Louis XIV, France's Sun King, had the longest reign in European history (1643-1715). During this time he brought absolute monarchy to its height, established a glittering court at Versailles, and fought most of the other European countries in four wars. The early part of his reign (1643-61), while Louis was young, was dominated by the chief minister Cardinal Mazarin. In the middle period (1661-85) Louis reigned personally and innovatively, but the last years of his personal rule (1685-1715) were beset by problems.
Born on Sept. 5, 1638, Louis was the first, regarded as "god-given," child of the long-married Louis XIII and his Habsburg wife, Anne of Austria. He succeeded his father on the throne at the age of four. However, he was also a neglected child, cared for by servants. Once he almost drowned in a pond because no one was watching him. However, his mother, Anne of Austria who caused the neglect, instilled in him a lasting fear of "crimes committed against God". While his mother was regent the great nobles and the judges of the parlement of Paris launched a major but uncoordinated revolt (the Fronde of 1648-53) in reaction to the centralizing policies of Louis XIII's minister Cardinal Richelieu and his successor, Mazarin. The royal family was twice driven out of Paris, and at one point Louis XIV and Anne were held under virtual arrest in the royal palace in Paris. This civil war brought Louis XIV poverty, misfortune, fear, humiliation, cold and hunger. This shaped his character and he would never forgive either Paris, the nobles, or the common people. Cardinal Mazarin was victorious in 1653 and constructed an extraordinary administration for the kingdom.
Mazarin finally suppressed the Fronde and restored internal order. The Peace of Westphalia (1648), which ended the Thirty Years' War, together with the Peace of the Pyrenees (1659), which concluded prolonged warfare with Spain, made France the leading European power. The... [continues]
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