King Louis XIV of France (also known as the Sun King) had a very long lasting reign. He reigned for 72 years, more than any other European sovereign. He ascended the throne of France at only 19 years old. Being so young and inexperienced, he became an immature and indecisive ruler.
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King Louis XIV is well-known for his opulent way of living, always displaying his richness. He transformed the French monarchy and brought his country in a golden age of art and literature. Louis XIV presided over an impressive royal court at Versailles Palace, making it the shiniest palace in the world at the time.
The wonderful palace and huge gardens of Versailles, Photo Source: beingsakin.wordpress.com
Luxurious galleries at Versailles, Photo Source: martinsoler.com
During his long lasting reign, Louis XIV, France became a dominant European power and annexed important territories. But the situation was not always like that.
Early life and reign
The future Louis XIV was the firstborn of king Louis XIII and Anne of Austria after 23 years of marriage. Considering their beloved baby boy to be a miracle, he was baptized Louis-Dieudonne (meaning Gift of God). Young Louis was only four when his father died and thus inherited the crown. His regent was the queen Anne, assisted by her close confidant and chief minister, cardinal Jules Mazarin.
Louis XIV as a child, Photo Source: devoire-de-philosophie.com
During his childhood, Louis managed to escape various deadly threats:
- at 5 years old, he was about to drown in a pool in the royal garden
- at 9, he got ill with smallpox, and after 10 days, his doctors concluded that he “miraculously” got well
- at 19, the king suffered a food poisoning. After 8 days, priests prepared him for sacrament, but the queen’s doctor administrated a medicine which “miraculously” cured him
During Louis’ first years of reign, policies to enforce the monarchy’s power were installed. These angered the nobility and started revolts. While the royal family was forced to fee Paris, fear of rebellion got deep roots in the young king’s mind. At 22, Louis married his first cousin Marie Therese, the infant of Spain. Their marriage produced six children, but only one (Louis) survived to adulthood (although Louis also had some illegitimate offspring with his mistresses).
Assuming control of France
After the cardinal Mazarin died, Louis announced his rule without a chief minister, against all traditions. He ruled as an absolute monarch, assuming the title of “Roi Soleil” (Sun King), and regarding himself as the representative of God on Earth.
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After assuming control of the government, a set of reforms was implemented. These reforms reduced deficit, helped industry grow and the army was reorganized. Also, former rebellious nobles were stripped of their riches and power by being lured to the opulent lifestyle at the court.
Arts and the royal court during the long lasting reign of Louis XIV
Louis XIV can be regarded as a great patron of arts. Various artists frequented his court, such as Moliere, Charles le Brun, Jean-Baptiste Lully, etc. He appointed himself the patron of the French Academy and established various science and arts institutes.
The king has built a series of opulent and extravagant buildings and castles, which drained all the population’s financial resources and gave birth to various accusations. The most impressive transformation was a hunting lodge in Versailles, that was turned into a fabulous castle. Here did Louis move his court in 1682.
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A complex etiquette system was used to assert the king’s supremacy. The nobility and foreign dignitaries were being impressed by lavish feasts, entertainment and ceremonies.
At the peak of his reign, Louis began to acquire more territories. He began with a campaign in the Spanish Netherlands. But, under pressure from the English, Swedish and Dutch, he retired his troops and returned the region to Spain. Being unsatisfied with the few frontiers in Flanders acquired after the campaign, Louis started the Franco-Dutch war, after which more territory in Flanders was gained, as well as the French-Compte.
France’s power was considered a threat by England, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. These three nations, together with other smaller countries, united against another expansionist attempt, forming the Grand Alliance. After this war of 9 years, France was drained by all resources, prone to famine and full of debt.
The Edict of Nantes, signed by Louis’ Grandfather, Henry IV, French Protestants were allowed freedom of worship and other privileges. But, after Louis signed the Edict of Fountainbleau, Protestant churches were destroyed, schools closed and clergy expelled. They were stripped of all privileges, their marriage declared null, and were required Catholic baptism and education.
Death of Louis XIV
Few days before his 77th birthday, Louis XIV died of gangrene. He reigned for 72 years, leaving a great mark on the history, culture and destiny of France. he was succeeded by his 5-year-old grandson, Louis XV.
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Would you have liked to live at such a lavish and extravagant court?
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