Louis XIV, The Sun King

Louis XIV, The Sun


Louis XIV was only four years old when
he succeeded his father to the French throne. Often uncared for, he nearly
drowned because no one was watching him as he played near a pond. This
began to shape in his young mind an early fear of God.

Louis\' character was also shaped by the

French Civil War. In this, the Paris Parlement rose against the crown.

For five years, Louis would suffer fear, cold, hunger and other spirit-breaking
events. He would never forgive Paris, the nobles, or the common people.

Finally, in 1653, Cardinal Jules Mazarin
was able to end the rebellion. He began to instruct Louis on his position
as king. Even though Louis XIV was now of age, the Cardinal remained the
dominant authority in French politics.

French kings gained respect as a soldier;

Louis served with the French army during France\'s war with Spain. His biggest
battle, however, was sacrificing his love for Mazarin\'s niece for politics.

In 1660 he married the daughter of the king of Spain to bring peace between
the two countries.

Mazarin died March 9, 1661. On March 10,

Louis claimed supreme authority in France. Not since Henry IV had such
a claim been made. Louis saw himself as God\'s representative on earth,
therefore, infallible. He oversaw roadbuilding, court decorum, defense,
and disputes within the church.

He had the support initially of his ministers,
then that of the French people. He had given France the image it desired-youth
and vitality surrounded by magnificence. Louis won the favor of the nobles
by making it evident that their future depended on their ability stay on
his good side. This weakened the nobility, and would eventually weaken


Louis had among his supportors a wide spectrum
of individuals. Writers such as Moliere were ordered to glorify him. Monuments
rose throughout the country and Louis had palaces built in his honor. The
most elaborate was Versailles, located outside Paris. Away from disease,

Versailles also isolated the king from his people. The aristocracy became

France was also undergoing an economic
revolution. Exports were increased, and a navy, merchant marine, and police
association emerged. Roads, ports and canals were being built. He invaded
the Spanish Nederlands in 1667. The restarted war between France and Spain
would be on again, off again for the remainder of Louis\' reign.

In 1668, the French army retreated under
pressure from Dutch and English forces. Louis swore to defeat the Dutch
and ruin their Protestant mercantile republic. He allied himself with his
cousin, Charles II of England, and invaded the Netherlands in 1672. Louis
was victorious when the Treaty of Mijmegen was signed in 1678. When the

Dutch were defeated, he had also defeated its allies, Spain and the Holy

Roman Empire. France\'s borders had expanded to the north and the east.

His navy had become as as large as that of England and Holland.

His private life was not as fortunate.

Friends had been implicated in the Affair of the Poisons, where eminent
people had been accused of sorcery and murder. Louis ordered his court
to become discrete. The seat of Government was transferred to Versailles
in 1682. When the Queen died, he married her Mme de Maintenon, who had
been governess to the King\'s children.

Louis did not understand the reformation,
and he viewed French Protestants as threats to the throne. He revoked the

Edict of Nantes, which had granted them freedom of worship. Many left France,
those that remained were persecuted.

England, the Dutch, and the Holy Roman

Empire united in 1688 in the Grand Alliance to stop French expansion. This
war ended in 1697 with the signing of the Treaty of Rijswijk. France lost
part of its territory, and Louis lost public support. He was forced to
recognize William of Orange as king of England. This went against his belief
that the Stuarts had divine right to the throne.

Charles II, the last Habsburg king of Spain
died in 1700, and bequeathed his kingdoms to Louis\' grandson, Philip of

Anjou (Philip V). Although initially opposed to the inheritance, Louis
finally went along with it in order to prevent Spain from falling into
the hands of the Holy Roman emperor, Leopold I, who disputed Philip\'s claim.

In the War of the Spanish Succession the
anti-French alliance was reactivated by William of Orange. By 1709, France
was near to losing all it had gained over the past century. Louis\' private
life was also a wreck: his son, two grandsons, and a great grandson died.

Instead of breaking down as was expected, he held himself together. He
bore not only his personal losses, but also the losses France had suffered
with remarkable grace.