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How King Louis the Great Made France Into the Leading Power in Europe

Who was the Sun King?

Known as the “Sun King,” Louis XIV centralized power in the French monarchy and reigned over a period of great prosperity in which France became a dominant force in Europe.

He is known as Louis The Great because of the reforms he made that made France become the leading power in Europe.

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He was born in 1638 and his father was 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.

His mother was his regent and took control of the crown. His mother was an Austrian princess.

Louis had a huge connection with his mother and they were very close.


Louis the Great takes the Throne in 1643

When his father died in 1643 Louis was crowned king of France.

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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.

France was unstable at the time meaning a ruler didn’t have much influence among the nobles, but a lot of things were about to change.

Before we continue, note that the mother regent was tortured and interrogated by her husband and his followers while he was still alive, as it was believed that she was a spy of the Habsburg dynasty.

She kept in constant contact with the king of Spain and this led to the conclusion that she was a spy.

One War Ended, Another Begun

A civil war broke loose in France known as Fronde because Anne would imprison everyone who disagreed 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.

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The Feudal lords were really mad about Anne’s decisions and gain of power.

The people of Paris started rioting and in this culmination, an angry mob came into the king’s sleeping chamber.

As a child, this would have been a traumatic experience and the hate of Louis for Paris and the nobility never departed.

A compromise was reached with the rebels and a peace treaty known as the peace of Rueil was signed.

But a second Fronde began, this time the aristocracy was involved heavily because they knew that their political power was at stake.

King Loui’s mother arranged for him to be married to the daughter of her brother, the king of Spain Philip IV.

This sort of incest was very common.

The End of Regency

Once Louis got older to rule on his own things started to get a lot of interesting.

In 1661, the country was bankrupt and a lot of things had to change.

He employed some people to stabilize the economy so he could start to reform his whole country.

He increased taxes and people loved him!

He did this with a complex tax system that we will not get into detail in this article, but what you need to know is, this made the country stable, and now Louis could make his great reforms.

Louis started to bring new skillful people that would increase the economy in the country.

Instead of importing, their economy would bloom inside and grow.

He called inventors, glassworkers, blacksmiths, artists, etc.

This would increase the French economy.

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 was the only one that could acquire the general position. 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.

The many wars that King Louis was involved in

The War with Spain

The brother of his mother, Philip of Spain died in 1665.

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 marriage.

On Spain’s throne ruled Charles II, who couldn’t rule and also couldn’t have kids.

But first 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 the Netherlands they saw his power and were shocked.

As a result, 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 vast.

They made a treaty that they would share the kingdom because they knew that the current king would leave no heirs.

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.

King Louis 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, but the war was fought not for gain but for show.

After this display of force, France was a leading player in Europe.

France’s colonization of Louisiana

King Louise started to colonize the American continent, and the French settled in the East part of Canada and also had control of the river Mississippi.

The river and its surrounding territories were called Louisiana, after King Louis.

Later the French will sell this land to the Americans.

The power of King Louis the Great

The crown was dominant in this period in France, and King Louis destroyed the authority of the church and aristocracy.

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.

King Louis then built Versailles.

The most beautiful palace was his home, and he “invited” all of the nobles to live under his roof.

Now he had full control over them.

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 to a catholic.

A lot of nobles converted into Catholics in order not to lose their power.

Everyone who wouldn’t convert must emigrate the country.

This was a strong move to gain trust from the Pope and still have a strong and dominant power in the country.

The Spanish Succession

As mentioned, Charles II of Spain wasn’t capable of leaving an heir.

There was then competition for the throne of Spain between the Holy Roman Empire and King Louis.

In the end, before Charles II died in 1700 he named a successor that wasn’t part of a huge house, meaning there would not be a Spain-French nor Spain-Austrian faction.

On the throne, a French duke named Philip became Emperor of Spain known Philip V.

As a result, war for the succession of Spain started from 1702 to 1715.

Spain and France were fighting against the other European powers.

There was also a big famine from 1693 to 1710 that took two million lives.

With the treaty of Utrecht between the empires, a lot of things changed.

Spain was forced to give up some of its territories such as the Netherlands and the cities in Italy.

The personal life of King Louis

King Louis lived a lavish and expensive life.

He had 22 children while only 6 were legitimate. From those six, three were male had claim to the throne. Two died and only one survived.

He also was a fan of culture and theater and loved Ballet. Surprisingly, he was also an actor and a male ballerina.

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