Louis XIV was the king of France from 1643-1715, the longest reign of any sovereign monarch in European history. He ushered in an age of arts and literature to France, transformed the monarchy, and revoked the Edict of Nantes.
Louis XIV was born on September 5, 1638 to King Louis XII and Queen Anne of Austria. He was named Louis Dieudonné, meaning “Louis the gift of God”. His father died when Louis XIV was four and he became king, though his mother reigned as regent until he was old enough to assume full authority. During his early reign, the kingdom affairs were mostly run by his mother and the Chief Minister, Cardinal Jules Mazarin. Mazarin and the queen instituted policies that led to rebellion and a civil war known as the Fronde.
At the age of 23, Louis XIV took full control of the kingdom and ruled without a chief minister. He believed he had been given a divine right by God to wield absolute power of the monarchy. He worked to centralize and tighten control of France and its overseas colonies, making all authority emanate from the throne and not from the pope. His ministers helped to improve the growth of industry and the military in France. He reduced the national debt by incorporating more efficient taxing systems and even at a point, introduced taxation of the nobles. This act was a step toward equality and sound public finances. He also enacted the Great Ordinance of Civil Procedure of 1667, also known as the Code Louis which, among other things, prescribed baptismal, marriage, and death records in the state's registers, not the church's, and it strictly regulated the right of the parliament to remonstrate.
French colonies multiplied during Louis' reign, and French explorers made important discoveries in North America. Louis XIV also managed to pacify the rebellious nobles who had been against his mother’s and Mazarin rule by indulging them in his luxurious lifestyle. He loved the arts and literature, so he surrounded himself with prominent writers and artists. He brought the Académie Française, founded the Académie Royale de Danse, and the Académie d'Opéra. He promoted and even performed in many roles in about 40 major ballets. He earned the moniker, the Sun King, after appearing as Apollo in an ornate golden costume.
During the reign of Louis XIV, France fought three major wars and two minor wars. The wars had an enormous impact on the country’s finances. He revoked the Edict of Nantes, which had previously provided freedom of worship and other rights to Protestants (known as Huguenots), and forced all French people to be of the Catholic faith. He ordered the destruction of Protestant churches and schools and deemed all Protestant marriages invalid. These actions weakened both his reign and the nation.
King Louis XIV died in 1715 and was succeeded by his grandson Louis XV.
“Always follow good counsels.”
“It is impossible to please all the world.”
“There is little that can withstand a man who can conquer himself.”
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