Biography of King of Francia Luis XIV (1638-1715)

Luis XIV of France. Rigaud. Louvre. Paris.

King of France, born in Saint-Germaine-en-Laye on the 5 September 1638 and died on 1 September 1715, at Versailles. Reigned for fifty-four years, from 1661 until his death, a period in which, guided by the Sun King, as its apologists was called, France achieved hegemony over Europe and lived one of the brightest periods of its history.

Minority and the influence of Mazzarino

Luis was the firstborn son of Luis XIII and Anne of Austria. It was just four years old and half when his father died, May 14, 1643, which made him King. The Regency was entrusted to the Queen mother who, little avezada in politics, put in charge of the Government the cardinal Mazzarino, Prime Minister of the late monarch. Mazzarino, which has been often claimed that he/she married in secret to Ana de Austria, exerted a deep imprint in the education of Luis XIV. This proved a lively intelligence, nurtured by a careful education humanist who gave him a good knowledge of latin, of their own language handling and the elegant use of the Italian and the Spanish from his childhood.

During his adolescence he/she suffered traumatic way the events of la Fronda, who felt how humiliating for the monarchy and that would indelibly mark their later political attitude. In his memoirs he/she describes "the disorder that reigned everywhere". It always suspicious of a Paris saw that as a squat threat and that abandoned; high nobility and the high clergy, parliamentarians Parisian and provincial, too influential bureaucrats, all corporations of the Kingdom, and to all of them he/she tried very hard to keep them under their control.

It was fourteen years old when, after the civil war, was able to return triumphantly to Paris, in the autumn of 1652. The hostility of the Parisian people had prevented the return of Mazzarino and Luis XIV was confronted with his first act of authority, ordering arrest the conspirator, Cardinal of Retz. Mazzarino returned in 1653 and during the following eight years Luis XIV again delegated to the Affairs of State. The Prime Minister was devoted to reconstruction following the crisis of la Fronda and get the end of the war with Spain, finished advantageously to France in the peace of the Pyrenees of 1659. Meanwhile, Luis XIV spent his first youth delivered to the pleasures of the Court, showing his taste for the sumptuous and elaborate ceremonial Palace. Policy needs led to her marriage with the infanta María Teresa of Spain, with whom he/she had six children, of whom only survived the elder, the great Dauphin, born in 1661.

luis XIV, King of France. Rigaud. Museo del Prado. Madrid

The monarchic despotism and the reform of the central administration

The death of Mazzarino in March 1661 led to Luis XIV to personally assume the reins of power. He/She was then twenty-two years and willingness to practice directly the State Government left astonished Court. The King wrote in his memoirs for the instruction of the dolphin, which his office was the most "noble, great and delicious" and resolved to play it without the mediation of the already traditional valid.

The reform of the central administration undertaken by Luis XIV was due to his personal will focus on turning himself and his few colleagues of confidence Supreme government functions. The King inherited from Mazzarino his main Ministers: Jean Baptiste Colbert, Michel Le Tellier, Hugues de Lionne and Nicolás Fouquet, who mostly remained in their posts for many years. In the course of his long reign, he/she never appointed a Prime Minister. The decisions of the King had force of law, were the law itself, under a Royal absolutism which became paradigmatic, made at a time from the feudal tradition and Roman law. It slashed the power of the traditional positions of the monarchy, as the Chancellor or the Constable. He/She kept away from the power to the nobility of blood and favored the rise of plebeian officials and the new nobility output in the ranks of the bourgeoisie, earning, thus their fidelity. At the end of his life, the King himself thus explained this policy to his grandson and heir: "no I was interested in take men's most eminent position. First of all, it was necessary to establish my own reputation and to inform the people that, precisely by the rank they had, my intention was not to share my authority with them. What mattered to me was that they not whensoever greater hopes than that I give them, which is difficult for people of high wedge." Officials loyal to the King created real dynasties of bureaucrats who perpetuated themselves in the positions of Secretaries of State.

During the first twenty years of the reign the Court was travelling, the King retained their fear of youth to the tumult of Paris. The greater part of the year the monarch lived away from the capital, between the palaces of Fontainebleau, Saint-Germain or Chambord. Finally, he/she ordered the construction of a huge Palace in Versailles, near Paris, which would become the symbol par excellence of his greatness and the new aesthetic language linked ideologically to the monarchical absolutism most finished example. Ministerial services and the King's House were installed at Versailles. The Court moved to the new Palace in 1682, although the works they didn't by concluded until the end of the reign. The first architectural project corresponded to Le Vau and was subsequently completed by Hardouin-Mansart, author of the famous gardens. The King personally supervised the construction of the Palace, leaving his personal mark on the architectural solutions of the most important work of French classicism. Luis XIV thus established a true aesthetic despotism in which he/she captured, along with his fondness for Italian art, ideological conceptions of the monarchy of divine right.

Luis XIV councils became real administrative ministries. The Conseil d' Haut or Supreme Council was the principal organ of Government. The Princes of blood and even the own mother Queen were excluded from it. It created new bodies for a monarchy that is increasingly more was a bureaucratic machine: the Conseil de Depeches for relations with the provinces, the Conseil des Finances, the Conseil de Justice or the general inspectorate of finance. To ensure the internal order and the fulfillment of the regia will, Luis XIV strengthened an efficient body of intendants, real instrument of repression of the monarchy. Get obedience to the monarchical authority in the interior and ensure French abroad, hegemony and reputation were the essential policy of the Sun King rules.

Colbert, former Mayor of Mazzarino and man of great political intelligence, was his main adviser during much of the reign. Appointed controller general of finances, was responsible for the reorganization of the Finance Council and received the Secretaries of State of the Navy and of the King's House. It depended on the mayors of provinces, Commerce, navigation, waters and forests and outlying colonies. To avoid the concentration of power in the hands of Colbert, Luis XIV delivered ministries of the army of land and foreign policy to other advisors.

Fiscal reform promoted by Colbert in the first years of the reign proved fruitless, the King refused to sacrifice its policy of prestige in order to restructure the finance. The Minister wanted to undertake a modernization of the economic structures of France by applying innovative mercantilist principles: he/she created the articles of State, gave privileges to private companies, improved management of forests, led to the construction of warships to protect the merchant fleet and the coasts and fostered the creation of commercial companies for the West Indiesthe Gulf of Guinea and the Baltic. Most of these measures failed to implement in a little conducive international economic environment and and collide with the traditional concept that the priorities of the State professed the French sovereign. France, however, was the richest in Europe power.

Colbertista policy had major successes domestically. The preservation of obedience to the monarchy meant the continued presence of agents of the central Government (officials and mayors) in all regions of the Kingdom. Thanks to the effective functioning of the system of intendencias, unused control exercised by the central State, public order was imposed that led to a retreat of private freedom and traditional public corporations. This resulted in a strengthening of the administrative character of the monarchy.

Religious politics

The sumptuousness of the Court masking serious difficulties of the internal government, particularly in religious matters. The unity of faith around the Catholic Church represented an essential role in the centralizing policy of the realm, as a guarantee of order and social stability, according to the conception of Luis XIV. Although close to the Holy See, the King wanted to consolidate the traditional independence of the monarchical gallicanism. The extension to all the dioceses of a right that is reserved for the monarchy, the provision of benefits in certain dioceses raised a serious conflict with the Papacy, while raising the resistance of the Bishops of jansenist tendency. The King demanded that the extraordinary Assembly of the clergy convened for that purpose to collect systematized and expanded the galicana doctrine to deal with the papal claims. This Assembly was the Declaration of the four articles of 1682, condemned by Pope innocent XI and his successors and Luis XIV made to teach the seminars.

Religious unity meant also a new conflict with the Protestants. In the first years of his Government of Luis XIV maintained in force the edict of Nantes, which regulated the situation of Protestants in the interior of the Kingdom since 1598. But since 1669, there were successive measures that restricted religious freedom and met to strictly the provisions of the edict of Nantes, in terms of the limitation of the cultural activities of the Protestants. Apparently following this sudden religious zeal of the King was its policy of prestige, that drove him to become champion of European Christianity, in competition with the recent winner, German Emperor of the Turks. Between 1679 and 1685 is issued a series of edicts that liquidated legal guarantees of the edict of Nantes and triggered the military repression against the Huguenots. The provisions of Nantes were permanently revoked in 1685, by the edict of Fontainebleau. The consequences of this decision were disastrous: the social elite of the Protestants embarked on the path of exile, taking with them their fortunes and their know-how to their countries of reception, Bradeburgo and the United provinces, while Protestant countries violently denounced the tyranny of Luis XIV.

On another front of action, King began the persecution of Jansenism. The austere moral and religious rigor practice recommended by this doctrine had achieved widespread in the Kingdom thanks to the works of godly writers, as Pasquier Quesnel, who harshly criticized the Royal absolutism. His ascent to the throne, Luis XIV took the papal bull of 1653 declaring the jansenist doctrine heretical. At the end of the reign the persecution escalated and the King asked the Pope the promulgation of the bull Unigenitus which condemned the doctrines of the Quesnel father. Parisian jansenist convent nuns acrimoniously resisted the dissolution of their communities, until in 1709 the last embers Jansenists of the capital were violently removed. The moral insightful crackdown was led by the bishops, Bossuet and Fénelon, very close to the monarchy, and that erected in his writings a doctrine of mystical character, quietism, which received Royal support.

Foreign policy objectives

Matter of historiographical controversy has been the issue if Luis XIV followed a program preset in its foreign policy from the beginning of his reign. According to some authors, this would be marked by two precise objectives: the definitive establishment of the borders of the Kingdom and the succession to the Spanish throne after the death of Carlos II. Both objectives would have aimed the achievement of European hegemony for France.

In 1667, France broke the peace established seven years earlier with Spain. This was the beginning of the wars that marked all the reign. In the case of the succession to the Spanish throne, Luis XIV began claiming the rights of his wife, the Spanish infanta María Teresa, whose dowry was never paid. The prenuptial agreement stated that, in Exchange for the dowry, the infanta would resign all of his rights to the Spanish Empire. Since the death of Felipe IV, in 1665, Luis XIV sought territorial compensation claiming these rights. The clash with Spain was inevitable given the continuous territorial violations committed against Hispanic domains, until war broke out in 1667.

In regards to the configuration of borders, was this very vague, even after the territorial accords of the peace of Westphalia and the Pyrenees. Luis XIV aspired to extend his Kingdom up to what he/she considered its "natural borders", i.e., throughout all the course of the Rhine to the East and the Flemish coast by the North. Although the King pursued both goals during his reign, we cannot affirm that its foreign policy follow specific lines of action. His biggest concern was undoubtedly his own glory, who identified with the France according to his famous statement "I am the State".

The army

Prestigious foreign policy involved the strengthening of the army. The war was the favorite resource of Luis XIV to impose its hegemony and the army claims an essential instrument of its policy. The King entrusted its administration and reform one of his most loyal aides, Michel Le Tellier, which would replace most late his son Louvois. Le Tellier introduced improvements in armament of infantry and cavalry, in the use of artillery and the provisioning of the fortresses. The Army became a weapon in the service of the monarchy and they were eliminated in part feudal ballasts which hindered him. At its head, Luis XIV kept the generals from the end of the reign of his father, Turenne and Condé, men of proven military skill.

When the war with Spain broke out in 1667, the French army, with about 72,000 men, was, both in number of personnel capacity offensive, than the rest of European armies. The war in the Netherlands served to test reforms and to start new ones. At the time that perfected the army, Colbert and subsequently his son, Seignelay, gave France a powerful Navy, with the systematic construction of ships of quality in the arsenals of Brest and Toulon. Engineer Vauban introduced in the border towns and ports a new system of fortifications that turned France into an almost impregnable territory. The permanent state of war forced to continuously increase the troops, by using the cams forced, very unpopular among the population. Although survived many of his old vices, Luis XIV army was the most effective of his time.

Foreign policy between 1661 and 1684: the period of successes in Europe

The foreign policy of Luis XIV is inextricably linked to the strengthening of monarchic power. On this front, the question of the succession to the throne of Spain during the reign of the sickly Carlos II was one of the main engines of the politics of the Sun King. This policy was only possible thanks to the decline of the Spanish monarchy and the vacuum in European hegemony is leaving. However, it was not you easy to Luis XIV France to become Europe's leading power. In this sense, his reign can be seen as an almost uninterrupted succession of conflicts. The own monarch always expressed an enthusiastic interest in the war. In principle he/she faced Spain, but subsequently the excessive ambitions of the monarch grouped against all European States who felt threatened by their projects. The coalition formed against France were very heterogeneous and unstable. To cope, Luis XIV spread throughout Europe an extensive diplomatic network that tried to establish ties of clientelaje and dependency with the European Princes to ensure continental hegemony.

The first phase of the reign, between 1661 and 1679, was characterized by successes in foreign policy, developed in the sense of the traditional Spanish-French rivalry. When in 1661 Luis XIV took charge of the Government, France had the Alliance outside of Sweden, England and the United provinces. As the French sovereign had become the guarantor of the treaties of Westfaliay in guard of the League of the Rhine, internal Alliance of several Imperial Princes. It had therefore a powerful clientele in Germany. This situation allowed him to undertake his offensive against the Spanish Empire.

The death of Felipe IV, Luis XIV claimed the Spanish Netherlands as part of the inheritance of his wife, María Teresa, starting in 1667, a war that was invoked the "right of return", so it is known to the conflict as a war of return. Luis XIV took possession of eleven villas border in the North, including Lille. The King sought to isolate Spain with the formation of a triple alliance with Sweden, the United provinces and England, ensuring the neutrality of the Empire. But for reasons religious, political and, above all, economic rivalry with the United provinces was difficult to overcome. The war ended with the peace of Aachen in 1668. Peace was the result of pressure from England and Holland, alarmed by the French successes despite the international isolation that Luis XIV had gotten placed Spain. The agreements handed to France part of Flanders and momentarily returned to Spain the Franche-Comté, conquered during the war.

After four years of diplomatic preparation, in 1672, Luis XIV finally opened an offensive armed against the United provinces. In a few weeks the advance of the French army forced the Flemish to ask for peace. The conditions imposed by France were so hard that they provoked a revolt in the Hague, the fall of the Republican Government of Jan de Witt and the coming to power of the Orange Guillermo statuder, that would become one of the most Ionians enemies of Luis XIV. A coalition between the United provinces, Spain, the Emperor and the Duke of Lorraine was then formed. The theatre of operations moved from the provinces to the Spanish Netherlands, Franche-Comté and Alsace. The novelty was the development of the French Navy, with the war of brackets and the corso. The Flemish and Spanish fleets suffered serious setbacks in the Mediterranean near Sicily, occupied by French troops.

The war ended with the peace of Nijmegen, which guaranteed territorial advantages to France. Luis XIV obtained the Franche-Comté, numerous places in Hainaut, in maritime Flanders and in Artois, which gave a continuous stroke to the northeast border of France. In Lorraine, Nancy was delivered to French rule and the Alsace region was subject to direct administration. Established a trade treaty with the United Provinces favouring competition in the French market. However, peace followed the violent annexations of territories by France, which invoked the rights proclaimed by the meeting chambers created to this end, and were advised the annexation of Strasbourg and Alsace, as well as numerous Spanish squares. Isolated again, Spain embarked on the war (1683-1684), ending with the loss of part of Luxembourg and other border places, like Casal, in the truce of Ratisbon.

The war against the League of Augsburg

After the first international successes, it is usually noted in the reign of Luis XIV a long period of decline which lasted until the death of the King in 1715. In this period were the two great wars of coalition that would call into question the French hegemony on the continent: that of the League of Augsburg (1688-1697) and succession to the throne of Spain (1700-1713). Two conflicts of long duration which coincided with moments of economic crisis - the famine of 1693 and 1709 - and produced unusual military setbacks until then.

After 1684, the triumph of France alarmed the rest of the powers and particularly to the German princes, determined to keep agreements of Westphalia. They began to draw defensive alliances. French Prestige had suffered a severe setback when the German Emperor Leopold beat the Turks threatening Vienna, thus becoming the new Savior of Western Christendom. Papa Inocencio XI had launched an appeal to the French sovereign so join the Grand Alliance of Poles, Germans and Italians and directed, as most powerful Prince in Europe, this new crusade armies. Luis XIV rejected the offer, calculating a dream defeat of the Allied forces which would serve to weaken the military prestige of the Empire. However, the Allied troops defeated the Turks and the glory of Luis XIV was momentarily tarnished by this affair.

The impatience of Luis XIV to transform into definitive territorial agreements what is agreed in the truces of Regensburg and its fear that the Empire would be against France after finished the war against the Turks led to the outbreak of war widespread in the continent in 1688. At the time that increased hostility with the German principalities, were deteriorating relations with England. The economic and colonial rivalry of both Nations made impossible an effective Alliance. The progress of French colonization in America and especially in Canada, the competence of the trade in the Islands and the new French commercial establishments in the India did move to England's traditional alliance with France maintained during the Stuart period.

25 September 1688 Luis XIV launched a manifesto calling for the transformation of truces in a final Treaty within the period of two months, at the time who ordered the invasion and devastation of the Palatinate. This led to the union of Europe against France. The promoter of the Alliance was the Flemish statuder Guillermo de Orange, who had raised against his father-in-law, James II of England, the English revolution of 1688 and had become a recognized King associated with his wife María II. Along with England and the United provinces, the Emperor, Spain and Savoy joined the coalition. The war was long, and the French got the greatest triumphs (Fleurus, 1690;) Steinkerque, 1692; Neerwinden, 1693), although there were also defeats as Boyne in 1690 and the naval battle of the Hogue in 1692, which ruined the French fleet. Brussels was bombed terribly in 1695. The peace of Turin (1696) with the Duke of Savoy enabled Luis XIV the offensive against the Spanish domains, threatened Brussels and took Barcelona in 1697. Previously the French army led by Vandome had conquered Ripoll, Urgel, roses and Palamós. In 1697, Cartagena de Indias was conquered by Pointis.

The depletion of France, despite their victories, failure to achieve a final defeat of the allies and the Spanish succession problem forced Luis XIV to sign a disadvantageous peace of Ryswick (1697). France handed over the achievements obtained during the war, but retained Strasbourg, key plaza for the defense of the Spanish Netherlands, and got rich Saar Valley. He/She recognized Guillermo II of Orange as King of England and evacuated the fortresses in the Netherlands.

The war of succession to the throne of Spain

Luis XIV had begun to intervene in Spanish politics since the marriage of his niece María Luisa de Orleáns with Carlos II. Diplomatic attention from the French monarch focused on the succession issue. In 1668 he/she sealed a secret agreement with the Emperor Leopold I who foresaw the future distribution of the Spanish monarchy in the likely case that Carlos II died childless. The emperor would receive the whole of the monarchy; the Netherlands, Navarra, roses, Franche-Comté, Naples, Sicily, the squares of Morocco, and the Philippines would be handed over to France.

The death without heirs of the Spanish King in 1700, the succession of the throne was open. Access to the Spanish Crown would resolve the question of hegemony over Europe, which could lie both in France and the Empire. Few European States were favourable to the establishment of a new territorial hegemony, so monarchies candidates to divide up the loot Spanish traced the agreements of 1698 and 1700 on the partition of the inheritance of the Spanish Habsburgs. Finally the Spanish Council of State decided that Luis XIV was the only one who could guarantee the territorial integrity of the Spanish monarchy and gave the succession to Felipe of Anjou, grandson of the French sovereign, with the condition that the French and Spanish crowns will never join.

The testament of Carlos II was challenged by the Emperor, who defended the rights of succession of the Archduke Carlos of Austria. Luis XIV ordered opinion to its Council and Madame de Maintenon before deciding whether or not Carlos accepted the testament of the deceased. There was a risk of a war with the Emperor, strengthened following the signing of a peace agreement with the Turks. On the other hand, England could return to the Alliance Française if Luis XIV renounced any territorial advantage in Spain. However, the inheritance of the Spanish monarchy was a succulent morsel, mainly by the possibilities offered to trade in the Atlantic. Security that the Spanish Empire would be subjected to French influence with the enthronement of the Bourbons, guaranteeing French hegemony in the continent, displaced in the will of Luis XIV to the desirability of avoiding a war that would undoubtedly be long and expensive. The King accepted the succession of Felipe of Anjou, violating provisions of the testament of Carlos II by declaring him also heir to the throne of France, at the time that came to occupy the Netherlands.

The rest of the powers lined up to prevent French hegemony. Guillermo II of England concluded, before his death, the great Alliance of the Hague with Anthonius Heinsius, great pension in the Netherlands, and the Emperor Leopold i. later Savoy and Portugal adhered to it. At the head of the Coalition, experienced military leaders: the own Heinsius, Prince Eugenio de Saboya, winner of the Turks, and Marlborough, prestigious general and skillful diplomat. However, France could count on the support of Spain and of the Princes electors of Cologne and Bavaria.

Luis XIV attempted to take Vienna, attacking from Italy and the Valley of the Danube, without success. French troops defeated the allies in Höchstädt in 1703, but the following year, and in the same place, the franco-bavaro army suffered a heavy defeat from the hands of the Prince of Savoy and Marlborough. Since then followed setbacks for France: Belgium and many of the cities of the northern border, as well as the Milan, were lost while Naples fell into the hands of the Archduke Carlos, recognized as King of Spain by the allies and installed in Barcelona. In the spring of 1709 Luis XIV resigned is to ask for peace, offering the resignation to Lille and Strasbourg. But the demands of the allies were too dishonorable for the Sun King, who decided to continue the war. The battle of Malplaquet took undecided results. In 1710, they returned to initiate peace negotiations that did not definitive agreements. The continuation of the fight was advantageous for France: Spain Vendome got the victory of Villaviciosa (1710) and Villars snatched the Prince of Savoy Paris in Denain (1712) route.

However, the resolution of the conflict took place more by the emergence of a new political situation that by force of arms. In 1711 the election of Carlos as Emperor arquiduque aroused in England the fear of a new hegemony of Habsburg if they obtained the throne of Spain. Separate peace and trade agreements obtaining seemed preferable. In Utrecht, in 1713, the Spanish monarchy was partitioned: Felipe de Borbón sit on the Spanish throne as Felipe V and would get the domain of the colonies, while the English got identical trade privileges agreed with France and the occupation of Gibraltar law. Luis XIV renounced Newfoundland, Acadia and the fortifications of Dunkerque. Peace was concluded definitively in Rastadt the following year. France recovered Strasbourg and obtained Landau. In Exchange, he/she had to give up the dynastic union of France and Spain.

The war of succession greatly weakened Luis XIV. The peace agreements constituted a waiver of the policy advocated by Luis XIV, consisting to achieve the natural borders of France - the Rhine, the Pyrenees and the Alps-. Only partially he/she got, since the Netherlands and Rhineland escaped to the French domain. The European hegemony of France was so frustrated by the Coalition wars. The new alliance between France and England, the two European powers, could guarantee a lasting peace and neutralize the power of the two regions at which for so long had been the war: Empire and Italy. On the death of the King in 1715, French hegemony was succeeded by the European balance already started in the peace of Westphalia.

The economy and finance during the reign of Luis XIV

One of the priority objectives of Luis XIV was sanitation and enrichment of the Royal Treasury. His Finance Minister, Jean Baptiste Colbert, translated this objective in a mercantilism of imperialist cut that left aside the agricultural progress and encouraged primarily manufacturing and mercantile traffic. The King himself not centered interests in the country's economic prosperity, but in his own aggrandizement, so very often the Minister economic projects were subject to the grandiose dreams of the monarch. Developed by this policy of prestige was enormously burdensome to the coffers of the monarchy and, despite the colbertiano program and the implementation of numerous tariff and monetary Ordinances, the income of the Treasury were entirely insufficient to meet the ambitions of the King. Commercial companies and State-funded manufacturing firms were phased out, resulting in the apparent failure of the interventionist policy of Colbert.

The great economic effort which required the continuous state of war forced the monarchy to look for new sources of revenue. During the war of the League of Ausgburgo, the lack of liquidity prompted one of the successors of Colbert, the count of Pontchartrain, to carry out several monetary manipulations and to ask for increasingly important contributions of the clergy and the provincial States. A new poll tax was established in 1695 and attempted to distribute to taxpayers in classes to ensure a more equitable and cost-effective tax deal. However, this measure was arbitrary and ineffective. The finances of the King barely could hold the fight for the Spanish succession, despite a new poll in 1701 and some ingenious innovations, like paper money. The creation of income and sales of crafts, with some success at the beginning multiplied.

The economy suffered the consequences of the crises of subsistence that recurred throughout the reign, such as the great famine of 1693, which seems that it affected a significant income from the Royal Treasury. After the war, the resurgence of the country seems to have however been quick, animated by the growth of the trade. Fiscal surveys ordered the intendants in 1697 to provide income for the Duke of Burgundy, eldest son of the Dauphin, allowed the Royal Council to prepare future hacendisticas reforms. These surveys reveal a wide regional economic inequality. In the Atlantic ports were accused during the period a great growth in trade. Although the Treasury was exhausted by the demands of the foreign policy of the King, a slow take-off of the economy can be seen from the beginning of the 18th century, thanks to the assumption of the mercantilist ideas by the major maritime trade.

End of the reign

The prestige of the King among his subjects had been battered because of his scandalous private life. Although not granted her lovers a decisive political role, the influence of these on the Court exceeded that of the own Queen, especially that of the skilled Madame de Montespan. After having concealed for years to their many bastards, the King made them legitimate by the Parliament of Paris, giving males princely titles and marrying the daughters with Princes of blood. Death of Queen María Teresa in 1683, the King married in secret with the Marquise de Maintenon, which allowed a discreet influence on Affairs of State and who was shown as an intelligent Adviser. In the second stage of the reign, the court lost much of its former splendour, becoming more serious and solemn, in the manner of the Spanish monarchy, while the nobles were still crowding the halls of Versailles, often living in deplorable hygienic conditions. Over time it became necessary to build smaller, Trianon and Marly residences, which the monarch could retire with their narrow circle.

In his later years, the elder King retained his lucid attention to Affairs of State, although most worried by the relative failure of its policy of European hegemony that the problems of his Kingdom. The deaths of the Dauphin in 1711, the Duke of Burgundy and his son in 1712, let you without more direct heir to a great-grandson born in 1710. The war effort and prestige policy exhausted economically to France and imposed a disproportionate tax burden. This, together with the crises of subsistence of turn of the century, decreased the prestige of the King among his subjects. Even in court circles was called into question the legitimacy of the Royal policy. The climate of opposition rose tone as the King aged and became evident the failure of much of their projects. There were violent pamphlets against the monarch, while the new airs of the enlightenment gained adherents among intellectuals. The times of the Sun King had ended. The death of Luis XIV, on September 1, de1715, was celebrated in the streets of Paris with great joy.

Balance of the reign of Luis XIV

The reign of Luis XIV was inordinately long. Pierced glories and disasters, its excesses, especially as far as war is concerned, they were terrible. However, inside improved demarcation of borders, has managed to preserve the French territory from foreign invasion during the wars of the coalition and, despite the difficulties and errors and the relative success of the policy of prestige, France managed to take the lead of the European Nations.

However, the most lasting result of the reign of Luis XIV was the development of the administrative absolutism. The State had obtained a power of intervention, decision and initiative that subjected progressive effectively to all subjects to an authority exercised in the name of the King, but which actually started the Council and its ministries and that the mayors applied in the provinces. Provincial and municipal institutions lost much of its autonomy for the benefit of the monarchical centralism.

Luis XIV assimilated of the ideologues of the absolute monarchy, such as Bossuet, the divine conception of Regal power. The King considered is the executor of the will of God on Earth. Deeply steeped in these convictions and having assumed the duties involving, Luis XIV strove hard to extend his power in all the borders of his Kingdom and equip themselves with a halo of glory that his Majesty rose up to heaven. He/She was a tireless worker, allowing him to impose a hitherto unusual control over the political and administrative life of the Kingdom, on society, culture and religion. In the exterior he/she shrewdly took the weakness of the House of Austria, in decline at the end of the 17TH century. This allowed him to spread successfully throughout Europe the notion that France was the new great power world, guided by a dynasty that he/she fallaciously go back to Charlemagne. To proclaim himself the most powerful monarch with an offensive ostentation for the rest of monarchies, and alarm that ambitions aroused in the rest of the powers, dreams of glory of the Sun King would end up disrupting its audacity.

Symbols of the absolutist monarchy of Luis XIV are unusual splendour of the courtly life and the magnificence of Versailles. The King organized a courtier cult to his person, as a method of public proclamation of his greatness. For Luis XIV celebrations and ceremonials were middle of the Affairs of State and wrote: "the town likes the show. He/She kept his spirit and his heart". In the ritual of the Court, often the King appeared dressed as their favorite characters: Mars, Apollo, the Sun... This ostentation was, beyond waste, an effective system of domestication of the nobility. The King invited nobles to live at the Court, seducing them with the possibility to get mercedes and enjoy the pleasures of courtiers, pushing them to waste their inheritances on Sumptuary expenses, what did they depend increasingly from the regia privanza. It was necessary to expand the domestic organs of the Court, to accommodate the aristocrats who sought to remain in the Court circle. The nobles were dispossessed of the political power in Exchange for decoys of the monarchical cult.

Under his iron rule, France reached dimensions unknown until then. It replaced Italy in the forefront of the artistic creation thanks to the impulse given to the arts since the days of Luis XIII and Richelieu. Luis XIV brought the French art to its zenith: Corneille, Racine and Molière in the drama, Le Brun and Mignard in painting, Le Vau and Hardouin-Mansart in the architecture. Similar to the French Academy, who watched over the purity of the language, other academies were created: inscriptions or small Academy (1663), dedicated to the medals and Epigraphic inscriptions; Painting and sculpture (1664); of Sciences (1666); of architecture (1671). The personal glory of the monarch was inexhaustible source of inspiration for artists. Luis XIV became Apollo or Alejandro Magno in the works of Le Brun, as an embodiment of the legendary Majesty. This was the time the creation of a truly French style, classicism, arisen from the transformation of the penetrated Italian art of the ideals of the monarchic despotism.

Half a century after the death of Luis XIV, Voltaire confessed fascinated by the will to power and the sense of the Majesty of this sovereign. The enlightened philosopher to the famous phrase "the century of Luis XIV", used recursively for the time of monarchical absolutism. For historiography heir to the revolution of 1789, however, Luis XIV became the symbol of the wild and militaristic despotism.


ANDRÉ, L. Luis XIV and Europe. Mexico, 1957.

MANDROU, R. Louis XIV et are temps. Paris, 1973.

MOUSNIER, R. La France au temps de Louis XIV. Paris, 1965.