Louis XIV, the Sun King Facts & Worksheets

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    • Early Life
    • Reign as Sun King
      • Foreign Policy
      • Arts and Religion
    • Death and Legacy

    Key Facts And Information

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    Louis XIV, the Sun King

    Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, was the longest-reigning king in European history, ruling France for 72 years and 110 days. He raised the French monarchy to its highest point of absolute authority and established France as Europe's leading power. The final decades of Louis XIV's reign saw France devastated by numerous prolonged wars that depleted its resources and the widespread migration of its Protestant population as a result of the king's revocation of the Edict of Nantes. His reign is also regarded with the greatest period of French culture and art.


    • The birth of Louis XIV was unexpected. When Louis XIII of France and Anne of Austria got married when they were both 14 years old, they had a very difficult relationship. Louis blamed Anne for a string of miscarriages and stillbirths that their marriage had caused. A boy named Louis-Dieudonne, also known as Louis, the Gift of God, was born to Anne when she was 37 years old. She gave birth to a second son, Philippe I, Duke of Orleans, who was Louis' brother, two years later.
    • Louis' mother showered him with affection, and the two grew close. His belief that he was a gift from God and that it was his divine right to govern France as an absolute king originated from his upbringing. Louis was personable and talented in the arts and languages from an early age.


    • Louis became king of France after his father, Louis XIII, died when he was just four years old in 1643. With the assistance of Cardinal Mazarin, his mother acted as regent, although the years were characterised by instability. The royal family was forced to retreat to the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye when Louis was 9 years old due to a rebellion by members of the Parisian parliament against the monarchy. Louis developed a disdain for Paris and a dread of rebellions as a result of the insurrection and the ensuing civil war, known as the Fronde, which affected his future political choices.
    • After Cardinal Mazarin passed away in 1661, Louis broke with other French kings and told the French parliament that he was the Absolute Monarch. Louis believed that treason was a sin against God rather than a legal offence. He chose the Sun as the emblem of his kingdom, and he started to consolidate power right away. While building up the ship and army, he established a rigid foreign policy. In 1667, he invaded Holland to reclaim what he perceived to be his wife's inheritance.
    • He was forced to recede as a result of pressure from the Dutch and the English, but in 1672 he was able to form an alliance with Charles II, a new English monarch, to expropriate Dutch land and increase the size of France. 
    • Louis nominated people who supported the throne to positions in the administration to handle legal and financial concerns in the various parts of France. 
    • He made the official transition of the seat of government from Paris to his chateau in Versailles in 1682. As a devout Catholic, Louis overturned the Edict of Nantes, which had given French Protestants legal protection, in 1685, which led to a large-scale Protestant migration to the Netherlands and England.


    • Throughout his reign, Louis launched many campaigns against the Jansenists, a strict Catholic group. He eventually reversed his antipapal policies in an effort to win the Pope's backing after growing so enraged with them. This occurred, and the bull Unigenitus condemned the Jansenists in 1713. However, this meddling offended French national sentiment, and the Jansenist cause grew significantly as a result.
    • Both the administration of the provinces by intendants (royal agents with full authority in every field) and the government of France by a collection of interlocking councils were not created by Louis; rather, he took control of them, improved their effectiveness, and for the first time extended the system of intendants to the entirety of France. 
    • In his era, government efficiency significantly increased, although much of this efficiency was lost after his passing. It also developed a persistent increase in bureaucracy. 
    • Local initiative was discouraged as provincial France's concerns increasingly started to be determined by the council.
    • Given his knowledge of the Fronde, Louis undoubtedly thought that anything was preferable than the semi-anarchy of the past; nonetheless, one could argue that he went too far in his regimentation. Governmental over- centralisation continues to be a major cause of conflict in France. Louis didn't start this centralisation or see it through to the end, but he undoubtedly hastened it.
    • Louis was keen to keep the nobles in check because aristocratic instability had been the primary cause of the Fronde. 
    • Throughout his rule, he made every effort to undermine the independence of the nobility and convert them, especially the wealthier and more powerful ones, into courtiers. 
    • He mostly succeeded in this. Although the palace was still far from being finished, Versailles, which took over as the government in 1682, soon became a magnet for the nobles. Without diligent court at Versailles, no nobleman could expect to be appointed to any significant office.
    • The cult of monarchy, which Louis intentionally nurtured to the best of his power, drew them to Versailles of their own will; exclusion from the court's enchanted circle came to be considered as social death.
    • Some historians have condemned Louis for turning the French nobles into gilded parasites, yet the Fronde made it questionable whether they were capable of playing any more useful roles. 
    • Louis did not make the error of his predecessors and exclude the Third Estate from all the top posts, while preferring to choose his generals, bishops, and (contrary to legend) his ministers from the aristocracy. 
    • Some of his appointments came from members of the bourgeoisie.


    • Louis XIV was a diligent and hardworking monarch who carefully controlled every aspect of his plans, but he also had a passion for the arts, music, theatre, and athletics. The playwright Molière, the painter Charles Le Brun, and the musician Jean-Baptiste Lully are just a few of the most notable creative and intellectual figures he surrounded himself with during his lifetime. He also founded a number of institutes for the arts and sciences and named himself patron of the organisation that governs the French language, the Académie Française.
    • Louis constructed a number of costly châteaux that drained the nation's resources and drew charges of extravagance in order to accommodate his retinue of newly loyal nobles (and, perhaps, to distance himself from the population of Paris).

      Room of Louis XIV in the Palace of Versailles
    • Most notably, Louis expanded a royal hunting lodge into one of the greatest palaces in the world in Versailles, a town 25 miles southwest of the capital, and moved his court and government there formally in 1682. 
    • With the use of entertainment, ceremony, and a rigidly prescribed code of etiquette, Louis used this majestic setting to subdue the nobles and entertain foreign guests while establishing his supremacy. 
    • France came dangerously close to going into debt several times. Louis spent quite lavishly. Louis supported the arts with a significant portion of his money. 
    • He soon came to believe that taxing the wealthy was the only way to obtain the money he needed. He would continually raise taxes in order to collect this money. 
    • One of Louis' most significant partners was Jean Baptiste Colbert. Jean mostly oversaw finances. He promoted his own ideas and was the go-to person for the king. 
    • Despite his being responsible for helping with money, France continued to pile up debt. 
    • Everything may be traced back to the wars Louis made France fight and the money needed to assemble an army. Louis not winning the most of these conflicts did not help. 
    • Even when the people had run out of money to pay taxes, he still continued to tax them which significantly affected and angered the lower class.
    • When Louis became influenced by the religious and disciplined Marquise de Maintenon, who had been his illegitimate children's governess, and the two wed in a private ceremony around a year after the death of Queen Marie-Thérèse in 1683, the festive mood at Versailles somewhat subsided. In sculpture, architecture, and garden design, Louis generally preferred the classical over the baroque, and despite the rising popularity of portraits of all kinds of individuals, the monarch himself placed considerable value on religious art.
    • During the latter half of Louis XIV's reign, France and its monarch were weakened by factors other than the prolonged conflict. 
    • The fervently Catholic monarch revoked the Edict of Nantes, which had been passed by his grandfather Henry IV in 1598 and had given French Protestants, also known as Huguenots, freedom of religion and other rights. 
    • Louis ordered the desecration of Protestant places of worship, the closure of Protestant educational institutions, and the deportation of Protestant clergy with the Edict of Fontainebleau. 
    • Protestants would not be permitted to congregate, and their unions would be regarded as illegitimate. All kids would need to be baptised and receive Catholic schooling.
    • In France at the time, there were about a million Huguenots, many of whom worked as artisans or in other specialised occupations. Thousands of people — estimates range from 200,000 to 800,000 — fled in the decades that followed, settling in countries like England, Switzerland, Germany, and the American colonies, despite the Edict of Fontainebleau specifically forbidding Protestant emigration. 
    • The kingdom had lost a valuable portion of its workforce as a result of Louis XIV's act of fervent religious conviction, which some have argued was counselled by Marquise de Maintenon. It also angered the country's Protestant neighbours.


    • Four days before his 77th birthday, on 1 September 1715, Louis XIV passed away at Versailles from gangrene. The culture, history, and future of France were permanently altered by his 72-year reign, which was the longest of any known European king. Louis XV's 5-year-old great-grandson took over as monarch.
    • In addition to his deteriorating health, Louis had a number of personal and political setbacks at the end of his life. 
    • Any hope of continuous political cooperation between the two nations was eliminated when the House of Stuart in England was overthrown and replaced by the Protestant William of Orange. 
    • During the War of Spanish Succession, Louis XIV also suffered a number of defeats, but he was able to hold onto the land he had conquered in earlier years.

      France under the reign of the Sun King (orange)
    • Louis experienced several health issues at the end of his life, including tooth abscesses, boils, and gout, and it is suspected that he had diabetes, according to medical journals from the 18th century.
    • Louis XIV constructed an empire during his lifetime, reorganising French politics and elevating France to the status of dominant European power. His establishment of the Palace of Versailles, one of the most well-known modern historical buildings in the world, makes him the most prominent example of an absolute king from the 17th and 18th centuries. 
    • Even while Louis XIV made France impenetrable to foreign opponents, he also constructed a wide gap between the nobles and the working classes, segregating the political class in Versailles and the aristocracy from the common people in Paris. Louis unintentionally lay the groundwork for the revolution that would follow, a revolt that would bring an end to the French monarchy permanently even as he made France stronger than it had ever been.