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King of Franceand of Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days, and is the longest documented reign of any European monarch.

Louis began personally governing France in 1661 after the death of his prime minister (premier ministre), the Italianmarker Cardinal Mazarin.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 centralised stategoverned 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 Versaillesmarker, 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 Devolutionand the War of the Reunions. He encouraged and benefited from the work of prominent political, military and cultural figures such as Mazarin, Colbert, Turenneand Vauban, as well as Molière, Racine, Boileau, La Fontaine, Lully, Le Brun, Rigaud, Le Vau, Mansart, Perraultand Le Nôtre.

Upon his death at just days before his seventy-seventh birthday, Louis was succeeded by his five-year-old great-grandson, Louis de France. 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-Layemarker to Louis XIII and Anne of Austria.As heir apparent, he bore the traditional title of Dauphin. His birth followed almost twenty-three years of his estranged parents' childlessness. Contemporaries regarded him as a divine gift, and his birth, a miracle; hence, he was named "Louis-Dieudonné" (Louis-God-given).

Louis descended from noteworthy European ruling houses. 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.

His paternal grandparents were Henri IV of Franceand Marie de' Medici, French and Italian respectively; while both his maternal grandparents were Habsburgs, Philip III of Spainand Margaret of Austria. Therefore, Louis's ancestors included various historical figures, such as the Holy Roman EmperorsCharles Vand Frederick. A great grandson of Phillip II of Spain, and thus a descendant of Isabella I of Castileand Ferdinand II of Aragon, Louis was also descended from the founder of Russia's first dynasty, Rurik the Viking, and Giovanni de' Medici, last of the great Condottieri, as well as Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundyand the poet Charles d'Orléans. Most importantly, he traced his paternal lineage, and hence his and his descendants' right to the throne, in the direct legitimatemale line to Saint Louis, and through him, to Hugh Capet.

September 1640 saw the birth of Louis' only sibling, Philippe de France. However, doubtful of Anne's abilities as regent, Louis XIII decreed that a regency council should rule on Louis's behalf in the event of a minority, but 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, Anne had his will annulledby the Parlement de Paris(a judicial body comprising mostly noblesand high clergymen), abolished the regency council and became sole regent. She then entrusted power to Cardinal Mazarin.

Mazarin subsequently negotiated the Peace of Westphaliasuccessfully in 1648. It comprised the Treaties of Münster and Osnabrück and ended the Thirty Years' War, begun by Louis XIII. This Peace ensured Dutch independencefrom Spain, awarded some autonomy to the various German princes, and granted Sweden seats on the Reichstagand territories to control the mouths of the Oder, Elbeand Weser. However, the terms of the Peace profited France the most. Austria ceded to France all Habsburg lands and claims in Alsacemarker and acknowledged de facto sovereignty over the Three Bishoprics.Moreover, eager to reduce Habsburg domination, petty German states sought French protection, anticipating the formation of the League of the Rhinein 1658 and leading to the further diminution of Imperial power. Nonetheless, as no peace was signed with Spain, a Franco-Spanish war would continue till 1659 with the Treaty of the Pyrenees.

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. Cardinal 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 the traditional feudal privilegesof those institutions from an increasingly centralizedand centralizing royal government. Furthermore, they believed their traditional 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 edictsburned. 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 familyand Monarchyprompted Anne to flee Paris with the King and his courtiers. Shortly thereafter, the conclusion of the Peace of Westphaliaallowed Condé’s army to return to aid Louis and his court.

The first Fronde(Fronde parlementaire, 1648-1649) was followed by the second Fronde(Fronde des princes, 1650-1653). Tales of sordid intrigue and half-hearted warfare characterised this second phase of upper-class insurrection, unlike that which preceded it. Aristocrats headed this rebellion which represented to them a protest against and a reversal of their political demotion from vassalsto courtiers.

This Frondewas led by France's highest-rankingnobles, from Louis's uncle Gaston, duc d'Orléans, and first cousin, la Grande Mademoiselle; to more distantly-related princes of the Bloodsuch as Condé, his brother Conti, and their sister the Duchess of Longueville; to dukes of legitimisedroyal descent, like Henri d'Orléans, and the Duke of Beaufort; and to princelings descended from foreign dynasties(known as princes étrangers), such as Monsieur de Bouillon, and his brother, the famous Marshal of France, Turenne, as well as Marie de Rohan, duchesse de Chevreuse; and scionsof France's oldest families, like François de La Rochefoucauld.

With Louis’s coming of age and subsequent coronation, the Frondeurs, who could hitherto claim to act on his behalf and in his real interests against his mother and prime minister, lost their pretext for revolt. The Frondethus gradually lost steam until it 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 XIV assumed personal control of the reins of government. 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”. He was able to utilise the widespread public yearning for peace, law and order, resulting from prolonged foreign war and domestic civil strife, to further consolidate central political authority at the feudal aristocracy's expense.

Concurrently, Louis commenced his personal reign with administrative and fiscal reforms. The treasury verged on bankruptcyon his coming to power. To rectify the situation, Louis chose Jean-Baptiste Colbertas Contrôleur général des Financesin 1665. In doing so, Louis had first to eliminate on charges of embezzlement Nicolas Fouquet, the Surintendant des Finances, commuting the sentence of banishment, passed by the Parlement, to life-imprisonment, and abolishing Fouquet's office. To be sure, Fouquet committed no financial indiscretions greatly dissimilar from Mazarin before him and Colbert after him. However, the opulence of his chateau at Vaux-le-Vicomtemarker, where he lavishly entertained the King and which served as inspiration for Versailles, his perceived ambition to succeed Mazarin and Richelieu and assume power, and his indiscreet purchase and private fortification of Belle Îlemarker sealed his doom.

Divested of Fouquet, Colbert reduced the national debt through more efficient taxation. The principal taxes included the aidesand 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 Lyonmarker silk manufacturers and the Manufacture des Gobelinsmarker, a producer of tapestries.He also invited manufacturers and artisans from all over Europe, like Muranomarker 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 also instituted reforms in military administration through Le Tellierand, his son, Louvois. They helped to curb the independent spirit of and impose order on the nobility 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 Ordonnanceshe enacted. Pre-revolutionary France was a patchwork of legal systems, with as many coutumesas there were provinces, and two co-existing legal traditions—customary lawin the northern pays de droit coutumierand Roman civil lawin the southern pays de droit écrit. The Grande Ordonnance de Procédure Civileof 1667, also known as Code Louis, was a comprehensive legal code attempting a uniform regulation of civil procedurethroughout legally irregular France. It prescribed inter aliabaptismal, marriage and death records in the State’s registers, not the Church’s, and also strictly regulated the right to remonstrance of the Parlements. The Code Louisplayed 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 Coloniesof 1685, also known as Code Noir. Although it sanctioned slavery, it did humanise the practice by prohibiting the separation of families. However, in the colonies, only Roman Catholics could own slaves, and these had to be baptised.

Patronage of the arts

fvvn v nfv nkc;flourish by protecting such writers as Molière, Racineand 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 Coysevoxand Hyacinthe Rigaudwhose works became famous throughout Europe. In music, composers and musicians, like Lully, Chambonnièresand 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 Versaillesmarker through four major building campaigns.Excepting the current chapel build 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 from 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 cabalscould be more readily discovered and foiled. Alternatively, the Frondecaused 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, lend little credence to this theory.

In Paris, Louis constructed the "Hôtel des Invalidesmarker"—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 Invalidespioneered new treatments and set new standards for hospice treatment. The conclusion of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapellein 1669 induced Louis to demolish the northern walls of Paris in 1670 and replace them with wide tree-lined boulevards.

The Louvremarker and many other royal residences were also renovated and improved.Originally, Louis hired Berninito 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 villain 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.

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. 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. Mme de Maintenon took great pleasure in this school and was finally to die there.

Early wars in the Low Countries

The death of Philip IV of Spainin 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. This was never paid and would later play a part persuading Charles II of Spainto 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 Republicaided 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 Warwith England. Joined by Sweden, they formed a Triple Alliancein 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 Westminsterin 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-Comtémarker 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 Alsacemarker across the Rhinemarker, and recovering the province.Through a series of feints, marches and counter-marches at the close of the war, Louis besieged and captured Ghentmarker, 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.

Nijmegen further increased French influence in Europe, but did not satisfy Louis. He dismissed his foreign minister Simon Arnauld, marquis de Pomponnein 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 Luxembourgmarker and Casale, for their strategic position on the frontier, and access to the Po river valleymarker in the heart of northern Italy respectively.He also desired Strasbourgmarker, 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 Ratisbonin 1684, ceded most of the conquered territories to France for a duration of 20 years.

Non-European relations and the colonies

French coloniesmultiplied in the Americas, Asia and Africa. Descending down the Mississippi, discovered in 1673 by Jollietand Marquette, Cavelier de La Salleclaimed the vast Mississippi basin in 1682 and named it "Louisiane", after Louis.
Meanwhile, diplomatic relations were initiated with distant countries. In 1669, Suleiman Agaled an Ottomanembassy, reviving the old Franco-Ottoman alliance. Moreover, in 1682, the Sultan of Morocco, Moulay Ismail, allowed consular and commercial establishments, and Moroccan ambassador Abdallah bin Aishawas sent to the court of Louis XIV in 1699. In 1715, Louis received a Persian embassy.
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 Pansuperbly 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 Merguimarker as a naval base.However, Narai’s death and the execution of his pro-French minister Phaulkonended this era of French influence in 1688 with the Siege of Bangkok.

France also actively participated to the Jesuit China missions, as Louis XIV sent in 1685 a mission of five Jesuits "mathematicians" to Chinamarker 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).While French Jesuits were found at the court of the Manchumarker Kangxi Emperor in China, Louis received the visit of a Chinese Jesuit, Michael Shen Fu-Tsung, by 1684.Furthermore, several years later, he had at his court a Chinese librarian and translator— Arcadio Huang.

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 papalauthority in France, and convened an Assemblée du Clergéin 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.

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

While the 1680s would see France becoming more isolated from its former allies, 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 Algiersmarker and Tripolimarker 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 Dogeat Versailles.
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. Reassured, the Turks allowed the 20-year Austro-Turkish Peace of Vasvárto lapse and moved on the offensive. Thus began the Great Turkish Warin 1683 which would last till 1699 and which greatly distracted the Emperor from French endeavours. The Ottoman Grand Viziernearly captured Viennabefore being defeated by the King of Polandand his Polish-Imperial army. Notwithstanding the end of immediate danger to Vienna, however, Leopold Iwas 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 Augsburglater.

Personal life

Maria Theresadied in 1683. On his queen’s demise, Louis remarked that she had caused him unease on no other occasion. That she went to communion daily suggests that marital duties were performed frequently . She gave birth to six children. Only one survived to adulthood, the eldest known as le Grand Dauphinor “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 branchesof 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. Although never announced or discussed publicly, this marriage was an open secretand would last until his death.

Revocation of 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 Huguenotspolitical and religious freedom, is now being questioned. Louis himself saw the persistence of Protestantism as a disgraceful reminder of royal powerlessness; after all, the Edict was Henri 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.

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. 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 Marillacand Louvois’s proposal, he began quartering dragoonsin Protestant homes. While legal, the dragonnadesinflicted 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.

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. 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. Perhaps, he may have just been motivated by his coronation oath to eradicate heresy.

In any case, the Edict of Fontainebleau exiled pastors, demolished churches, instituted forced baptismsand 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. However, others believe this an exaggeration; while many left, most of France's preeminent Protestant businessmen and industrialists converted and remained. 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 Palatinein 1685 caused a succession crisis, in which Louis’s sister-in-law Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinatehad interests. The death of Max Henry, Archbishop of Cologne produced another succession crisis in 1688.

Moreover, growing concern about France led to the formation of the 1686 League of Augsburgby the Emperor, Spain, Sweden, Saxony and Bavaria; it intended to return France at least to its Treaty of Nijmegen borders. 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.

Lastly, the birth of James II's son and Catholic heir, James Stuart, precipitated the "Glorious Revolution". Protestant William III of Orangesailed 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 devastationof much of southwestern Germany (the “Devastation of the Palatinate”).

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, Steenkerqueand Neerwindenpreserved northern France from invasion and dubbed him "le tapissier de Notre-Dame" for the numerous captured enemy standards he sent to decorate the Cathedral.
Marshal de Luxembourg

Although the attempt to restore James II failed at the Battle of the Boyne, which led to the fall of JacobiteIreland, 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 Monsmarker and the reputedly impregnable fortress of Namurmarker; and Luxembourg’s capture of Charleroimarker gave France the defensive line of the Sambremarker.France also overran most of the Duchy of Savoyafter Marsagliaand Staffarde. While naval stalemate ensued after the French victory at Beachy Headmarker and the Allied victory at Barfleur-La Hougue, the Battle of Torroella exposed Cataloniamarker to French invasion culminating in the capture of Barcelona.Although the Dutch captured Pondicherrymarker, a French raid on the Spanish treasure port of Cartagena (in present-day Colombia) yielded a fortune of 10 000 000 livres.

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

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 IIto name Louis's grandson, Philippe, duc d'Anjou, as heir.

Besides the return of Pondicherrymarker 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. In any case, to him peace in 1697 was victory.

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 Netherlandsand numerous colonies. But he 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 powerand 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 Treatydivided the Italian territories between le Grand Dauphinand 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. Passionately against his empire’s dismemberment, Charles II reiterated his 1693 will, naming Joseph Ferdinand his sole successor.

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. 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 XIIconvinced 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. 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.

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. Moreover, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, marquis de Torcypointed 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”. 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. 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 asientoto 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. 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.

Commencement of fighting

Beginning with Imperial aggression in Italy even before war was officially declared, the War of the Spanish Successionalmost lasted till Louis’s death, proving costly for him. Marlboroughand Eugene of Savoychecked French initial success and broke the myth of French invincibility.

Marlborough and Eugene of Savoy’s victory at Blenheimmarker 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, Ramilliesmarker 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. 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.

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 Almansamarker, Villaviciosa and Brihuegamarker definitively drove Allied forces from central Spain.Moreover, the Allied pyrrhicvictory of Malplaquetrevealed the French difficult to defeat. At 21 000 casualties, the Allies suffered double that of the French, 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.

Road to and conclusion of peace

Accordingly, Anglo-French talks began, culminating in the Treaty of Utrechtin 1713 between France, Spain, Britain, and the Dutch. In 1714, after losing Landaumarker and Freiburgmarker, 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 Newfoundlandmarker, 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-Jeanmarker and Île Royalemarker, 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 Orangemarker, and the Ubaye Valleymarker, 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.


After a reign of 72 years, Louis died of gangreneat 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". His body lies in Royal Basilica of Saint Denismarker outside Paris.

The Dauphin had predeceased Louis in 1711, leaving three children — Louis, Duke of Burgundy, Philip V, and 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 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.

Orléans, however, would have Louis’s will annulled in the Parlement de Parisafter 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.


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".

However, following the fashion of Baroque piety, Louis may have judged himself too harshly. 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 a hundred years between his death and the Revolution to initiate preventative reforms. Moreover, it was the State, not the country, which was impoverished in Louis’s time. One need only look to Lettres Persanesby the socio-political thinker-commentator Montesquieuto observe the wealth and opulence in France at the end of Louis’s reign.
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 EnlightenmentEurope, and Frenchbecame the lingua francafor the entire European elite, even to Romanov Russia. Indeed, as Montesquieu wrote, “[Louis] established the greatness of France by building Versailles and Marly”.

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 Napoleonhonoured Louis as “the only King of France worthy of the name” and “a great king”. Even the German Protestant philosopher Leibnizcommended him as “one of the greatest kings that ever was”, 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.” 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.

Quite contrary to that apocryphalquote, 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").

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 coat of armswere 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( ), a military Order of Chivalry. 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'honneuris awarded to military personnel and civilians alike).



In fiction

Alexandre Dumasportrayed 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. Dumas’s novel The Man in the Iron Maskrecounts 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 Majorwrote "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 historynovelswritten by American science fictionand fantasyauthor Gregory Keyes.

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

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


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Further reading

  • Acton, J. E. E., 1st Baron. (1906). Lectures on Modern History. London: Macmillan and Co.
  • Beik, William. "The Absolutism of Louis XIV as Social Collaboration: Review Article", Past and Present, no. 188 (August 2005), pp. 195–224.
  • 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 En kung blir till (Swedish translation of The fabrication of a king, 1992)
  • Cambridge Modern History vol 5 The Age of Louis XIV (1908)]
  • 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. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000 (hardcover, ISBN 0312261969)
  • Erlanger, Philippe, Louis XIV, Librairie Arthème Fayard, Paris 1965, reprinted by Librairie Académique Perrin, Paris, 1978, (French).
  • 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)
  • 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.
  • Jordan, David. The King's Trial: Louis XVI vs. the French Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004 (paperback, ISBN 0520236971)
  • Lynn, John A., "The Wars of Louis XIV, 1667-1714", New York: Longman, 1999
  • 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.
  • Steingrad, E. (2004). "Louis XIV."
  • 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).
  • Wolf, J. B. (1968). Louis XIV. New York: Norton.

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