Who was the Sun King?
A child named Louis that would later reign as Louis XIV, he is one of the most powerful monarchs in his time period. He is known as the great because of the reforms he made, this made France to become the leading power in Europe and no one could match it’s power. He didn’t accomplish a lot on the outside with a territorial expansion but made a massive twist inside.
He was born in 1638 and his father was the current king Louis XIII. His mother got pregnant four times before his birth but none of the children survived. This is the reason he got his name God Given, as a miracle of god. As his father died Louis was the claimant to the throne but he was still a minor. He had around four years and things would get complicated with the central power when you have a ruler that is only a kid. His mother was his regent and took control of the crown. About his mother, she was an Austrian princess. Her dynasty had control over the enemies of France, Spain and Holy Roman Empire, she needed to choose. Would she pick her son or her other family, in the end she choose her son and did everything in order to gain and give him an absolute reign. He had a huge connection with his mother and they were very close.
When his father died in 1643 Louis was crowned king of France. His mother as regent constantly fought the nobles off in order to gain power for him. In the end she accomplished her goal but the process was costly. She choose her political partner, a cardinal named Mazarin that had a lot of influence. There is a big story on him if you are interested go check him out. Anna, his mother played tricks like this in order to give absolute authority to her son during his reign. France was unstable at the time meaning a ruler didn’t have much of influence among the bigger nobles, but a lot of things will change.
Before we continue about what happen, note that Anne was tortured and interrogated by her husband and his followers while he was still alive, it was believed that she was a spy of the Habsburg dynasty. She kept in contact with the king of Spain and this led to that conclusions. The thirty years war was still in play and it ended in 1648, five years after Louis reigned. Dutch got independence, etc.
One War Ended, Another Begun
A civil war broke loose in France known as Fronde, slingshots were used to break the windows. This begun because Anne would imprison everyone who disagree with her. This led to a lot of unhappy people in the Parlement of Paris. One of the leaders of this Parlement was jailed and died while in prison. The Feudal lords really mad about Anne’s decisions and gain of power. Anne was imprisoning anyone who opposed her and things escalated. The aristocracy knew they are beginning to lose power and control of the kingdom. The people of Paris started rioting and this is the culmination, an angry mob came into the kings sleeping chamber. He pretended to be asleep but they showed a huge display of power, this meant that we could easily get into your chamber and kill you. As a child this meant traumatic experience and the hate of Louis for Paris and the nobility never departed.
Anne got an army and confronted this group of rebels, one of the leaders was the second parlement member she imprisoned. A compromise was reached a peace known as the peace of Rueil was signed. But a second Fronde began, this time the aristocracy was involved a lot more because they knew that their political power was at stake. This second Fronde Mazarin wasn’t involved, he was exiled and Queen Anne was the key player in this rioting. About their relationship it’s been a rumor that they were lovers, but it hasn’t been confirmed. Mazarin had a lot of power at that time being. In the meantime Louis fell in love with the niece of Mazarin and wanted to marry her. This would have caused a massive damage on the country and instead his mother married him to the daughter of her brother, the king of Spain Philip IV. This sort of incest was very common, but it lead to some political disadvantages also such as the war for the throne of Spain.
The End of Regency
Once Louis got older to rule on his own things started to get a lot of interesting. Mazarin died and Louis started to gain control of a lot of thins, starting from his position. Mazarin was chief minister at the time and Louis got his role. This is his first act of starting to take control of the country, as an absolute monarch. In 1661 the country was bankrupt and a lot of things had to change. He employed some people that stabilize the economy so he could start to reform his whole country.
He increased the tax and people loved him! How could this ever work? Well at first the tax was collected through other people and it went like this. The crown had to collect $100 this year, a person comes and says I shall purchase the $100 and collect the tax for you, he then sells the tax for $200 and so goes on until it reaches a big amount of money. Then the tax is collected and the population is ripped off. This led to a lot of corruption and it was later changed. Now the crown got X2 more money while the people were happy and payed x8 less. This made the country stable, now Louis could make his great reforms. There is a lot to talk about this system, I explained very lightly. If you are interested in how the whole process works it’s worth checking out.
Louis started to bring new skillful people that would increase the economy in the country. Instead by importing, their economy would bloom inside and grow. He called inventors, glassworkers, blacksmiths, artists, etc. This would increase the French economy. But here started the military reforms.
Louis changed a lot in the military of France. He got new weapons, equipment and training regimes. He also changed the role of military advancement. People from lower family ranks could gain power if they were worth it. Before this the aristocracy were the only ones that could acquire the general position and this would lead downhill sometimes, imagine a general that didn’t know anything and he was only there because of his blood. This reform would later lead to the masters of warfare such as Napoleon.
This would lead to a serious power and later other countries will feel it. In the meantime Louis got all of the positions in the country, meaning he had full control of the Kingdom and nobody could say anything to him. He had the positions, the population and now the army. He was a full monarch at the time and could play outside of his real now when his country is stable.”Code Louis”, this is a legal code that plays an important role in the legal history of France. This is for keeping records and an amazing administrative system that shows a lot of power and gives control.
Many, Many Wars
The War with Spain
The brother of his mother, Philip of Spain died in 1665. In the meantime Louis married his daughter Maria Theresa. The funny part is that Maria renounced all of her claims to the title of the kingdom and needed to pay a sum of money for that. But later she won’t pay the amount of money needed and her claims would still hold, Louis will try and use this to gain the territories of Spain. On Spain’s throne ruled Charles II, a product of Incest he wasn’t well developed. He couldn’t rule and also couldn’t have kids and this will make things complicated. Without an heir two big kingdoms will come in play at first.
But fist France attacked the Spanish Netherlands. Amsterdam was the leading city in the world and the dutch were blooming. In the meantime the Dutch Republic was in an ongoing war against England and they were allies with the French. As Louis advanced in the Spanish territories of Netherlands they saw his power and were shocked. They formed a Triple Alliance in 1668, the English, Swedes and Dutch.
But in the meantime the Holy Roman emperor Leopold I made a treaty with Louis. They both had a claim on the throne of Spain and this Kingdom was wast. They made a treaty that they would share the kingdom because they knew that the current king would leave no heirs, he was incapable. In this treaty they signed that Louis will get the Philippines, the cities of Italy and the Spanish Netherlands holdings while Leopold will get the rest.
This changed when the alliance dissolved and Charles II of England signed a secret treaty, they even started a war on Netherlands called the Franco-Dutch war. But as always the balance of power, England turned on France. Everyone turned against France. But here we can see the might of Louis’s reforms. He defeated all of his enemies pushing them back and his might was shown, almost all of Europe was against him and he made his stand. In 1678 a treaty was signed and the war ended. He only got a couple of territories out of this and the war was fought not for gain but for show. Now everyone knew that they cannot mess with France and should back away.
Another war started, this was again versus Spain and Louis was a victor. He gained also a couple of territories but with a strategic placement for future use. Spain was occupied in the Great Turkish War and couldn’t fight on two fronts. After this display of force France was a leading player in Europe.
It was a time of colonization and their growth, this lead to France’s interest of the colonization. They started to colonize the America continent, they had settled in the East part of Canada and also had control of the river Mississippi, but firstly the river and it’s territories as how they expanded were called Louisiana because of Louis. Later the French will sell this to the Americans and would lose a good portion of their land. Other French colonies and companies were in Africa, India, etc.
The crown was dominating in this period in France, he destroyed the authority of the church and aristocracy and was an absolute monarch. He even limited the authority of the pope. The declaration of the Clergy of France was a show of power against the pope where bishops couldn’t leave France to consult with the Pope.
Now he built Versailles. The most beautiful palace was his home, but how did he use it? He “invited” all of the nobles to live under his roof. Now he had full control over him and nobody can plot against him, this made him a very serious ruler saying to them that he owns them and they cannot do anything. For that time the palace was a luxurious place that had almost everything. A lot of events were happening in that palace but I won’t be talking about it here.
The Edict of Nantes made in 1598 was revoked by him. He excluded protestants from the office, closed their churches, banned them and rewarded anyone who will convert into a catholic. There was a protestant resistance and a lot of nobles converted into Catholics in order not to lose their power. Everyone who wouldn’t convert must emigrate the country, here he will gain trust from the Pope and still have a stable power in the country. He started to eat this movement and remove them from his country, also he will gain absolute control which he was after.
The League of Augsburg
It started in 1688 and ended in 1697. This is also known as the nine years war. It was again everyone versus France, especially the Holy Roman Emperor. Both sides were going victory after a victory and currently nobody was a winner. The treaty of Ryswick ended the nine years war and disbanded the grand alliance made by Europe. Louis managed to broke his enemies and divide them, he again showed the power of France.
The Spanish Succession
As mentioned Charles II of Spain wasn’t capable of leaving sons, he was from the house of Habsburg and the Holy Roman had claim on him. But when Louis married Maria he also had claim on the title because she didn’t pay the money required. This meant if France got control of Spain nobody could stop them, the same goes for the HRM.
Firstly there was a treaty between HRM and France as mentioned above, everything was sent in place. But things changed and France made a treaty with England and again everything was in place. But things changed again when there were a couple of unexpected deaths.
In the end before Charles II died in 1700 he made a successor that wasn’t of any huge house and won’t leave any unbalance in Europe. There won’t be a Spain-French nor Spain-Austrian faction and a balance would set once again. But as he left his successor everyone was mad. On the throne a French duke named Philip became Emperor of Spain known Philip V.
A war for the succession was started in 1702 to 1715. Spain and France were fighting against the other European powers. But once again war brings disaster. There was also a big famine in 1693 to 1710 that took over two million people and the war made things worse. France military reforms showed a huge benefit and they destroyed their enemies, but victory after victory cam peace. The treaty of Utrecht between the forces a lot of things changed. The loser from this war was Spain. Some of it’s territories were split such as in Netherlands and the cities in Italy. This weakened Spain and it was just a mere shadow of it’s former self. France also had some benefit from this war. Even though Louis didn’t accomplish a lot when we look into a map, he displayed a huge power and maintained that power.
The Life of Louis
He lived a pretty expensive life. He made 22 children while only 6 were legitimate. From those six, three were male and had claim to the throne. Two died and only one survived.
Louis had a lot of mistresses and lived that kind of a life. He also was a fan of culture and theater and loved Ballet. He was an actor and a male ballerina as well. This sumps up his life and the changes he made.