Louis XIV of France Biography
Birthday: September 5, 1638
Died At Age: 76
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: Louis XIV, Louis the Great, The Sun King
Born Country: France
Born in: Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France
Famous as: King of France
Spouse/Ex-: Maria Theresa of Spain, Marquise de Maintenon
father: Louis XIII of France
mother: Anne of Austria
siblings: Duke of Orléans, Philippe I
children: Charles de La Baume Le Blanc, Count of Vermandois, Count of Vexin, Duke of Anjou, Duke of Maine, Françoise Marie de Bourbon, Grand Dauphin, Louis, Louis - Count of Vermandois, Louis - Grand Dauphin, Louis Alexandre - Count of Toulouse, Louis Auguste, Louis Auguste - Duke of Maine, Louis César, Louis César - Count of Vexin, Louis François, Louis François - Duke of Anjou, Louise de Maisonblanche, Louise Françoise de Bourbon, Louise Marie Anne de Bourbon, Madame Royale, Marie Anne de Bourbon, Marie Thérèse, Marie Thérèse of France (1667–1672), Philippe Charles, Philippe Charles - Duke of Anjou, Princess Anne Élisabeth of France, Princess Marie Anne of France
Died on: September 1, 1715
place of death: Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France
Founder/Co-Founder: Académie royale d'architecture, Académie Royale de Danse, Paris Opera, Royal Academy of Dance, French Academy of Sciences, Paris Opera Ballet
Louis XIV of France, also known as Louis the Great or the Sun King, was the king of France from 1643 until his death in 1715. A monarch of the House of Bourbon, he was the son of the French King Louis XIII and his Spanish Queen Anne of Austria. His father died when Louis was a child and he succeeded his father in 1643 at the age of four years and eight months. His mother ruled as a regent on his behalf for the next few years. However, it was the Chief Minister Cardinal Jules Mazarin who held the true power throughout the young king’s early reign. It was only after the death of the chief minister in 1661 that Louis could begin his independent rule. As the king, he opted to continue some of his predecessor’s policies regarding the governance and sought to eliminate feudalism from all parts of France. He proved to be a capable and powerful king and led his country in three major wars: the ‘Franco-Dutch War,’ the ‘War of the League of Augsburg,’ and the ‘War of the Spanish Succession.’ Having ascended the throne at such a young age, he had a long reign; in fact, his reign of 72 years and 110 days is the longest of any monarch from a major country in European history.
- Louis XIV of France was born Louis Dieudonné on 5 September 1638, in the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, to King Louis XIII and Anne of Austria. Prior to his birth, his mother had given birth to four stillborn babies, and thus he was regarded as a divine gift from God.
- His father became gravely ill and died in 1643 and Louis Dieudonné ascended the throne as King Louis XIV at the age of four years and eight months. He was extremely close to his mother who ruled as a regent on his behalf for the next few years.
- Although it was his mother Anne who was the regent during the young king’s rule, the real power was in the hands of the Chief Minister Cardinal Jules Mazarin. It was only after the chief minister’s death in 1661 that Louis XIV could begin his independent rule.
- Coming to power in his 20s, the king quickly set about reforming France. He announced to his subjects that he would rule independently without a chief minister, much to their astonishment.
- He started implementing administrative and fiscal reforms, and took the first major step of appointing Jean-Baptiste Colbert as Controller-General of Finances in 1665. The treasury verged on bankruptcy in the 1660s and Colbert was successful in reducing the national debt through more efficient taxation.
- He was also a patron of arts and culture and generously funded and commissioned various artists in different fields. He extended support to writers and visual artists like Molière, Racine, Pierre Mignard, Antoine Coysevox, and Hyacinthe Rigaud, making their works famous throughout Europe. He founded the ‘Académie Royale de Danse’ in 1661 and the ‘Académie d'Opéra’ in 1669.
- He wanted to claim the Spanish Netherlands and attacked the Habsburg-controlled Spanish Netherlands and the Franche-Comté in 1667. The conflicts became known as the ‘War of Devolution’ which came to an end with the implementation of the ‘Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.’
- Dissatisfied with the outcome of the war, he engaged France in an even greater war, the ‘Franco-Dutch War’ from 1672 to 1678. This war proved to be a success for him and he managed to gain control over the Franche-Comté and some cities in Flanders and Hainaut, all formerly controlled by Spain.
- The decisive victory in the war established France as a dominant power in Europe, and he gained a reputation for brutality and arrogance. The French were also able to establish colonies in the Americas, Asia, and Africa during his reign. By the 1680s, France had become a major power not just in Europe, but in the whole world.
- In spite of becoming the most powerful monarch in Europe, Louis XIV was still unsatisfied with the extent of his power and fame. In 1688, he became involved in another major war, the ‘War of the Grand Alliance’ or the ‘War of the League of Augsburg,’ which was fought between France and a European-wide coalition, the ‘Grand Alliance.’
- ‘The Grand Alliance’ was led by major European rulers like the Anglo-Dutch Stadtholder King William III, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, King Charles II of Spain, and Victor Amadeus II of Savoy. The war continued for nine years and finally came to an end in 1697.
- By the end of the war, France managed to retain most of its territories but the country’s resources were significantly drained. The war also marked the beginning of the decline of the hitherto invincible, King Louis XIV.
- The declining fortunes of the French empire were further aggravated by the ‘War of the Spanish Succession’ which broke out in 1701. Louis sent his troops to secure the Spanish Netherlands but France’s participation in the war proved to be fatal to the country’s already dwindling economy. The war lasted many years and plunged France deep into debt. By the end of his reign, Louis XIV had completely lost the support and respect of his subjects.
- Louis XIV was famous for his love for wars. He ambitiously entered the ‘Franco-Dutch War’ in 1672, by forming an alliance with England and some Rhineland princes. By the end of the war, France had gained control over the Franche-Comté and some cities in Flanders and Hainaut and emerged as an influential force in Europe.
- ‘The War of the Spanish Succession’ was the last major war he fought. He entered the war with the aim of securing Spanish Netherlands and dominating Spanish American trade at the expense of English and Dutch merchants. The war, however, proved too costly for France as it severely depleted the country’s resources and led to King Louis XIV’s decline.
- He married Maria Theresa of Spain in 1660. It was a political marriage that resulted in the birth of six children of whom only one survived to adulthood. His wife died in 1683.
- His second marriage was to Françoise d'Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon who was once his mistress.
- He also had numerous mistresses and fathered a number of children through them.
- King Louis XIV of France spent 72 years on the throne and outlived most of his immediate family members. He was very ill during his last days and suffered constant pain from gangrene. He died on 1 September 1715, four days before his 77th birthday. He was succeeded by his five-year-old great-grandson, Louis, Duke of Anjou.
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