Louis XIV

(Louis XIV of France)


Louis XIV, known by his people as the Sun King, was ruler of both France and Navarre. Believing himself to be divinely appointed, he held fast to the reigns of government from the time he assumed power until his death at age 76. He engaged in several wars throughout his rule, which increased both the size and prestige of France. He made many changes to the way France was governed that tended to consolidate power in the hands of the monarch.

Louis became king following the death of his father, but Cardinal Mazarin, appointed by his mother, was the real leader of France until his death nineteen years later. After taking over as sole ruler, Louis pushed for administrative and economic reforms and appointed Jean-Baptiste Colbert as Controller-General of Finances. He reduced the national debt and planned to improve French trade. Religiously, he was a staunch Catholic, but he still strived to increase the power of the monarchy while lowering papal authority, granting him control over the actions of French priests and bishops. In an unpopular turn, he created a decree that sanctioned slavery, but he won back support by revoking the Edict of Nantes, a promise of religious toleration that had long been unpopular in Catholic France. Louis was known for his wealth and splendor, and he commissioned the building of Versailles, one of the most luxurious palaces in Europe, where he stayed with his Court so that he might keep an eye on their goings-on.

It was Louis XIVís many wars that eventually brought on Franceís economic downfall. He kept France at war for thirty-three years of his reign, the most famous confrontation being the War of the Spanish Succession. After the death of Charles II of Spain, Louisís grandson, Philip of Anjou, was appointed King of Spain, but Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I fought to claim the throne for the Habsburg dynasty. Battling against England, the Habsburg monarchy, the Netherlands, and several German states, France was battered by defeat and mounting debts as well as two massive famines. After 1709, however, the war turned in favor of the French; Leopold I and his son passed away, leaving the Austrian claim to the Archduke Charles, whose acquisition of Spanish land would upset the balance of power almost as much as Philipís. After the warís end, Louisís grandson retained Spain on the understanding that the French and Spanish crowns would never be united. Louis died of gangrene in 1715, one year after the final peace settlements were made.

Key events during the life of Louis XIV:

Born in the Ch‚teau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Became king but was too young to rule
Start of the first Fronde, a French Civil War
Married Maria Theresa of Spain
Began to personally govern France following the death of his prime minister
Engaged in War of Devolution against the Habsburg Empire
Assembly of the Clergy granted Louis power greater than the Pope's
Death of Maria Theresa, Louis married Madame de Maintenon
Revoked the Edict of Nantes
War of the Spanish Succession
Treaty of Utrecht retained balance of world powers
Died of gangrene

Book Links
Louis XIV  by  John S. C. Abbott

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Charcoal Man and the King  in  Fifty Famous People  by  James Baldwin
Man in the Iron Mask  in  Thirty More Famous Stories Retold  by  James Baldwin
The Man with the Iron Mask  in  Old Time Tales  by  Lawton B. Evans
House of Bourbon (cont2)  in  France: Peeps at History  by  John Finnemore
Louis XIV  in  Famous Men of Modern Times  by  John H. Haaren
Diligent King  in  The Story of France  by  Mary Macgregor
Martyr to his Profession  in  Historical Tales: French  by  Charles Morris
Man with the Iron Mask  in  Historical Tales: French  by  Charles Morris
Greatness of France  in  The Awakening of Europe  by  M. B. Synge

Image Links

Louis XIV at breakfast, surrounded by his courtiers.
 in Louis XIV

Louis XIV directing the siege
 in Louis XIV

Announcement of the Death of Louis XIV
 in Louis XIV

Louis XIV and the charcoal man
 in Fifty Famous People

Louis of Bourbon, the Boy-King of France
 in Historic Boys

The Bed of Justice: On a broad dias, topped with a canapy of crimson and gold, five great cushions were arranged
 in Historic Boys

The death-bed of Louis XIV.: 'My child, you are about to become a great king; do not imitate me.'
 in Historic Boys

Louis XIV. and Mademoiselle de la Valliere
 in The Story of Old France

Louis XIV. and Madame de Maintenon receiving at court
 in The Story of Old France

Louis XIV and Moliere
 in The Story of Old France

Reception of Turenne by Louis XIV at Versailles.
 in Famous Men of Modern Times
Louis XIV.
Louis XIV.
 in Back Matter
Moliere at Breakfast with Louis XIV.
Moliere at Breakfast with Louis XIV.
 in Back Matter

Louis XIV of France
 in Builders of Our Country: Book I

Prince Eugene before King Louis the Fourteenth.
 in  Prince Eugene, the Noble Knight

Short Biography
Eugene of Savoy One of the Greatest generals of the Hapsburg Empire. Led Austria during the War of Spanish Succession.
Prince of Conde Renowned Marshal of France during the age of Louis XVI. Fought in numerous wars including Fronde, thirty years, and Franco-Dutch.
Colbert As minister of Finance, improved France's economy under the extravagant Louis XIV.
Rene La Salle Dauntless adventurer who followed the Mississippi to its mouth, and claimed all for France.
Pere Marquette French Missionary who explored the Mississippi River from the Great Lakes.