Louis XIV

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Louis XIV in coronation regalia, portrait by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1701; Musée du Louvre )Louis XIV Signature.svg
Double coat of arms of the Bourbons as kings of France and Navarre

Louis XIV , French Louis XIV (born September 5, 1638 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye , † September 1, 1715 in Versailles ), was a French prince from the House of Bourbon and from 1643 until his death king of France and Navarre as well as co-prince of Andorra .

At the age of four, Louis XIV became officially king; However, he was initially under the tutelage of his mother Anna of Austria and after the death of the "leading minister" Jules Mazarin from 1661 personally exercised the power of government. Ludwig secured absolute power for the French kingship by expanding the administration and the army, fighting the aristocratic opposition ( Fronde ) and promoting a mercantilist economic system . Domestically, he moved the Catholic faith back to the center (la France toute catholique) and revoked it in the Edict of Fontainebleau(October 18, 1685) the religious and civil rights of the Huguenots . At the same time, Ludwig tried to withdraw the Catholic Church in France from the secular influence of the papacy ( Gallicanism ). Through an expansive foreign policy and several wars ( Dutch War , War of Palatinate Succession , War of Spanish Succession ), Ludwig freed his country from the Habsburg clutches and consolidated France's position as the dominant great power in Europe.

Louis XIV is considered to be the most important representative of courtly absolutism and divine grace . The court culture he established , the central symbol of which was the outstanding position and the magnificent appearance of the king, became a model for courts throughout Europe. Ludwig promoted art and science, which resulted in a heyday of French culture, which was expressed in the Louis quatorze style . His work was therefore also formative for the art and architectural-historical epoch of the classicist baroque . The best example of this is the Versailles Palace built by Ludwig , which is considered the highlight of European palace architecture. The absolutist motto "L'État c'est moi" (" I am the state ") is wrongly ascribed to him.

His reign marked a heyday of art in France, particularly literature , architecture and music . Well-known representatives of this period are Lully , Charpentier , Couperin , Molière , Corneille , La Fontaine , Racine , Boileau , Le Vau , Mansart and Le Nôtre , which is why the 17th century is often described as the Grand Siècle (Great Century).

Louis XIV was nicknamed "Sun King" (Roi-Soleil) or "the Great" (Louis le grand) . When he died on September 1, 1715 after 72 years of reign, he was one of the longest ruling monarchs in modern history.


Louis XIV. 1667 on a painting by Henri Testelin (detail)

The birth of Louis XIV in the castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye appeared to many as a happy event, because the marriage of his parents Louis XIII was for 23 years . and Anna of Austria remained without descendants. Due to his birth, the feared succession to the throne of Gaston d'Orléans was postponed. Out of gratitude, the newborn was nicknamed the "God-given" (Dieudonné) . His brother, Duke Philip I d'Orléans , was born in 1640 and died in 1701.

At the age of four, Ludwig was enthroned as king on May 14, 1643. But he lived until he was thirteen (1651) under the reign of his mother Anna of Austria. The actual power exercised at this time the "ruling minister" Cardinal Jules Mazarin . Mazarin prepared Ludwig purposefully for his role as an absolutist ruler. Step by step, the young king gained power and eventually shared responsibility with Mazarin. Politically strengthened by the foreign policy successes of the Minister-Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin, Ludwig developed the absolutist kingship of the baroque style in France, with a court life that was tailored entirely to the person of the ruler. After the Peace of Westphalia at the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648 and the Peace of the Pyrenees with Spain in 1659, France was the political and military supremacy in Europe. Supported by ministers such as Colbert , Louvois , Lionne and Chancellor Séguier , he concentrated the state's power apparatus and expanded the military, institutional and material power base of the French monarchy . The Huguenot persecution and the War of the Spanish Succession had a negative impact, at least financially . Due to the harshness of the fighting in 1713 , the latter almost led to national bankruptcy , which was only averted through financial reform and massive savings.

In 1660, Ludwig married Maria Teresa of Spain . After her death (1683) he secretly married the Marquise de Maintenon in a morganatic marriage . Ludwig survived his son Louis, le Grand Dauphin , and his eldest grandson Louis de Bourgogne and died on September 1, 1715. Only his great-grandson followed him as Louis XV. on the throne after. The body of Louis XIV was preserved in powder form by the surgeon Pierre Dionis (1643–1718) using tannic acid and buried in the "Crypt of the Bourbons" in the Abbey of Saint-Denis . When the royal tombs of Saint-Denis were sacked in 1793, the revolutionariesprofaned ” his body, which was very well preserved, along with those of other kings, and even briefly thrown it into a pit. His embalmed heart was buried in the Jesuit church Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis on Rue St. Antoine in Paris in 1715 . During the restoration period , like all the heart burials of the members of the royal family, it was transferred to the Abbey of Saint-Denis, where it is still located in the restored burial place of the French kings in the crypt .



Ludwig as Dauphin , portrait by Philippe de Champaigne (around 1642)

Louis de Bourbon was born on September 5, 1638 around 11 a.m. in the castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye . The birth was perceived as a happy event by contemporaries, because the marriage of his parents Louis XIII was for 23 years . and Anna of Austria remained without descendants. After several miscarriages, the couple had become estranged and the devout Anna attributed the birth of the long-awaited Crown Prince ( Dauphin ) to the work of St. Fiacrius , which is why the newborn was nicknamed Dieudonné ( the God-given ). In 1640 a second son followed with the birth of Philip . The late birth of two sons ensured the dynastic survival of the Bourbons and a succession to the throne of Gaston d'Orléans became obsolete. But the marriage between Ludwig and Anna remained unhappy because the king had doubts about the origins of his children and accused his wife of taking the heir to the throne against him.

Louis XIII. died on May 14, 1643 and the four-year-old Dauphin was officially proclaimed the new king as Louis XIV. For the underage successor, a regency council under Anna of Austria took over the government, the actual decision-making power lay with Cardinal Jules Mazarin . He had already led the affairs of state under his father as the leading minister and was godfather of the young king.


Louis XIV as a ten-year-old, painting by Justus van Egmont (1648)

Up until the age of five, Ludwig and his younger brother Philip were raised by the governesses Françoise de Lansac and Marie-Catherine de Senecey . In keeping with the zeitgeist, the two princes were dressed as small children like girls and only began with a gender-specific upbringing from the age of six.

Cardinal Mazarin ensured that the young monarch received a comprehensive education and in 1646 appointed the officer Nicolas de Neufville, duc de Villeroy, as educator . Since Mazarin recognized the dangers of a strong brother of the king - the claims to power of the brothers Louis XIII were to him. still omnipresent - he is said to have made sure that Philip was not educated as a potential heir to the throne. Classmate and playmate of Ludwig was the son of his tutor François de Neufville, duc de Villeroy . The two were taught by the clergyman Hardouin de Péréfixe de Beaumont and from 1652 by the philosopher François de La Mothe le Vayer . The subjects covered were foreign languages ​​( Latin and Italian ), religion , history , mathematics and military science . Riding and fencing expanded the training program, which found its completion in artistic content ( painting , drawing , architecture , dance and music ). Mazarin personally introduced Ludwig to the art of government and state affairs and gave him an idea of ​​the power of symbolism. His mother gave him the awareness of having been chosen by God to be ruler (divine right), from which the unrestricted claim to power of the French monarch was derived.

Reign of the mother and Mazarins

Anna of Austria , anonymous portrait ( Museo del Prado , Madrid)

In 1635 France had entered the Thirty Years' War on the side of Sweden , with the main aim of weakening the House of Habsburg . France's armies now fought against the Roman-German Emperor and his allies in the empire as well as against the Spanish king. The French armies were militarily successful; nevertheless, the conflict put a considerable strain on public finances . Domestically, Anna was faced with fierce opposition because the city courts and princes mistrusted her government . The turned Cardinal Mazarin contrary. However, Anna turned out to be completely different than expected. The queen, initially scorned as a Spanish Habsburg woman at the French court, became a staunch French woman herself. She tolerated neither favorites nor the diminution of royal authority in the state. Their generals directed them to continue the fighting with undiminished severity. Mazarin directed the affairs of state and carried on the absolutist policy of Cardinal Richelieu, in that he pursued the centralization of state authority in the person of the king with all his might.

With the signing of the peace treaties in Münster and Osnabrück (1648), France emerged as the great victor of the Thirty Years' War. Considerable troops could be deployed against Spain . But now the Fronde (1648–1653) broke out in France , an open civil war between the Paris Parliament and the princes against the policy of royal absolutism . Ludwig's minority served as an opportunity to revolt . The frondeurs pretended to fight the negative influences of the Chief Minister Mazarin. As an Italian, this was generally little appreciated; the royal princes in particular resented him for consistently excluding them from any political power . The parliaments (Supreme Courts of Justice), on the other hand, were influenced by the English Civil War and saw an opportunity to expand their privileges vis-à-vis the Crown.

The Fronde failed in 1652, but the unrest continued until 1654. Louis XIV was declared of legal age in 1651 , which officially ended his mother's reign. As expected, the king - still too young to rule - transferred power to Mazarin and not to a prince from the royal family. On June 7th, 1654 the coronation and anointing of the king took place in the cathedral of Reims , with which the order in the kingdom was restored, for everyone to see. The coronation of the king should consciously stand for the people as a symbol of continuity and the protection of God over the king.

During the civil war, the struggle with Spain came to a standstill, and the Frondeurs also received support from the Spanish. After peace reigned, France was able to bundle its forces against Spain and achieved success by attacking the Spanish Netherlands and invading Spain, which led to the reoccupation of Catalonia . In 1657 Mazarin succeeded in winning Republican England under Oliver Cromwell in a secret treaty as an ally against the Spaniards. Spain was forced to seek peace. King Philip IV offered Louis the hand of his eldest daughter, the Infanta Maria Teresa of Spain. Two years later, the two monarchs met on Pheasant Island , between France and Spain, and signed the Peace of the Pyrenees . France acquired the Roussillon north of the Pyrenees and got the Artois and some neighboring countries from the Spanish Netherlands . The Infanta renounced her right of inheritance to the Spanish crown in exchange for a dowry of 500,000 gold thalers, an unaffordable amount for the Spaniards that could not be paid out. As a result, Maria Teresa remained the eldest daughter of the Spanish royal family who was entitled to inheritance. The marriage between Louis XIV and Maria Teresa (a first cousin) took place on June 9, 1660 in Saint-Jean-de-Luz . Dauphin Louis was born on November 1, 1661 .

The sole rule

Portrait attributed to Louis XIV, Charles Le Brun (around 1661; Palace of Versailles )

Cardinal Mazarin has been running the business for the king since Ludwig was a child. The chief minister was considered to have an extraordinary talent in politics and therefore taught the king himself the art of governance . Louis XIV received a solid and very comprehensive education in state affairs, law, history and military strategy, but also in various languages ​​and sciences.

When Mazarin died on March 9, 1661, the 22-year-old king was well prepared for his office and announced to the State Council that he would no longer appoint a leading minister, but would run the business of government himself. These principles of government, today also known as the absolutist cabinet system, he recorded in 1670 in his “memoirs” for his successor. The court and the ministers were initially irritated, but it was thought that it would only be a short period. Ludwig, on the other hand, began to reshuffle the government and dismissed a large part of the Council of State, even excluding his mother, so that only the three most important ministers took part in the council meetings. One of these was Nicolas Fouquet , the finance minister. Ludwig had him arrested for corruption and high treason and replaced by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who was loyal to him. Fouquet had embezzled state funds and had fortifications built without the king's approval. Ludwig interpreted the latter as preparation for a rebellion against himself. With the new government a reform program was decided, the goals of which were the promotion of economy and science , the massive expansion of the navy and army and a profound reform of the bureaucracy . The fleet construction was largely carried out by Colbert and his son, the Marquis de Seignelay . Reform and expansion of the army, on the other hand, were the main tasks of Minister Le Tellier and his son, the Marquis de Louvois . Ludwig himself wrote to his mother: "I am not the bullfinch the courtiers thought I was ...".

The young Louis XIV tried to impress Europe. This opportunity presented itself to him as early as 1661 in the London carriage dispute , as a result of which Spain had to recognize the primacy of the King of France in all of Europe. The European courts realized that Ludwig had no intention of being a weak king. In 1662 there was a defensive alliance between France and Holland; shortly afterwards Louis XIV bought the city of Dunkirk from King Charles II of England . But the king not only wanted to surprise everyone politically, but also wanted to show off his power and wealth. The best way to do this was through splendid court festivals typical of the Baroque era . Therefore, in 1664, the festival The Delights of the Enchanted Island (Plaisirs de l'Île enchantée) took place. European princes were stunned and amazed at the luxury of these amusements and increasingly began to imitate the lifestyle of the French monarch. The legend of the "Sun King" began here.

In 1665 his uncle and father-in-law Philip IV of Spain died and Louis asserted his wife's right of inheritance for the first time . On the basis of the Brabant devolution law, he demanded an inheritance for France, according to which daughters from their first marriage have a priority right of inheritance. In Spain there was a child on the throne with Charles II , who was reigned by his mother, Maria Anna of Austria . The regent rejected the French demands, and Louis prepared a war that broke out in 1667 and lasted until the following year ( war of devolution ). The king's army reforms were well advanced. Like the French King Charles VII before , he had introduced a novelty in modern France with a standing army : professional soldiers who were constantly on standby, strictly trained and disciplined, and regularly paid and cared for. An army of 70,000 men marched into the Spanish Netherlands and then annexed Franche-Comté . Spain was faced with a fait accompli and had no means of defense. The victory appeared to be unqualified, but now France's ally Holland felt threatened by the presence of French troops. The Dutch States General allied themselves in 1668 with England and Sweden to form the triple alliance against Louis XIV in order to accelerate the peace negotiations. He was now forced to cut back on his demands during the negotiations in Aachen. Due to the Peace of Aachen , France kept large parts of the west of the Spanish Netherlands, but had to surrender Franche-Comté again. Louis XIV could not forgive the fact that his former ally had stabbed him in the back, because he had always been the greatest sponsor of the Netherlands and had intervened militarily in their favor in the Second Anglo-Dutch naval war in 1666 . He openly accused the States General of ingratitude and even treason . However, this did not prevent him from celebrating the Grand Divertissement Royal in Versailles that same year as a token of his triumph.

The fight against the Netherlands

Louis XIV crosses the Rhine near Lobith on June 12, 1672, painting by Adam Frans van der Meulen (1680; German Historical Museum , Berlin)
Louis XIV taking Besançon in 1674 ( Hermitage , Saint Petersburg)

Louis XIV now had two political goals: firstly to punish Holland and secondly to straighten the borders, which meant nothing more than to conquer further parts of Spain. First he destroyed the triple alliance by entering into an offensive alliance with his cousin Charles II of England in the Treaty of Dover in 1670 and then paying Sweden high subsidies for an alliance. Then France annexed the Duchy of Lorraine and concluded numerous alliance and neutrality agreements with neighboring princes. After all, Holland was completely isolated in foreign policy and military terms. In 1672 France and England declared war on Holland and the Dutch War (1672–1678) began. Ludwig let 120,000 men cross the borders with the United Provinces of the Netherlands . His aim was not to annex Holland, but just to make an example and to enforce trade advantages. The real aim was to threaten Spain. French troops took more and more territories, the Dutch lost the battle and only the opening of the dikes and the complete flooding of wide areas saved them from total military defeat. In this situation Johan de Witt was by Wilhelm III. Prince of Orange replaced as governor-general of the provinces. This was immediately formed an alliance with Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I a. With this, Louis XIV had also achieved his second political goal: Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor voluntarily declared war. In 1673 he personally led the French troops in the siege of Maastricht . After the withdrawal of his troops from Holland, Ludwig could now use his armies against Spaniards and imperialists. In 1674 he annexed Franche-Comté again , but England left the war. To celebrate the victories, the king held his third famous festival, the Feast of Versailles . The fighting dragged on until 1678, but was highly successful for France. Ludwig kept 280,000 men under arms during the war. The Allied forces were not up to this superiority and the fighting strength of the French troops, which is why France finally won the Dutch War. In 1678/79 the peace of Nijmegen was concluded. France almost completely retained its conquests against Spain and in the Holy Roman Empire . The influence and dominance of Louis XIV in Europe continued to grow. Nevertheless, the king was dissatisfied, as the intended border straightening had not been fully achieved. In 1679 he dismissed his foreign minister, the Marquis de Pomponne , and replaced him with Colbert's talented brother Charles Colbert de Croissy . To secure the borders, Ludwig began to expand the French fortress belt . The fortress builder Sébastien le Prestre de Vauban surrounded the kingdom with over 160 newly built or converted fortifications, which were supposed to seal off France's territories. This included founding cities such as Saarlouis and Neuf-Brisach , the latter still being a particularly vivid example of these fortified cities.

After the successful war, France did not dissolve its armies, but kept them under arms in full combat strength. Ludwig used them to enforce the reunions , which enabled him to further expand his conquests. First he annexed the remaining parts of Alsace , here in particular Strasbourg was his main goal, which had served as a gateway for imperial troops; it was captured in 1681. During these years the county of Saarbrücken and the Duchy of Pfalz-Zweibrücken were occupied and converted into the French Province de la Sarre . In 1683, Louis XIV's troops attacked the eastern parts of the Spanish Netherlands and conquered the important Spanish border fortress of Luxembourg until the following year . In addition, the Lower Scheldt was occupied , which brought large parts of Flanders into French possession. Against this open aggression in peacetime Spain protested vehemently and declared even in 1683 the war . But no other state was ready to turn arms against France, in particular Emperor Leopold I was bound by the Second Turkish Siege of Vienna . So Spain immediately had to ask for peace. In 1684 Ludwig negotiated a twenty-year armistice with Spain, the emperor and the empire in Regensburg and thus achieved the provisional recognition of all reunions. As a result, Louis XIV no longer had to reckon with any resistance.

The power zenith

The reception of the Doge of Genoa at Versailles, 1685 ( Versailles Palace )
Territories conquered by King Louis XIV, 1757

Ludwig's political and military superiority was overwhelming after the peace of Nijmegen. France's diplomats dominated the political arena. It had become the dominant sea ​​power , while in 1660 it had barely more than two warships . The French army was superior to any other in terms of strength and military technology, the economy flourished and the whole of Europe imitated France's culture. Due to the great success Paris awarded Ludwig in 1680 the title "the great" (Ludovicus Magnus) .

In previous years, Louis XIV was not only expanding into Europe but also expanding the French colonial empire . In addition to the New France colonies founded in Canada in the early 17th century , he founded the first colonies of French India : Chandannagar (1673) and Pondichéry (1674). In the West Indies , the island of Martinique became French. In 1682, La Salle established a new colony on the Lower Mississippi and named it Louisiana in honor of the King . In addition, the king acquired Haiti (1660) and French Guiana (1664), as well as parts of the West African coast and Madagascar with Senegal .

Domestically, Louis XIV began to expand his control over the French state church . In November 1681 he held a meeting of clergymen , which passed the Gallican articles , which practically dissolved the power of the Pope. The influence of the French kings on their own church was already very strong, but now the pope was no longer allowed to send legates to France without the king's consent. Bishops were not allowed to leave the country without royal permission, and no civil servant could be excommunicated for acts that affected his service. All ecclesiastical privileges were transferred to the monarch, all possibilities of influence of the Pope were regulated by the approval of the king. The Pope finally refused to approve these articles and it was not until years later that Ludwig would find a compromise with the Holy See .

In addition, Ludwig assumed that in order to strengthen the unity of the nation , he would have to overcome the division in Christianity caused by the Reformation . From this point of view, he consistently followed the religious policy of his predecessors, especially Cardinal Richelieu's , who always feared a repetition of the Huguenot Wars . Furthermore, he was brought up in the deep belief that the soul of a Protestant was at the mercy of the torments of hell, which is why he saw it as his duty to save the souls of his Huguenot subjects. He therefore put the Protestant population under pressure, especially through the Edict of Fontainebleau (1685). As a result, the tolerant Edict of Nantes proclaimed by Henry IV in 1598 was revoked. Huguenot churches were then destroyed and Protestant schools closed. As a result of Ludwig's measures, around 200,000 (of 730,000) Huguenots fled abroad from 1685 to 1730 , mainly to the Netherlands , Prussia , England and North America , where they, as mostly well-trained specialists, contributed to increasing productivity . These French refugees influenced the Protestant work ethic of the Netherlands, which later increased the already considerable wealth in this region. However, recent research has shown that the number of refugees was far too low to cause any noticeable damage to the French economy. However, the Edict of Fontainebleau shook France's reputation among the Protestant states of Europe and a hard core of 20,000 Huguenots sparked uprisings in central France. However, the vast majority gave in to the pressure and converted, also because of the tax breaks and special rights for converts as well as the lifelong exemption from serving in the militia . Due to the onset of refugee waves in 1669, Ludwig imposed a ban on emigration. After the conversion and proselytizing campaigns, the persecutions culminated in 1681 in the dragons and the destruction of hundreds of Protestant villages. Ultimately, for Louis XIV, his ministers and cardinals, only a Catholic France was a unified and stable France.

Title page of an anonymous pamphlet about the city of Heidelberg and the destruction of Heidelberg Castle in the War of the Palatinate Succession, printed in 1693

From 1686 the League of Augsburg was formed , an amalgamation of Protestant and Catholic states against France's policy of conquest. Members were the Roman-German Emperor Leopold I, Bavaria (Elector Maximilian II. Emanuel ), Brandenburg ( Friedrich Wilhelm ), the United Provinces, Spain (Karl II. Of Spain) and Sweden ( Karl XI. Of Sweden ). In 1688 the diplomatic situation worsened, on the one hand by the Glorious Revolution , in which King James II of England, who was sympathetic to Ludwig, was overthrown, and on the other hand by the dispute over the successor to the Cologne Elector Maximilian Heinrich , since that of France supported candidate was not recognized by the resistance of the emperor and the pope. In 1688 Ludwig sent troops to the Palatinate to demonstrate alleged claims by his sister-in-law Liselotte von der Pfalz to the allodial property of her deceased brother, Elector Karl II , and to achieve permanent recognition of his reunions. This measure, which later led to the devastation of the Palatinate and Baden by the French when they withdrew from the areas on the left bank of the Rhine, escalated the conflict between the king and the league. The latter declared war on France, which England also joined under the new King William of Orange . The confrontation culminated in the Palatinate War of Succession (1688–1697).

After initial setbacks such as the loss of Mainz and Bonn in 1689 , France, which was not prepared for a longer war, was militarily very successful overall. French armies occupied large parts of the Spanish Netherlands, maintained their reunions against the empire and invaded the right bank of the Rhine several times. Ludwig himself took part in some sieges such as Mons and Namur . The Allied forces were less well trained and outnumbered. In addition, extensive troop units of the emperor were tied up in the 5th Turkish War . The alliance could hardly record any victories, but Ludwig's fleet also suffered a defeat at La Hougue (1692). Neither side succeeded in finally wrestling the enemy down. France could not be ousted from the empire. When Louis XIV realized that despite several strategically advantageous victories, such as the Battle of Neer winds on July 29, 1693, he could not force peace militarily, he began to use his diplomats as a political weapon. The exhausted adversaries began to agree on the Peace of Rijswijk , which was signed in 1697. Ludwig tried to negotiate a measured and stable peace here that could also satisfy his opponents. Therefore, he gave Luxembourg, the Duchy of Lorraine and the Palatinate back and got the Alsatian reunions and the possession of Strasbourg finally confirmed. In addition, Louis XIV recognized the Prince of Orange as King of England. This should give France the opportunity to recover from the war effort in the long term.

The last few years

Louis XIV playing his favorite game, billiards (1694)
Louis XIV and his heirs (around 1710; Wallace Collection , London)

After 1697, the succession to the Spanish throne began to become the main theme in the courts of Europe. The Spanish King Charles II had no children, so his successor was unclear. Both the Bourbons and the Habsburgs of the Austrian line asserted inheritance claims, because King Louis XIV and the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Leopold I , had married daughters of Philip IV of Spain. However, Ludwig had married the elder of the two to Maria Teresa of Spain and she had never validly waived her right of inheritance. Leopold, on the other hand, had married the younger daughter Margarita of Spain and was also of the opinion that Spain should remain in the possession of the Habsburgs.

Now other states feared in turn that the power constellation in Europe would be shaken considerably if France or Emperor Leopold should completely annex Spain. With these concerns, Louis XIV acted with Wilhelm III. the 1st partition treaty from England. The Bavarian Prince Joseph-Ferdinand should get Spain and the remaining European possessions of Spain should be divided between Ludwig and Leopold. Emperor Leopold accepted this contractual arrangement. Spain, on the other hand, rejected any division of its empire. Instead, Charles II decided to appoint the Bavarian Prince Joseph-Ferdinand as the universal heir for all lands, in the hope that both Ludwig and Leopold would renounce their contractual rights.

With the death of the six-year-old Bavarian Prince Joseph-Ferdinand in 1699, this plan became obsolete. However, Charles II wanted to preserve the unity of his empire and initially decided in favor of Archduke Karl - the emperor's younger son - as his heir. Its claims, however, were curtailed by the 2nd partition treaty between France and England. After this, Archduke Charles should inherit Spain, but the Italian possessions should fall to France. As a result, Emperor Leopold I refused to approve the 2nd partition treaty and claimed the entire Spanish inheritance undivided for his son Karl, with which he snubbed France, Holland and England.

Shortly before his death in 1700, however, Charles II made a different decision. He appointed the second son of the French Crown Prince Louis , the Duke of Anjou , as a universal heir. Should he unexpectedly inherit the French throne, his younger brother, the Duke of Berry , would become Spain's new king. Should this also no longer be available, Archduke Karl would then become his heir. With this, Charles II of Spain recognized the legitimate throne rights of the Bourbons, which were derived from Maria Teresa of Spain.

When Louis XIV learned of the death of the Spanish king and his New Testament , he found himself in a difficult position: Should he accept the will for his grandson or insist on the 2nd partition treaty with England, which Emperor Leopold had never recognized ? After careful consideration with his ministers, he decided to accept the Spanish legacy, since a war with the emperor was now inevitable and France could take a better position against the emperor. It is considered certain that a rejection of the will could not have prevented the war, since Emperor Leopold was planning to go into arms if France had insisted on the 2nd partition treaty. Louis XIV proclaimed his grandson Philippe d'Anjou to be Philip V and thus the new King of Spain. Ludwig ordered the immediate occupation of the Spanish neighboring countries, even before Leopold could seize them.

Louis XIV receives the later King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, August III. , in Fontainebleau Palace , painting by Louis de Silvestre (1715; Versailles Palace )

Concerned that France's superiority might increase, England, Holland and the empire united with the emperor to fight against Louis, creating the great alliance . The Franco-Spanish alliance was supported by Savoy , Kurköln and Bavaria , which triggered the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713). France now pursued two goals: the most important was the assertion of Philip V as King of Spain, and Louis XIV also intended to make further conquests against the empire. However, the war was not in a straight line. France's armies dominated the field at the beginning. However, the imperial allies had mobilized all available forces against France and modernized and expanded their armies. France was forced to maintain 680,000 soldiers during the war to provide a powerful counterweight to keep the enemy armies busy in the Holy Roman Empire. France's public finances were overstretched, empty coffers were the result. In 1708 the military situation for France looked so bad that Louis XIV asked for peace. However, since the Allies made unacceptable demands, talks were immediately broken off. As a result, the tide turned slightly in France's favor, but this did not bring a decision. All parties were worn down and the imperial allies were facing a financial and economic collapse. It was clear to France that it could no longer finally defeat the enemy coalition and the coalition had to realize that it was impossible for them to overpower France or to drive Philip V out of Spain.

When Emperor Joseph I died in 1711 and Archduke Charles became the new emperor, England increasingly recognized the danger that Charles could unite both Spain and the empire under his rule and began peace talks with France. Two years later, England signed the separate Treaty of Utrecht with Ludwig and Philip, further weakening the imperial forces. By the occupation of Freiburg in November 1713 by French troops, the Emperor saw Charles VI. forced to seek peace as well and to accept the Peace of Rastatt in 1714 . This was followed by the Peace of Baden between France and the Reich.

Philip V remained king of Spain and also kept its colonies. The remains of the Spanish Netherlands and the Italian possessions fell to the emperor. With this, France had achieved its main political goal and established the Bourbons on Spain's throne, but had to forego almost any military conquest. Nevertheless, the Habsburg embrace of France had been broken for good. In his final years, Louis XIV was mainly concerned with recovering public finances through savings and financial reforms, as well as promoting the economy. Since his great-grandson Louis XV. was still a toddler, Louis XIV transferred the power of government in his will to his nephew, Philip II d'Orléans , who would then act as regent.

Death and desecration

Louis XIV died on September 1, 1715 from gangrene on his left leg. His body was preserved in powder form by the surgeon and lecturer Pierre Dionis (1643–1718) using tannic acid and later buried in the Abbey of Saint-Denis , the traditional burial place of the French kings. As part of a separate burial , the heart of Louis XIV was buried in the church of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis of the Jesuit monastery Maison professe de Paris (also called Couvent des Grands-Jésuites ) in the Rue St. Antoine, whose clergy - like Father François d'Aix de Lachaise - who had accompanied him for many years as confessor . The entrails of Louis XIV came to Notre-Dame .

The Sun King had enlarged French territory like none of his predecessors. France had advanced to become the most powerful state and cultural center in Europe. French subsequently served as the language of good taste in the 17th and 18th centuries, just as English would later become the global business language. In the 18th century, for example, the Russian nobility adopted French customs and spoke French rather than Russian . The French people had become the wealthiest in Europe after the Dutch, the economy recovered quickly after the stagnation in the War of the Spanish Succession, it continued to grow considerably, even if taxes were comparatively high.

"With his death, France lost one of its greatest, most capable and most important rulers, whose government left a lasting mark on the French monarchy, both internally and externally, and whose achievements were widely imitated far beyond the French borders."

On the other hand, after 72 years of rule, the population was tired of their old king. The enormous financial burdens of the last war also weighed on Louis XIV. The old king himself admitted that “nothing has touched my heart and soul more deeply than the realization that the peoples of my empire were bleeding out completely from the immeasurable tax burden”, which the War of the Spanish Succession had made necessary. When his body was transferred to the crypt, the police commissioner Pierre Narbonne reported: “Many people were happy about the prince's death, and violins could be heard everywhere.” And Voltaire saw next to the funeral procession “... small tents where the people drank, sang and laughed. “They looked forward to the reign of the new king and wanted to forget the last hard years of the struggle for the Spanish throne.

The body of Louis XIV rested in his royal tomb for 78 years, until the storms of the French Revolution also struck the dead Sun King. On July 31, 1793, the provisional government ordered the opening and destruction of all royal tombs in Saint-Denis . The grave of Louis XIV was opened on October 15, 1793 and the body inside was exhumed . Since the embalmed dead was still very well preserved, Louis XIV was together with some other deceased kings, e. B. King Henry IV of Navarre († 1610), displayed to passers-by in front of the cathedral for some time and then thrown into one of two pits outside the church, sprinkled with slaked lime and buried again.

During the Bourbon restoration , the two pits were reopened and the bones of all kings buried here, including Louis XIV, were brought back to Saint-Denis in a solemn ceremony on January 21, 1815 and there in a shared ossuary in the crypt of the Buried in the cathedral, as the remains could no longer be assigned to individual individuals. Likewise, during the restoration, Louis XIV's heart beaker was transferred from the Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis church, which had become a parish church in 1802, to Saint-Denis.


Double Louis d'or with the portrait of the monarch ( obverse ), his insignia and an eight-fold L ( reverse )
Louis XIV and Colbert visit the Paris tapestry manufactory, picture knitting after Charles Le Brun (1673; Palace of Versailles )

When Louis XIV came to power in 1661, France's state budget was very tense due to the last war with Spain. Ludwig promoted the circulation of money enormously by spending large sums on his wars, on court life, art and culture. Large amounts of money disappeared through corruption in the French bureaucracy . Ludwig himself writes: "When Mazarin died, there was a lot of disorder in the administration of my kingdom." Louis XIV set himself the goal of eliminating this chaos and establishing clear order in the state structures in France. The first thing he did in 1661 was to arrest his finance minister, “Chief Financial Officer” Nicolas Fouquet , because he had enriched himself with the income of the state in order to be able to build the luxurious Vaux-le-Vicomte castle - a clear sign of its imitators.

Louis XIV then appointed Jean-Baptiste Colbert , the most famous promoter of mercantilism , to be its “general controller of finances”. The office of finance minister was abolished and replaced by a finance council headed by the king and Colbert personally. Something unheard of at the time, because a king didn't really have to worry about something as improper as money. By fighting corruption and reorganizing the bureaucracy, Colbert was able to more than double tax revenues without having to raise new taxes. This made it possible for Ludwig to enact a tax cut right from the start of his personal government and thus achieve faster growth in the French economy . The economy was promoted by the establishment of trading companies and factories . The French luxury industry in particular soon became a leader in Europe and beyond. With goods such as tapestry carpets , mirrors, lace, goldsmith's work and furniture, which were in great demand all over Europe, the Krone achieved top profits. Inwardly, northern France was subjected to a customs union in order to dismantle intra-French trade barriers. However, Colbert's attempts to achieve a uniform tariff barrier for the entire kingdom failed because of local trade privileges.

The French tax system included trade taxes ( aides , douanes ), salt taxes ( gabelle ) and land taxes ( taille ). Due to outdated regulations from feudalism , the nobility and clergy were exempt from these direct taxes, which had to be raised by the rural population and the rising middle class (the bourgeoisie ). Presumably the French Revolution was also fueled by anger over this old tax system. However, under Louis XIV there was a tendency to subject the nobility and clergy to direct taxes. They were obliged to pay indirect taxes anyway. The king introduced a poll tax ( capitation ) , from which the lower classes were hardly covered, but by which the two upper classes were fully affected. Even the Princes of the Blood and the Dauphin had to pay the highest tax rate. In this way, for the first time, the nobility were suddenly involved in the financing of the state.

At the death of Louis XIV, France was the richest kingdom in Europe with above-average state revenues that far exceeded the finances of other states. However, due to the tough demands of the War of the Spanish Succession, the national debt amounted to 3.5 billion livres; When Ludwig died in 1715, tax revenue was 69 million and government expenditure was 132 million livres. But this did not change the enormous efficiency of the economy. France had the second largest trade volume and a clearly positive trade balance ; only the Dutch were able to make higher profits with their international trading companies. France was a structurally stable and resource-rich country that, with over 20 million inhabitants, was by far the most populous country in Europe.

Art makes politics

The royal feast of the "Pleasures of the Enchanted Island" in the gardens of Versailles, May 7th 1664 (engraving by Israël Silvestre )

The reign of Louis XIV is rightly called the Grand Siècle . The king intended to have the best artists, architects, painters, poets, musicians and writers work for France. He developed an unprecedented patronage with the intention of influencing, shaping and directing the entire artistic landscape of France in order to instrumentalize it in the interests of royal politics. Art served the glorification of the king and his goals, entirely in the baroque manner . The reputation of the king and the state was to be increased; To this end, Ludwig's Minister Colbert was commissioned to promote literature , art and science . The organization of the king's gloire was left to the minister . Numerous Royal Academies have been established in all fields of art and science:

The festivals in Versailles are also to be understood in the sense of the monarch's self-portrayal. The representation of the king served the reputation of the state all over the world. Some artists reached unimagined heights in the service of the king; Jean-Baptiste Lully should be mentioned here in the field of music and dance, but also Jean-Baptiste Molière , who wrote dozens of plays for Louis XIV. Both artists together were responsible for the organization of the royal spectacle. In addition, Louis XIV promoted numerous famous artists: Among them in the field of literature Nicolas Boileau , Jean de La Fontaine , Pierre Corneille and Jean Racine , in painting Charles Lebrun , Hyacinthe Rigaud and Pierre Mignard , in the field of music - especially Ludwig was important - among others Charpentier , François Couperin , Michel-Richard Delalande and Marin Marais , in architecture Louis Le Vau , Claude Perrault , Robert de Cotte , as well as Jules Hardouin-Mansart , who shaped the French classical baroque on behalf of the king , and in the arts and crafts Antoine Coysevox and especially André-Charles Boulle . In the field of science, Louis XIV was able to win some well-known researchers for Paris, including Giovanni Domenico Cassini , Christiaan Huygens and Vincenzo Maria Coronelli , whose work he supported with high pensions.


The construction of the Palace of Versailles was part of Ludwig's strategy to centralize power . He completed the aspirations of Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin and created a centralized, absolutist territorial state . The king never forgot the traumatic experiences of his childhood during the Fronde . So he decided not to let the potentially rebellious French nobility out of sight. He weakened him by devising a system of incentives to induce the rich and powerful nobles to be at his court rather than manage their own provincial lands and possibly conspire against him. For administrative tasks he created a financially dependent nobility, the noblesse de robe . As a result, Ludwig was also able to place commoners in positions that were previously claimed by the aristocracy. Political power rested firmly in the hands of the king. As early as in the castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye , where he initially held court, he therefore gathered an ever larger court around him.

Versailles Palace in 1722, at the end of Ludwig's reign, painting by Pierre Denis Martin

In 1661, his finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet , invited the entire court to the lavish inauguration ceremony of his Vaux-le-Vicomte castle, which lasted several days and was built in the latest neo-classical baroque style based on the plans of the architect Louis Le Vau and the garden architect André Le Nôtre . The young king, who lived in an ancient renaissance castle, looked at the complex with admiration and envy. But he did not forgive his minister for showing off, Fouquet fell out of favor and was imprisoned for the rest of his life. Now Ludwig decided to build an even more massive palace , a ruler's residence that would be unsurpassed in Europe. For this purpose, he commissioned the same builders to expand his father's small hunting lodge at the gates of Paris, in Versailles , into a magnificent complex. On May 6, 1682, the court moved into the castle.

Only at court could posts, titles and offices be won, and those who distanced themselves ran the risk of losing privileges and prestige. For this reason the aristocracy stayed around the king almost constantly, trying to please him. This ensured that at times several thousand people lived in the castle at the same time. To keep this crowd busy, the king invented the rampant ceremonial at the court of Versailles . It differed from traditional Spanish court ceremonies in that the monarch was more close and the court nobility and visitors were more widely involved. It became a model for the court ceremonies of numerous European royal courts.

The arrangement of the rooms, the enfilade , was also determined by the ceremony. The magnificent stucco decorations, ceiling paintings, overhangs, tapestries, the sculptures in the gardens and avenues contained a mythologically transfigured political program. The message was: The king is the guarantor of peace, public order and prosperity of the state, for peace or for victory in war, and nobody has a right to question the power of the ruler by the grace of God . Magnificent celebrations, sumptuous gifts, honorable but powerless offices were supposed to keep dukes, marquis and counts in check. The constant festivities and ceremonies were exhausting for everyone involved and demanded the highest level of self-discipline from the king. To serve him was to serve France. To help him get up, to help him with the solemn lever every morning , to give him his shirt when he was dressed or the water at the table, was considered the greatest honor that could decide on the rise and fall of court. Whether you were allowed to stand, sit or speak in the presence of the king, when you could put your hat on or take off, through which door you entered which room, to whom the king threw a smile or a friendly word and who not, was a matter for everyone present visible sign of one's own rank. Louis XIV was a master at this game, just as a conductor leads his orchestra with the smallest of gestures and finger movements. He himself wrote in his memoir: "Besides, one of the most outstanding effects of our power is to assign an unaffordable price to something that has no intrinsic value."

Court etiquette compelled the nobles to spend immense sums of money on their clothing and to spend their time mainly at balls, dinners and other festivities, which were the daily routine of court life. Louis XIV is said to have had a photographic memory so that when entering a hall he could see at a glance who was present. Therefore, no aristocrat who relied on the king's favor could risk his absence.

“The daily life of Louis XIV took place largely in public in the midst of a large court, which all in all comprised around 20,000 people. Visitors, curious onlookers and mostly a considerable number of supplicants mingled with the distinguished, aristocratic court society in the spacious palace complex. In principle, every subject had the traditional right to submit petitions (placets) to the king. Since 1661, Louis XIV has regulated this practice, but also promoted it at the same time. The monarch saw this as a welcome opportunity to familiarize himself with the immediate worries and needs of his subjects. Later, every Monday in Versailles, a large table was set up in the room of the king's guard, on which the petitions from their messengers were deposited. Until 1683 the Marquis de Louvois, State Secretary for Warfare and Minister, was responsible for forwarding these requests. They were then processed by the responsible state secretaries and immediately submitted - with a corresponding report - to the king, who then decided each case personally. ... In addition to large festive events, theater and music performances, there were also a variety of other opportunities for entertainment, including gambling and entertainment of the simplest kind. "

- Klaus Malettke


The Dome of the Invalides in Paris

Under Colbert's supervision, Paris experienced a building boom that has hardly been seen again in history. Ludwig added the Théâtre des Tuileries to the Tuileries Palace , had the Louvre rebuilt, the city walls of Paris razed and replaced by wide boulevards , numerous new squares (including the Place des Victoires and Place Vendôme ) built, and churches (such as Saint- Roch and Val-de-Grâce ), bridges (the Pont Royal), parks (such as the Tuileries Gardens and the Champs-Élysées ), triumphal arches (e.g. the Porte Saint-Denis ) and new neighborhoods (including the suburbs of St. Antoine and St. Honoré ). But also practical measures such as continuous paving of the street, the first street lamps and early forms of sewerage . These construction measures also include the Hôtel des Invalides with the Invalides Cathedral, where the war invalids were cared for free of charge, as well as the Hôpital Salpêtrière . Also the Paris Observatory for Scientific Studies and the Collège des Quatre Nations , which still serves as the seat of the Académie française , as well as the foundation of the Comédie-Française . Paris grew by leaps and bounds and, with a population of 700,000, was one of the largest cities in the world, in which, thanks to Ludwig's support, one fifth of Europe's intellectual elite lived. The French capital became the urban and cultural model for the entire continent.

Other residences

View of Marly Castle from the water basin, painting by Pierre-Denis Martin (1724)

The French court often changed location, but very rarely left the vicinity of Paris. There were several main residences in the vicinity of the capital that had long served as the seat of kings. Louis XIV sought to expand and beautify this. In Fontainebleau he had a new baroque parterre, a large canal and a new park built in the gardens. In Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the Great Axis was created and the gardens were also redesigned. The garden architecture made André Le Nôtre - the creator of the French baroque garden - famous throughout Europe.

In the palace gardens of Versailles, he also had a summer palace built with the Grand Trianon , which, like Marly-le-Roi , was intended as the monarch's private residence. An imposing complex was built in Marly from 1678, which was the only one that was not open to the public . Here Louis XIV withdrew from the busy and always public life in Versailles. One was only allowed to appear by express invitation and such was considered one of the highest honors in the life of a courtier. In the surrounding area, the now city complexes of Versailles, were built countless palaces and gardens, which were built by members of the royal family and the court nobility . Here people looked for peace and quiet from the court and went hunting, or invited the king to a feast in his honor. All of this devoured enormous amounts of money and the nobility were soon forced to solicit pensions from the king in order to maintain the standard of living. So the dependency of the nobles increased further.


Louis XIV in the pose of a Roman emperor in Lyon
Louis XIV, bust by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1665; Versailles Palace )

Louis XIV was of a complex character: he was known for his charm and showed everyone the courtesy he deserved. He is said to have taken off his hat even to maids. His most important qualities were probably an unshakable knowledge of human nature and the keen intellect he was said to have been . As a monarch, he showed great zeal for work. Governing was easy for him because he had an almost professional approach to his work. It is reported that he never tired in meetings and that he listened carefully to everyone who spoke to him. Louis XIV valued high education , and his knowledge of politics and history was feared. He was also characterized by enormous willpower; thus he met pain and situations of death with complete serenity and self-control. An example of this is that he is already riding a few weeks after an operation without anesthesia . Nevertheless, he was also largely dominated by self- centeredness , combined with a high self-esteem . He was guided by a strong drive for fame and reputation , but also by a sense of duty to the state and its subjects.

As a gentleman , Louis XIV was exemplary. Women played a big role in his life, especially as mistresses . His family was important to him, so he paid particular attention to his children. As a father and grandfather, he was caring and loving, but he could also be tough and adamant. He legitimized his illegitimate children without exception, raised them to the rank of prince and married them to princes and princesses of the blood. Louis XIV himself was of average height and wore high heels to look even taller. Contemporaries even report that his outward appearance made him seem quite intimidating to many people. As a lover and sponsor of the court ballet , he loved to dance in public performances until he was 30.

Louis XIV owes his love for ballet to his nickname "Roi Soleil" (German: "Sun King"), which is still common today dancing the rising sun.

He was also a good rider , loved hunting, drama, and especially music . He maintained friendly relationships with numerous artists, among whom Molière , Lully and Le Nôtre could be sure of a particularly deep affection. Some historians say that Louis XIV inherited the joie de vivre from the Bourbons , the love of art from the Medici and majestic dignity from the Spanish Habsburgs . In the later so-called clothing fashion at the time of Louis XIV , he was always a style-defining model due to his personal taste , for example with the introduction of the allonge wig and the Justau corps .


French territorial gains under Louis XIV.
Allegorical representation of the peace between France and Savoy with Louis enthroned, copper engraving from the Almanac of 1714

Louis XIV stands for monarchical absolutism par excellence, although he did not establish it, he developed and consolidated it in France. In the field of domestic politics , he was particularly characterized by the effective strengthening of the royal central administration in order to weaken traditional power rivals such as aristocrats and provincial estates. To this end, Ludwig consistently built up a tight network of thirty directors who acted as officials of the king and were thus able to successfully enforce the will of the crown in the provinces . This was certainly one of the most important advances in his rule. But the king's legislative works in the field of the administration of justice ( Code Louis ), trade , shipping and the slave trade ( Code Noir ) should also be mentioned, which are counted among the great domestic and economic achievements of his government. The Code Noir is one of the many laws that go back to Jean-Baptiste Colbert and, according to Louis Sala-Molins , professor of political philosophy at the Sorbonne , is the most monstrous legal text of the modern age .

One of the downsides of his rule is undoubtedly the repression of the Huguenots, which exemplify the religious intolerance of the epoch and which took place in almost all of Europe in a similar way. At that time, however, the repeal of the Edict of Nantes in France in 1685 was one of the most popular decisions of his term in office.

The accusation, however, that Louis XIV led his country to ruin, is implausible in view of the historical reality . Economic stagnation could only be observed in France during the War of the Spanish Succession, when taxes for trade, landlords and the church were unusually high and there were famines due to various poor harvests. After the exhausting War of Succession, the Bourbon empire showed itself to be heavily indebted, but still prospering. The national debt of 1715 did not result from an exaggerated tendency towards courtly luxury and large buildings, but was mainly the result of the War of the Spanish Succession, which had made enormous financial efforts necessary. Twice he had all the silver in the country confiscated, melted down and minted coins from it in order to be able to pay for his armies. It was not until Law's financial system - two years after Ludwig's death and from 1716 - that a large part of the national debt could be written off by the Mississippi bubble and the subsequent collapse of the bank.

Ludwig has the greatest successes in the field of foreign policy . He left behind a more powerful, larger and also strategically secured France, which was now finally recognized as one of the leading naval powers . Secured not least because in the last years of his rule he had succeeded in ending the Habsburg encirclement forever. However, Ludwig had to wage long wars for this, the costs of which had to be borne by the great majority of the population. Nevertheless, the taxes of his time were certainly not - as is often claimed - ruinous for the subjects . The art and representation policy was also a remarkable achievement, both internally and externally. With their help, Ludwig was able to establish a hegemony of French culture over Europe, which was to be maintained even into the 19th century.

The “Sun King” was repeatedly rated very differently , depending on the era and political orientation. The Republicans viewed him as a monster of the autocracy and the nationalist Germans stylized him as a robber king who had held Germany in a stranglehold. In fact, Ludwig's aggressive expansion policy provided the German nationalists with an argument for the Franco-German hereditary hostility . Others, however, see in him a dutiful and prudent monarch who already anticipated the principles of the Enlightenment . In France he is revered to this day for his energetic increase in national size and counted among the most important personalities in French history by far . The first author to devote an extensive historical analysis to him was the philosopher Voltaire .


  • Mémoires pour l'instruction du Dauphin ( Thoughts on the political education of the heir to the throne ): The political autobiography of Louis XIV was written from 1670 and was actually intended to introduce the Crown Prince to the secrets of politics. Here the king gives an account of his first years of reign. The work includes the memoirs of the years 1661, 1662, 1666, 1667 and 1668, as well as the reflections on the ruling profession from 1679 and the political advice to his grandson Philip V of Spain from the year 1700. They are not just a report of deeds, but also give a vivid impression of the worldview and realism of the monarch. At the end of his reign, Louis XIV wanted to destroy the secret manuscripts in the fireplace, only the courageous intervention of the Duke de Noailles and his talent to “talk them off” from him saved them. In 1749 the Duke gave the manuscripts to the royal library.
  • Manière de montrer les jardins de Versailles (“ How to visit the gardens of Versailles”): This guide provides a very intimate insight into the nature of the king. The royal gardens, created by André Le Nôtre , had a political function to fulfill their statement as an instrument of the state was clear. Louis XIV loved his gardens very much, which is why he wrote these instructions himself, with the help of which it was possible to walk through the gardens in their logical sequence and thus increase the enjoyment of art to the highest. Six versions are known.


Mythological portrait of the royal family, painting by Jean Nocret (1670; Versailles Palace )

Legitimate children with Queen Marie Therese

  1. Louis of France "Grand Dauphin" (November 1, 1661 - April 14, 1711)
  2. Anne Élisabeth of France (November 18, 1662 - December 30, 1662)
  3. Marie Anne of France (November 16, 1664 - December 26, 1664)
  4. Marie Thérèse of France (January 2, 1667 - March 1, 1672)
  5. Philippe Charles of France (August 11, 1668 - July 10, 1671), Duke of Anjou (1668–1671)
  6. Louis François of France (June 14, 1672 - November 4, 1672), Duke of Anjou (1672)

Illegitimate children

Four children with Mademoiselle de La Vallière :

  1. Charles de Bourbon (19 November 1663 - 1665)
  2. Philippe de Bourbon (7 January 1665 - 1666)
  3. Marie Anne de Bourbon , mademoiselle de Blois (1666-1739); ⚭ Louis Armand, prince de Conti
  4. Louis de Bourbon, comte de Vermandois (October 2, 1667 - November 18, 1683)

Six children with Madame de Montespan :

  1. Louis Auguste de Bourbon , duc du Maine (1670–1736)
  2. Louis César de Bourbon, comte de Vexin (1672 - January 10, 1683)
  3. Louise Françoise de Bourbon , mademoiselle de Nantes (1673-1743); ⚭ Louis de Bourbon, prince de Condé
  4. Louise Marie (November 12, 1674 - September 15, 1681)
  5. Françoise Marie de Bourbon , mademoiselle de Blois (1677-1749); ⚭ Philippe d'Orléans, duc d'Orléans
  6. Louis Alexandre de Bourbon , comte de Toulouse (1678–1737)

A child with Mademoiselle de Fontanges :

  • 1 son (* and † 1679)


Pedigree of Louis XIV.

Charles de Bourbon, duc de Vendôme (1489–1537)
⚭ 1513
Françoise d'Alençon (1490–1550)

Henry II (Navarre) (1503–1555)
⚭ 1526
Margaret of Navarre (1492–1549)

Cosimo I de 'Medici (1519–1574)
⚭ 1539
Eleonora of Toledo (1522–1562)

Ferdinand I (1503–1564)
⚭ 1521
Anna of Bohemia and Hungary (1503–1547)

Albrecht V (Bavaria) (1528–1579)
⚭ 1546
Anna of Austria (1528–1590)

Charles V (1500–1558)
⚭ 1526
Isabella of Portugal (1503–1539)

Maximilian II (1527–1576)
⚭ 1548
Maria of Spain (1528–1603)

Great grandparents

Antoine de Bourbon, duc de Vendôme (1518–1562)
⚭ 1548
Joan III. (Navarre) (1528–1572)

Francesco I de 'Medici (1541–1587)
⚭ 1565
Johanna of Austria (1547–1578)

Charles II (Inner Austria) (1540–1590)
⚭ 1571
Maria Anna of Bavaria (1551–1608)

Philip II (Spain) (1527–1598)
⚭ 1570
Anna of Austria (1549–1580)


King Henry IV (France) (1553–1610)
⚭ 1600
Maria de 'Medici (1575–1642)

King Philip III (Spain) (1578–1621)
⚭ 1599
Margaret of Austria (1584–1611)


King Louis XIII. (1601–1643)
⚭ 1615
Anna of Austria (1601–1666)

Louis XIV (1638–1715), King of France and Navarre

Representation in the film


Writings of Louis XIV.

  • Letters. Edited by P. Gaxotte, translation by M. Spiro. Compass, Basel / Leipzig 1931.
  • Manière de montrer les jardins de Versailles. Simone Hoog, Réunion des Musées Nationaux 2001, ISBN 2-7118-4224-X .
  • Memoirs. Edited by J. Longnon, translation by L. Steinfeld. Compass, Basel / Leipzig 1931.
  • Mémoires de Louis XIV. Jean Longnon, Tallandier, Paris 2001, ISBN 2-235-02294-4 .

Other sources



Depiction of Ludwig's politics and time

Military and wars

  • John A. Lynn: Giant of the Grand Siècle. The French Army 1610-1715. CUP, Cambridge 1999, ISBN 0-521-57273-8 .
  • John A. Lynn: The Wars of Louis XIV 1667-1714. Longman, London 1999, ISBN 0-582-05629-2 .
  • Paul Sonnino: Louis XIV and the origins of the Dutch War. CUP, Cambridge 1988, ISBN 0-521-34590-1 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Sun King  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Louis XIV.  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Louis XIV.  Sources and full texts


  1. ^ Rolf Tomann (ed.): The art of the baroque . Könemann, 1997, ISBN 3-89508-991-5 , p. 133.
  2. Cf. Manfred Kossok: Am Hofe Ludwigs XIV. 1990, p. 25; Olivier Bernier: Louis XIV. The biography. 1989, p. 110.
    For the actual self-image of Louis XIV in relation to politics and the state, see Klaus Malettke: Ludwig XIV. Von Frankreich. Life, Politics and Achievement. 1994, p. 67ff.
  3. Magdalena Hawlik-van de Water: The beautiful death. Ceremonial structures of the Viennese court at death and burial between 1640 and 1740. Freiburg / Wien 1989, pp. 203–211.
  4. Bernd Rüdiger Schwesig: Ludwig XIV. Rowohlt TB, 2010, ISBN 978-3-499-50352-8 .
  5. Chronology of the French kings crowned in Reims between 1027 and 1825. at: reims-kathedrale.culture.fr , accessed on June 2, 2011.
  6. ^ Klaus Malettke: Louis XIV of France. Life, Politics and Achievement. 1994, p. 120.
  7. ^ Pierre Dionis: Cours d'opérations de chirurgie, démontrées par Dionis. 8th edition. ed. by George de la Faye, Paris 1782.
  8. Barbara I. Tshisuaka: Dionis, Pierre. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 308.
  9. Magdalena Hawlik-van de Water: The beautiful death. Ceremonial structures of the Viennese court at death and burial between 1640 and 1740. Freiburg / Vienna 1989, pp. 203–211 (on "The methods of embalming from ancient times to modern times").
  10. ^ A b Klaus Malettke: Louis XIV of France. Life, Politics and Achievement. 1994, p. 156.
  11. ^ Félix Faure : Dictionnaire historique des rues et monuments de Paris. 2003, p. 265.
  12. ^ Heinz Duchhardt : Baroque and Enlightenment. Munich 2007, p. 80.
  13. Bernd-Rüdiger Schwesig: Ludwig XIV. Rowohlt Verlag, 2005, p. 81.
  14. Christine Howalt: The case of Nicolas Fouquet. Patronage as a means of political self-expression 1653–1661. Paris Historical Studies 96 (Ed. Institut Historique Allemand Paris), Oldenbourg 2011.
  15. Nicholas d'Archimbaud: Versailles. P. 126.
  16. Norbert Elias: The court society . Suhrkamp, ​​2002, ISBN 3-518-58329-8 , p. 1135.
  17. ^ Jean M. Pérouse de Montclos, Robert Polidori: Versailles . Könemann, Cologne 1996, p. 68.
  18. Bernd-Rüdiger Schwesig: Ludwig XIV. Rowohlt Verlag, 2005, p. 81.
  19. Norbert Elias: The court society . Suhrkamp, ​​2002, ISBN 3-518-58329-8 , p. 142.
  20. ^ Jean M. Pérouse de Montclos, Robert Polidori: Versailles . Könemann, Cologne 1996, p. 64.
  21. ^ Klaus Malettke: Louis XIV of France. Life, Politics and Achievement. 1994, pp. 75f.
  22. ^ RA Plumelle Uribe: Traite des blancs, traites des noirs. 2008, ISBN 978-2-296-06443-0 , p. 112.
  23. ^ Louis Sala-Molins: Le Code Noir ou le calvaire de Canaan. PUF, Paris 2007, ISBN 978-2-13-058336-3 , p. VIII.
  24. ^ Klaus Malettke: Louis XIV of France. Life, Politics and Achievement. 1994, p. 116ff.
  25. Olivier Bernier: Louis XIV. The biography. 1989, p. 369.
  26. Manfred Kossok: At the court of Ludwig XIV. 1990, p. 167.
  27. ^ François Bluche: In the shadow of the Sun King. Everyday life in the age of Louis XIV. 1986, p. 2ff.
  28. Guillaume-André de Betier de Sauvigny: History of the French . With e. Escort by Kurt Sontheimer. Hoffmann and Campe , Hamburg 1988, ISBN 3-455-08871-6 , p. 213–214 (French: Histoire de France . Paris 1977. Translated by Kurt Sontheimer ).
  29. ^ Klaus Malettke: Louis XIV of France. Life, Politics and Achievement. 1994, p. 122ff.
  30. a b Olivier Bernier: Ludwig XIV. The biography. 1989, p. 370.
  31. ^ François Bluche: In the shadow of the Sun King. Everyday life in the age of Louis XIV. 1986, p. 5.
predecessor government office successor
Louis XIII. Lily coat of arms of France
King of France and Navarre
Louis XV
Louis XIII. Andorra Coat of Arms
French co-prince of Andorra
Louis XV