Louis XIV, The Sun King

Louis XIV was only four
years old when he succeeded his father to the French throne. Often uncared
for, he nearly drowned because no one was watching him as he played near a
pond. This began to shape in his young mind an early fear of God.



Louis\' character was also shaped by the French Civil War. In this,
the Paris Parlement rose against the crown. For five years, Louis would suffer
fear, cold, hunger and other spirit-breaking events. He would never forgive
Paris, the nobles, or the common people.



Finally, in 1653,
Cardinal Jules Mazarin was able to end the rebellion. He began to instruct
Louis on his position as king. Even though Louis XIV was now of age, the Cardinal
remained the dominant authority in French politics.


French
kings gained respect as a soldier; Louis served with the French army during
France\'s war with Spain. His biggest battle, however, was sacrificing his love
for Mazarin\'s niece for politics. In 1660 he married the daughter of the king
of Spain to bring peace between the two countries.



Mazarin
died March 9, 1661. On March 10, Louis claimed supreme authority in France.
Not since Henry IV had such a claim been made. Louis saw himself as God\'s representative
on earth, therefore, infallible. He oversaw roadbuilding, court decorum, defense,
and disputes within the church.


He had the support initially
of his ministers, then that of the French people. He had given France the image
it desired -- youth and vitality surrounded by magnificence. Louis won the
favor of the nobles by making it evident that their future depended on their
ability stay on his good side. This weakened the nobility, and would eventually
weaken France.


Louis had among his supportors a wide spectrum
of individuals. Writers such as Moliere were ordered to glorify him. Monuments
rose throughout the country and Louis had palaces built in his honor. The most
elaborate was Versailles, located outside Paris. Away from disease, Versailles
also isolated the king from his people. The aristocracy became mysterious.



France was also undergoing an economic revolution. Exports were
increased, and a navy, merchant marine, and police association emerged. Roads,
ports and canals were being built. He invaded the Spanish Nederlands in 1667.
The restarted war between France and Spain would be on again, off again for
the remainder of Louis\' reign.


In 1668, the French army retreated
under pressure from Dutch and English forces. Louis swore to defeat the Dutch
and ruin their Protestant mercantile republic. He allied himself with his cousin,
Charles II of England, and invaded the Netherlands in 1672. Louis was victorious
when the Treaty of Mijmegen was signed in 1678. When the Dutch were defeated,
he had also defeated its allies, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. France\'s
borders had expanded to the north and the east. His navy had become as as large
as that of England and Holland.


His private life was not as
fortunate. Friends had been implicated in the Affair of the Poisons, where
eminent people had been accused of sorcery and murder. Louis ordered his court
to become discrete. The seat of Government was transferred to Versailles in
1682. When the Queen died, he married her Mme de Maintenon, who had been governess
to the King\'s children.


Louis did not understand the reformation, and
he viewed French Protestants as threats to the throne. He revoked the Edict
of Nantes, which had granted them freedom of worship. Many left France, those
that remained were persecuted.


England, the Dutch, and the
Holy Roman Empire united in 1688 in the Grand Alliance to stop French expansion.
This war ended in 1697 with the signing of the Treaty of Rijswijk. France lost
part of its territory, and Louis lost public support. He was forced to recognize
William of Orange as king of England. This went against his belief that the
Stuarts had divine right to the throne.


Charles II, the last
Habsburg king of Spain died in 1700, and bequeathed his kingdoms to Louis\'
grandson, Philip of Anjou (Philip V). Although initially opposed to the inheritance,
Louis finally went along with it in order to prevent Spain from falling into
the hands of the Holy Roman emperor, Leopold I, who disputed Philip\'s claim.



In the War of the Spanish Succession the anti-French alliance
was reactivated by William of Orange. By 1709, France was near to losing all
it had gained over the past century. Louis\' private life was also a wreck:
his son, two grandsons, and a great grandson died. Instead of breaking down
as was expected, he held himself together. He bore