Louis XIV, France’s Sun King Essay

Louis XIV, France’s Sun KingLouis XIV, France’s Sun King, had the longest reign in European history (1643-1715). During this time he brought absolute monarchy to its height, established a glittering court at Versailles, and fought most of the other European countries in four wars. Although his reign had some negative aspects; on balance, Louis’ reign was primarily a benefit to France.

In 1643 Louis XIII died. Louis XIII’s wife and Louis XIV’s mother, Anne of Austria, aided by her minister, Cardinal Mazarin, ruled France as regent. Kindly but mediocre tutors gave him a feeble education, while his mother formed his rules of conscience, teaching him a simple kind of Roman Catholicism. Mazarin instructed him in court ceremony, war, and the craft of kingship. The Fronde—two rebellions against the Crown between 1648 and 1653—impressed upon Louis the need to bring order, stability, and reform to France and also fostered in him a deep suspicion of the nobility. In accordance with the Franco-Spanish Treaty of the Pyrenees, Louis married his Spanish cousin, Marie-Therese, in 1660. When Mazarin died the following year, Louis shocked France by refusing to name a first minister; he had decided to rule alone and selected Jean-Baptiste Colbert as his financial adviser. Colbert encouraged domestic industry and foreign exports and rebuilt the French navy. Despite his youth, Louis XIV proved a hardworking king. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday he presided at a council meeting in which were formulated policies that affected the lives of 20 million subjects. Louis developed two effective new instruments of power: a corps of professional diplomats and a standing, uniformed army. After 1682 the king spent most of his time at …

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…sailles. Within 54 years he did what several kings had worked on for centuries. French culture became one of the most appealing in the world and the name Louis XIV has been associated with greatness and glory. Louis XIV was a great monarch, capable of maintaining a strong kingdom because he never, in his entire life, doubted his right to be king. Louis XIV was never able to resolve the tensions between governing elite committed to efficiency and a society organized by rank, birth, and privilege, which explains many of the failures of his reign. His personal example of long, dedicated rule, however, made France the bureaucratic model for 18th century, absolutist Europe. His autocracy was indeed amazing, and he lived and ruled as a king should have. Louis XIV became the ideal king, and although many have tried to live up to his glory, none have been successful.


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