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Louis XIV of France

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Louis XIV (the Sun King) (September 5, 1638 - September 1, 1715) reigned as king of France from May 14, 1643 to September 1, 1715.

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Birth and Death His birth at Saint-Germain-en-Laye appeared miraculous, occurring twenty-three years after the childless marriage of his parents, Louis XIII and Anne of Austria. At the age of 5 (1643, Louis became King. France was essentially ruled by Cardinal Mazarin until his death, in 1661, Louis then began to assert his power. A civil war occurred when Louis was a child, this was the Fronde (1648-53).

King Louis XIV died on September 1, 1715 and is buried in Saint Denis Basilica. He outlived his son, the dauphin Louis, and he was succeeded by his great-grandson who became King Louis XV of France, and who spent his minority under the regency of Philippe of Orleans.

Economics The treasury was, essentially, "broke" in 1661. This is generally attributed to two causes: A) the recent wars and B) corruption. At this time the principal French taxes were they aides, douanes[?], gabelle[?], and taille[?]. The aides and douanes were customs taxes, the gabelle was a salt tax, and the taille was a land tax; one should note that the nobles and clergy were exempted from these taxes.

Louis would appoint Colbert as his "minister of finance"; by fighting corruption and reorganizing the bureaucracy Colbert's policies began to generate revenue.

The Estates-General During the reign of Louis XIV, the French parliament was the Estates-General.; however, it was an essentially defunct organization.

Protestants During his reign, more and more restrictions were placed on the Protestant population until 1685 when he revoked King Henri IV's Edict of Nantes.

Versailles Drawing from the successes of Cardinal Richelieu who all but ruled France during the reign of the weak Louis XIII, Louis XIV created a France that served only himself. He weakened the nobility by forcing them to serve as members of his court rather than governing minor fiefs in their castles throughout France. To this end, he built Versailles, the lavish palace outside Paris which has become a symbol of the heights of aristocratic indulgences, and the series of residences opposite the Louvre on the Rue de Rivoli, where the courtiers lived when the King was in Paris.

Louis moved his court to Versailles on May 6, 1682.

Global Cultural Dominance Louis XIV's reign was characterized by French global cultural dominance. In 1674, the island of Martinique was purchased by the French government from the private French business concern who had acquired it in 1635. French was the language of culture in the 17th century in the way that English is today the global language of business.


In 1689, King Louis passed the "Code Noir," allowing the full use of slaves in France's colonies.

The French Revolution Louis XIV remains beloved in France for his vigorous promotion of French greatness. However, his continued waging of war bankrupted the state, forcing him to continually levy high taxes on the peasantry. According to the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville, Louis XIV's weakening of the nobility coupled with his oppression of the peasantry contributed to the political, social and economic instabilities that eventually led to the French Revolution.

Quotes by Louis XIV

  • "L'état c'est moi!" [I am the State]
  • "One must work hard to reign."

Quotes about Louis XIV

  • "He ceaselessly concerned himself with the most petty details...would even instruct his cooks...like novices...He...was fond of order and regularity...He was served with the utmost exactitude..." -- Saint-Simon[?]

Preceded by:
(Anne of Austria, regent following Louis XIII's reign )
List of French monarchs Succeeded by:
(Philippe of Orleans, regent for Louis XV)

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