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Essay/Term paper: Louis xiv, the sun king

Essay, term paper, research paper:  History

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Louis XIV was only four

years old when he succeeded his father to the French throne. Often uncared

for, he nearly drowned because no one was watching him as he played near a

pond. This began to shape in his young mind an early fear of God.

Louis' character was also shaped by the French Civil War. In this,

the Paris Parlement 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 XIV was now of age, the Cardinal

remained the dominant authority in French politics.


kings gained respect as a soldier; Louis served with the French army during

France's war with Spain. His biggest battle, however, 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.


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. He oversaw roadbuilding, court decorum, defense,

and disputes within the church.

He had the support initially

of his ministers, then that of 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 supportors 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. The aristocracy became mysterious.

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 Nederlands 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 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 her 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.

Charles II, the last

Habsburg king of Spain died in 1700, and bequeathed his kingdoms to Louis'

grandson, Philip of Anjou (Philip V). Although initially opposed to the inheritance,

Louis finally went along with it in order to prevent Spain from falling into

the hands of the Holy Roman emperor, Leopold I, who disputed Philip's claim.

In the War of the Spanish Succession the anti-French alliance

was reactivated by William of Orange. By 1709, France was near to losing all

it had gained over the past century. Louis' private life was also a wreck:

his son, two grandsons, and a great grandson died. Instead of breaking down

as was expected, he held himself together. He bore not only his personal losses,

but also the losses France had suffered with remarkable grace.

The Treaties of Utrecht, Rastatt and Baden in 1713-1714 finally ended

the war. The hard-fought victory cost France its status as a world power, but

its territories were untouched. Not even future defeats would cause France

to lose its land in the Rhine or Flanders.

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 Parlement 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. He allowed his armies to commit atrocities,

and countries were reduced to slave states. 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. So connected to the image of king, historians have difficulty

in examining Louis the individual. He wanted France to prosper, and its citizens

suffered. Still considering himself infallible, he only saw the glorious image

of France he ordered his artisans to develop.

[ Part 3: "Attached Text"





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