November 18, 2011
Louis XIV became the most beloved king of France and then became despised. The consequences of his childhood and the people who raised him developed his calm and confident personality. This led him to create his own destiny. “While he never doubted that he had been chosen by God to sit on the throne, and that he was His direct representative, that meant he considered himself something like a trustee. France and the French, did not belong to him: rather, he had been placed at their head so that he might improve their lot.”1 Known as the Sun King, Louis XIV was the supreme figure of the 17th century and was notable mainly for sustaining a supreme monarchy, building France as the strongest country in the world and increasing the size of the chateau Versailles to be the greatest palace and court the world had ever known.
Louis XIV could be classified as a “miracle baby.” His parents, Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, married when they were both 14 years of age but quickly grew to hate each other.2 When they had been married for 23 years, they tried to avoid each other as best they could, and often lived apart.3 One night, the weather intervened and placed the king back in the bed of his wife. Although she despised her husband, Anne did want to produce an heir and it was so seldom that she saw her husband.4 Nine months later, on September 5, 1638, a healthy baby boy was born and was named: Louis Dieudonne,or, Louis, Gift of God.5
Louis XIII was of course thrilled. He and Anne had another child two years later, also a boy named, Philippe.6 But Louis XIII died in 1643 of tuberculosis.7 This left little five year old Louis and his mother in a precarious state. Louis XIII’s will had made Anne, Regent, but also set up a four person council that had to approve all her actions.8 This really weakened the strength of the monarchy that Louis XIII’s prime minister, Richelieu, had worked so hard to build up.9 The Queen Regent and her Council agreed that the will needed to be broken. They also needed the agreement of Parlement, who concurred that “royal authority should be one and indivisible.”10 Even so, Parlement had been itching to do something and exert their power. The nobles set about trying to enact some laws and Regent Anne could do little to stop them because her chief general was at war.11 She was told by Cardinal Mazarin, who would later become the Prime Minister, to hold her peace but she could not and impulsively had three outspoken members of Parlement jailed.12 This set off a several year fronde -(french for slingshot) meaning that the nobles and bourgeois rebelled against the throne.13 Regent Anne and little Louis ran for their lives, several times, as did her trusted advisor, Cardinal Mazarin.14 This was of course, quite humiliating for the monarchy and little Louis never forgot the severe financial hardships that they suffered during this time as there were no taxes being levied and no income for the royal household.15 Many, many deals and alliances were made, and broken. Many battles were fought during the fronde. One of the few things that saved the monarchy was the pitting of the nobles against each other.16 Finally, in 1653 when Louis XIV was 15, the fronde ended because no single, strong opposition emerged and the people grew weary of the civil unrest and the traumas that were inflicted on their lives and land.17
In June of 1654, at the age of 15, Louis XIV was coronated and set about enjoying the life of a King, by riding, hunting, dancing and courting women.18 It appeared to many that he would need a prime minister forever but they greatly underestimated him.19 Mazarin, who Louis XIV retained as Prime Minister, was an accomplished pupil of Richelieu20 and was only too happy to set France back on her feet. Mazarin was a Sicillian and was distrusted by the...