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Louis XIV : Louis XIV of France

Louis XIV

Louis XIV

Louis XIV, Louis XIV, also popularly known as the Sun King (5 September 1638–1 September 1715) was the King of France and King of Navarre from 14 May 1643 until his death. He was a king for 72 years. This was the longest recorded rule of any European monarch. He is often seen as the typical example of absolutism.

Louis’ parents were Louis XIII and Anne of Austria. He was the unexpected child of King Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, who had not had children in their 22-year marriage. He was christened Louis Dieudonné (literally, “gift of God”). In 1643, before his fifth birthday, his father died, and Louis inherited the throne of France. Because Louis XIV was too young to rule, his mother ruled France with Cardinal Mazarin, the Italian financier who had been the principal minister of Louis XIII. Mazarin had guided the nation through the later stages of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). In this war France struggled against the Habsburg dynasty that ruled Spain for military supremacy in Europe.

After Mazarin died in 1661, Louis declared that he would rule France without a chief minister, something no French king had done in living memory. He intended to rule as an absolute monarch, believing that his power as king was derived from God and that he was responsible to God alone. He was obliged to rule for the benefit of his people. While Louis assumed responsibility for decision making, he understood that he must rule within the constraints of the laws and customs of his kingdom. Louis consulted widely with his nobles and ministers, and he met weekly with members of his high council. He created an informal cabinet, which was eventually led by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, chief minister of finance.

Nevertheless, the system of absolute monarchy emphasized the role of the king, and no monarch was more successful in creating the image of monarchy than Louis XIV. He took the sun as his emblem and connected himself to its radiant image.

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