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Louis XIV

The Reign of Louis XIV

Main Idea: After a century of war and riots,

France was ruled by Louis XIV, the most

powerful monarch of his time.
WHY IT MATTERS NOW: Louiss abuse of

power led to revolution that would inspire

the call for democratic government
throughout the world.

In 1559, King Henry II of France died, leaving

four young sons. Three of them ruled, one

after the other, but all proved incompetent.
The real power behind the throne during this
period was their mother, Catherine de Medicis.
Catherine tried to preserve royal authority, but

growing conflicts between Catholics and

HuguenotsFrench Protestantsrocked the
country. Between 1562-1598, Huguenots and
Catholics fought eight religious wars. Chaos
spreadh throughout France.

Louis XIII and

Cardinal Richelieu
After Henry IVs death, his son, Louis XIII

reigned. Louis was a weak king, but in 1624, he

appointed a strong minister who made up for all
of Louiss weaknesses.
Richelieu took two steps to increase the power

of the Bourbon monarchy. First, he moved

against the Huguenots.
Second, he sought to weaken the nobles power.
He wanted to make France the strongest state

in Europe.

Writers Turn Toward

As France regained political power, a new

French intellectual movement developed.

French thinkers had witnessed the

religious wars with horror. They turned

toward skepticism, the idea that nothing
can ever be known for certain.

Louis XIV
Comes to Power
The efforts of Henry IV and Richelieu to

strengthen the French monarchy paved

the way for the most powerful ruler in
French historyLouis XIV. In his view, he
and the state were one and the same.
He reportedly boasted, Letat, cest moi,

meaning I am the state.

He was the strongest king of his time but

was only 4 years old when he began his


Louis, the Boy King

When Louis became king in 1643 after the

death of his father, Louis XIII, the true

ruler of France was Richelieus successor,
Cardinal Mazarin. His greatest triumph?
Ending the Thirty Years War in 1648.
Many people in France, particularly the

nobles, hated Mazarin because he

increased taxes and strengthened the
central government.

The Sun Kings

Grand Style
In his personal finances, Louis spent a

fortune to surround himself with luxury.

For example, each meal was a feast.
Someone once claimed Louis once

devoured four plates of soup, a whole

pheasant, a partridge in garlic sauce, two
slices of ham, a salad, a plate of pastries,
fruit, and hard-boiled eggs in one single
sitting. He had 500 cooks, waiters, and
other servants.

Every morning the chief valet woke Louis

at 8:30. Outside the curtains of Louiss

canopy bed stood at least 100 of the most
privileged nobles at court. They waited to
dress him.
Lets look!

Versailles: Symbol of
Royal Power
Spared no expense to make it the most

magnificent building in Europe.

Levee: major ritual for Louis XIV. High-

ranking nobles competed for the honor of

holding the royal washbasin or handing
the king his diamond-buckled shoes.
They did this because they were exempt

from paying taxes. Sweet deal.

Separate Classes
Why do you think the lives of the royalty in
France were better documented than the
commoners? Lets respond here:

Patron of the Arts

King Louis XIV supported a splendid

century of the arts. The age of Louis XIV

came to be known as the classical age of
French drama.
Painting, music, architecture, and drama

all prospered during his reign.

Louis XIV sponsored the French Academies

which set high standards for both the arts

and the sciences.

A Strong State
Louis XIV ruled for 72 yearsthats 30

years longer than Philip II of Spain!

At the end of Louis reign, France was the

strongest state in Europe. However, some

of Louis decisions eventually caused
Frances prosperity to erode.
Why did this happen?

Why the State

Louis XIV placed most resources into wars

meant to expand French borders.

However, rival rulers joined forces to
check these ambitions.
Led by the Dutch or the English, these

alliances fought to maintain the balance

of power. The goal was to make sure
the power among European nations stayed

Louis XIV saw Frances Protestant minority as a

threat to religious and political unity.

Huguenots: Protestants living in France

Because of the persecution, the Huguenots fled

France and settled in countries like England, the

Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and the Americas.
They were among the hardest working and most
prosperous of Louiss subjects. Their loss was a
serious blow to French economy.
Does this sound familiar? Explain.