The Sun King, Louis XIV was only four years old when he succeeded his father to the French throne. Often not cared for, he nearly drowned because no one was watching him as he played near a pond. (The Sun King) This began to shape in his young mind, and gave him an early fear of God. Louis was also shaped by the French Civil War. In this, the Paris Parliament rose against the crown.
For five years, Louis would suffer fear, cold, hunger and other spirit-breaking events. He would never forgive Paris, the nobles, or the common people. Finally, in 1653, Cardinal Jules Mazarin was able to end the rebellion. He began to instruct Louis on his position as king. Even though Louis the XIV was now of age, the Cardinal remained the dominant authority in French politics. Louis served with the French army during France’s war with Spain. His biggest battle was sacrificing his love for Mazarin’s niece for politics. In 1660 he married the daughter of the king of Spain to bring peace between the two countries. Mazarin died March 9, 1661. On March 10, Louis claimed supreme authority in France. Not since Henry IV had such a claim been made.
Louis saw himself as God’s representative on earth, therefore, infallible.(Louis XIV and the French Monarchy) He oversaw road building, court decorum, defense, and disputes within the church. He had the support of his ministers, and the French people. He had given France the image it desired, youth and vitality surrounded by magnificence. Louis won the favor of the nobles by making it evident that their future depended on their ability stay on his good side. This weakened the nobility, and would eventually weaken France. Louis had among his supporters a wide spectrum of individuals. Writers such as Moliere were ordered to glorify him. Monuments rose throughout the country and Louis had palaces built in his honor. The most elaborate was Versailles, located outside Paris. Away from disease, Versailles also isolated the king from his people. France was also undergoing an economic revolution. Exports were increased, and a navy, merchant marine, and police association emerged. Roads, ports, and canals were being built. He invaded the Spanish Netherlands in 1667. The restarted war between France and Spain would be on again, off again for the remainder of Louis’ reign. In 1668, the French army retreated under pressure from Dutch and English forces. Louis swore to defeat the Dutch and ruin their Protestant mercantile republic. He allied himself with his cousin, Charles II of England, and invaded the Netherlands in 1672. Louis was victorious when the Treaty of Mijmegen was signed in 1678. When the Dutch were defeated, he had also defeated its allies, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. France’s borders had expanded to the north and the east. His navy had become as large as that of England and Holland. His private life was not as fortunate. Friends had been implicated in the Affair of the Poisons, where eminent people had been accused of sorcery and murder. Louis ordered his court to become discrete. The seat of Government was transferred to Versailles in 1682. When the Queen died, he married Mme de Maintenon, who had been governess to the King’s children. Louis did not understand the reformation, and he viewed French Protestants as threats to the throne. He revoked the Edict of Nantes, which had granted them freedom of worship. Many left France, those that remained were persecuted. England, the Dutch, and the Holy Roman Empire united in 1688 in the Grand Alliance to stop French expansion. This war ended in 1697 with the signing of the Treaty of Rijswijk. France lost part of its territory, and Louis lost public support. He was forced to recognize William of Orange as king of England. This went against his belief that the Stuarts had divine right to the throne. A passion for fame and the desire to increase French territory in Europe were the leading motives of Louis XIV. He neglected the opportunities to gain an empire in America and India and involved France in wars that ruined the country financially and paved the way for the outbreak of the French Revolution.
Louis died in 1715, at the age of 77. His body was carried to the Saint-Denis basilica. His heir, the last son of the Duc de Bourgogne, was a sickly five-year-old child. Louis had distrusted his nephew, the Duc d’Orleans, and wanted to leave actual power in the hands of the Duc du Maine. He left orders in his will to make it so. The Parliament of Paris convened to fight the will and, in doing so, rediscovered its own power. This would set in motion a series of events that would lead to revolution. Though praised within his country, outside of France Louis had a vicious reputation. Although credited with bringing France to the status it achieved, his policies concerning religion, his isolation of the throne at Versailles, and his last will combined to lead to the downfall of the monarchy. Though seen as a strong ruler, France lost power under him. He wanted France to prosper, and its citizens suffered. Still considering him infallible, he only saw the glorious image of France.