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Louis Xiv: the Sun King

By TKorb19 Mar 12, 2013 1470 Words
Louis XIV: The Sun King
“I am the state.” This quote refers to why Louis XIV was called The Sun King. Louis took the sun as the symbol of his power. He stated, “Since the sun stands at the center of the solar system, The Sun King stands at the center of the nation.” Louis XIV ruled France from 1643-1715 and was known as one of the most dominant rulers during the age of absolutism. Louis carried the French monarchy to its peak of absolute power as France became the most dominant country in Europe. Louis was appointed King at such a young age and once his Chief Minister Cardinal Mazarin died, Louis took over the government by himself. Through reforms in politics, economic policies, religious practices, social beliefs, and intellectual ideas and arts, Louis XIV rebuilt France into one of the most dominant countries in Europe.

Louis XIV was born on September 5, 1638 in Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. A couple years later, Louis would become the King of France at just the age of four. Louis XIV was the son of Anne of Austria and Louis XIII of France. Louis XIV only had one sibling, a brother, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans. Over the course of Louis XIV’s childhood, he received a practical education rather than a scholarly education. Louis XIV’s godfather, Chief Minister Cardinal Mazarin, was the one responsible for teaching Louis XIV history, politics, and art. Louis XIV’s governor, Nicolas de Neufville, was appointed to watch over Louis XIV, but incidents where Louis XIV almost drowned showed concerning glimpses of a young King. In 1648, when Louis XIV was still very young, Parliament of Paris rebelled against Mazarin and engaged in a civil war. During the war, Louis had to overcome many issues occurring during the war, such as poverty and starvation. In Louis XIV’s relief, the war ended quickly and Mazarin achieved victory over the rebels. After the war ended, Mazarin stated to build an elaborate administration as Louis XIV just watched and observed his mentor. He was still too young and inexperienced to question Mazarin’s authority. A few years later in 1660, Louis XIV fell in love with Mazarin’s niece, Marie Mancini, but ultimately chose duty over love as he married the King of Spain’s daughter, Marie-Thérèse of Austria. One year later in 1661, Mazarin died, and Louis XIV decided to take over the government himself. Louis XIV had a very successful reign as King by strengthening royal power, boosting the French economy, and by setting high standards in arts and sciences which enlightened France. During his final years as king, France began its decline. In 1685, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes which led to more than 100,000 Huguenots fleeing France. The persecution of the Huguenots was one of Louis XIV’s most costly mistakes as the Huguenots were the most hard-working and prosperous of Louis XIV’s subjects. The War of the Spanish Succession was a long war that dragged from 1701 to 1714. Louis XIV appeared to have been very selfish during this time, placing his personal needs in front of the country’s needs. His goal was to defend the right of his grandson Phillip V, who was the King of Spain. The long war was costly to France leading the country into deep debt. Many of the French that once viewed Louis XIV as a hero, but immediately started to blame him for France’s financial devastation. Louis XIV would later pass away on September 1, 1715 in the Palace of Versailles.

Louis XIV had many reforms in politics, but his first big decision that he made in the political field was taking total control of the whole government. When Louis XIV first announced this, his mother first laughed at his decision even though Louis XIV was very serious about his views on absolute monarchy. Louis XIV would spend many hours each day attending government affairs to help strengthen the state. He did this by expanding the bureaucracy and appointing intendants to the provinces. Louis XIV would then treat his country very well after building the palace of Versailles which was a magnificent building that had beautiful statues, chandeliers, and magnificent gardens. The palace of Versailles housed at least 100,000 people ranging from nobles and officials to servants. This would show Louis XIV’s power, wealth, and good connection to the French people.

France had a very good economy when Louis XIV was paired with his brilliant finance minister, Jean Baptiste Colbert. Colbert followed mercantilist policies to help boost the economy. Colbert cleared new lands for farming, encouraged mining and other basic industries, and also built up luxury trades such as lacemaking. Colbert would protect French manufacturers as he put high tariffs on imported goods and also encouraged overseas colonies to regulate trade with France to enrich France’s royal treasury. Colbert’s policies helped make France one of the wealthiest countries in Europe. Yet Louis XIV was still short of cash because of his court and the amount of foreign wars that occurred. The French economy would soon become stagnant, since France would only receive from other countries and never give. This resulted in France’s trading partners becoming poor and unable to trade.

Louis XIV was always involved in the religious field and also religious questions. Louis XIV held very simple religious views and his major one was that the King controlled the Catholic Church. Louis XIV used a similar policy in the Church as he did in political appointments. Louis XIV ignored the Noblesse de Blood, also known as the nobles, when it came to church appointments and appointed men from the Noblesse de Robe. During most of Louis XIV’s reign, he ordered the persecution of the Jansenists and was even less tolerant to the Huguenots. Those that believed in Jansenism believed in predestination which was against the Catholic Church’s views. Louis XIV’s religious views would cause clashes with various popes but they could not take on one of Europe's most powerful monarchs and Louis XIV got his way regarding religion. To Louis XIV, what was good for him was good for France, he saw no difference in the two, and a Church that was subordinate to Louis XIV was good for him.

During Louis XIV’s reign, France was broken up into three estates: Clergy, nobility, and other. The first estate, the clergy, were very powerful and wealthy. The second estate, the nobility, consisted of both “new” nobles and “old” nobles. The “new” nobles were people that bought their titles of nobility where as the “old” nobles were more respected because they were born into nobility. The third estate was filled with peasants and artisans who the lower of the rest of the social classes. The people of France had a very good way of living as Louis XIV was very unselfish throughout his reign until his late years. Louis let many people stay at the palace of Versailles and was very giving to the French people. During Louis XIV’s reign, women stole the spotlight once ballet rose because women were mainly used in them. Women seemed to actually mean something during this time even though they still didn’t get the credit they deserved.

Louis XIV was a big fan of music and art; he sponsored many musical entertainments and commissioned plays by the best writers. During the age of Louis XIV, it was also the classical age of French drama. French styles in painting, music, architecture, and decorative arts would be the model for all of Europe. A new form of dance called “ballet”, gained its first great popularity at the French court. As the leading patron of culture, Louis XIV sponsored the French academies, which set high standards for both the arts and the sciences.

Louis XIV was a very productive King that helped rebuild France to be the most dominant country in Europe. He ruled the whole government, helped strengthen royal power, boosted the economy, and built the palace of Versailles to show its power. Louis XIV had many failures toward the end of his reign. Negatives were the amount of money he spent on wars and the many groups of people he persecuted. Although his successes might be overlooked by his failures, he was still a very good ruler that will go down as one of the most dominant rulers during the age of Absolutism.

Works cited
http://www.louis-xiv.de/index.php?id=31
Prentice hall world history book
http://www.slideshare.net/ProfWillAdams/hum1020-1330-louis-xivs-economic-political-military-policies http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_XIV_of_France
http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/louis_xiv_and_religion.htm http://www.enotes.com/count-frontenac-new-france-under-louis-xiv-salem/count-frontenac-new-france-under-louis-xiv http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Louis_XIV.aspx

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