Louis XIV


Louis XIV
(1638-1715)
   king of France
   King of France from 1643 to 1715, Louis XIV, the son of louis x III and anne of Austria, was born at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. He was only five years old when his father died. His mother served as regent with the help of Cardinal mazarin during the period troubled by the fronde. It was these events that impressed on the young Louis a belief in royal absolutism and his fear of living in Paris. His education, while not neglected, remained rudimentary, but Mazarin took great care to initiate him in affairs of state. The Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659) arranged for his marriage to the Infanta maria theresa of Spain, while other terms of this treaty formed much of the basis for foreign policy for the rest of his reign. Louis's first political act, when he took power after the death of Mazarin, was to assume the role and powers of prime minister. He then began to develop in France the structure of divine-right state absolutism, already adopted by the Stuarts in England and as defined by jacques-bénigne bossuet in his Politique tirée de l' Écriture sainte. Louis concentrated all power in his hands, keeping to the side even his family and mistresses, including Mme de la vallière, Mme de montespan, and Mme de maintenon, whom he secretly married but who never played an important political role. His ministers were merely executors of his policies and were mostly from the bourgeoisie (jean-baptiste Colbert). The nobility, aside from those in the military, played a purely ceremonial role, while the parlements, too, lost much of their power. The regime was supported by a corps of royal police agents. Parallel to the development of the theory of absolutism was that of the cult of the Sun King (Roi-Soleil) incarnate in Louis and centered at Versailles, which was the royal residence after 1672. From there, Louis led a regime based on prestige and conquest. The economic policies of Colbert allowed the government the wealth to pursue an aggressive foreign policy based on affirming French supremacy and extending the nation to its natural borders. Soon, however, there were setbacks. During the War of Devolution (1667-68), Louis invaded the Spanish Netherlands. His quick victories prompted Holland, England, and Sweden to check France, but Louis gained 12 fortresses in Flanders and soon isolated Holland by buying English and Swedish neutrality. In 1672, he attacked Holland and, at the Treaty of Nijmegen (1678), gained the Franche-Comté and other territory. Both France and Louis reached their apogee, with Louis being awarded the title "le Grand" by the city of Paris. Internally, Louis intensified persecution of French Protestants (see huguenots), and in 1685, he revoked the edict of nantes, forcing more than 200,000 of his subjects into exile and igniting the camisard revolt. He also aggressively attacked the Jansenist movement within the French Catholic Church (see jansenism). Louis also continued his aggressive foreign policy with the invasion of the Palatinate in 1688, in which, however, he gained little at the subsequent Peace of Ryswick. His last major military venture, the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), ended in the Treaty of Utrecht, which gave France control in Spain but caused the surrender of several North American territories to the British. In the arts, Louis's achievements include the performances of the plays of molière and jean racine at the royal court and the musical presentations of lully at the same setting. Louis XIV founded the Academy of Painting and Sculpture (1655), of Science (1666), and Architecture (1671) and, in 1680, established the comédie-française. The great architectural glory of Versailles itself is his monument. But Louis was never able to resolve the tensions between an absolute government and a bureaucracy committed to efficiency. Louis's perpetual pursuit of glory, military expansionism, and underestimation of other powers, especially England, as well as the loss of colonial territory and his indifference to financial excess, all left for his successors in the regency government a weakened nation and eventually grave economic and political crises.

France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present . 1884.

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  • Louis XIV — • King of France, b. at Saint Germain en Laye, 16 September, 1638; d. at Versailles, 1 September, 1715; was the son of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, and became king, upon the death of his father, 14 May 1643 Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight …   Catholic encyclopedia

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  • Louis XIV — ( the Great ; the Sun King ) 1638 1715, king of France 1643 1715 (son of Louis XIII). * * * known as the Sun King born Sept. 5, 1638, Saint Germain en Laye, France died Sept. 1, 1715, Versailles King of France (1643–1715), ruler during one of… …   Universalium

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  • LOUIS XIV —    the Grand Monarque, son of the preceding, was only nine when his father died, and the government was in the hands of his mother, Anne of Austria, and Cardinal Mazarin, her minister; under the regency the glory of France was maintained in the… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia


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