is particularly rich in memoirs describing the life of the court. The chief are Madame de Motteville's memoirs for the period of the Fronde, and the letters of Madame de Sevigne and the memoirs of Saint-Simon for the later period. The king's ideas are best seen in the Memoires de Louis XIV. pour l'instruction du dauphin (edited by Dreyss, 2 vols.). His private life is revealed in the letters of Madame de Maintenon and in those of Madame, Duchesse d'Orleans. Of the ordinary historians of France Michelet is fullest on the private life of the king. Mention may also be made of Voltaire, Siecle de Louis XIV.; P. Clement, Histoire de la vie et de l'administration de Colbert; Sainte-Beuve, Causeries de lundi. Full bibliographies of the reign will be found in G. Monod's Bibliographie de l'histoire de France; vol. v. ("The Age of Louis XIV.") of the Cambridge Modern History; and vol. vi. ("Louis XIV.") of the Histoire generale of Lavisse and Rambaud. (A. J. G.*)

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