The Absolute Monarch of Louis XIV
absolutism - a form of government in which all power is vested in a single ruler or other authority
The Sun King, Louis XIV of France, inherited the throne upon his father’s death in 1643. Only 5 years old and by law too young to rule, his mother Anne of Austria became Queen Regent and appointed Cardinal Mazarin as chief minister. Louis’ mother instilled in him at a young age the concept of divine right of the king to do what he chooses. Mazarin proved to be a crucial figure in Louis XIV’s life, teaching not only of European policy and the secrets of state, but also of splendor and the power of imagery. Louis’ obsession with a luxurious lifestyle and a glamorous court life led to his eventual downfall. In 1661, Louis XIV’s mentor and surrogate father, Cardinal Mazarin, died. This marked a turning point in Louis’ reign, when he banished all members of nobility from the king’s council. He insured that no new chief minister would replace Mazarin. He claimed absolute power over France and was vigilant of any challenge on his authority. Louis XIV’s most infamous course of action was the building of Versailles. It would be an understatement to say that Louis spent a modern equivalent of billions of dollars on this project. The taxes imposed upon French citizens to complete Versailles exacted a great toll. As his people fell victim to famine, crop failure, and poverty, Louis still continued to put finishing touches on Versailles. It became the hub of Louis’ centralized power, and he flaunted it to visitors. He wanted the extravance of Versailles to represent the glamour of France in the eyes of foreigners. The city bled due to Louis’ desire to outdo all of Europe and there were no politicians under him to advise him otherwise. His persistent effort to modernize France, while France did develop a reputation of renowned glamour and spectacle throughout Europe, seriously harmed him country.
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