Louis XIV, called the Great, king of France, born at St. Germain-en-Laye. Sept. 16, 1638, died in Versailles, Sept. 1, 1715. He was the eldest son of Louis XIII. and of Anne of Austria. His mother had been married and childless for 22 years, and was an object of aversion to her husband. A temporary reconciliation took place toward the end of 1637, and the birth of Louis XIV. in the succeeding year occasioned the greatest demonstrations of joy among the people, who gave to him the appellation of Dieu-donne or God-given. He was five years old when his father died, and his mother became regent, with Cardinal Mazarin for prime minister. At the time of his accession France was in a very distracted condition. Laws and jurisdictions were unsettled; many cities and fortresses were held by individuals almost independent of the crown; detached portions of other countries interrupted the natural limits of France and broke its geographical unity; war existed with Spain and Germany, and every part of the frontier was menaced by powerful armies; the finances were scanty and ill regulated, and a general grossness of manners and depravity of morals pervaded all classes. The infant king's amusements were all of a military kind. He delighted in handling arms and in beating drums.
His intellectual education was neglected, but much attention was paid to his physical development, and his natural vanity, egotism, and haughtiness were encouraged rather than checked by his mother and his tutors. The avarice of Cardinal Mazarin induced him to stint the allowance and equipage of the young monarch, who slept upon worn and ragged sheets, and had a most unbecoming and insufficient wardrobe. The personal neglect with which he was treated, and the general contempt for the royal authority during the troubles of the Fronde, made a strong impression on his mind at this period, when for several years he was a passive instrument in the hands of an intriguing minister and a factious nobility, often forced to fly before triumphant rebels, and to wander a fugitive over his kingdom. It was not till 1652 that he was able to reside undisturbed in Paris, and the recollection of these scenes of anarchy gave him an excessive love of order and of strong government, and an aversion to the turbulent metropolis which finally led him to transfer the seat of government to Versailles. In 1651, at the age of 13, Louis declared himself of age, and assumed the royal authority.
He manifested even at this early period much discernment, but he was extremely ignorant of affairs of state, which had been purposely kept from his inspection. In 1653, under the orders of Tu-renne, he accompanied the army in a campaign against the rebellious prince of Conde, who was besieging Arras; and the raising of the siege of that city put an end to the contests of the Fronde. In 1G59 peace was concluded with Spain by the treaty of the Pyrenees; and in fulfilment of an article of the treaty Louis in 1660 married Maria Theresa, daughter of Philip IV. She was handsome- and good-natured, but weak in intellect, and the king had little affection for her, though he treated her with invariable respect and consideration. Mazarin died in 1661, after having ruled France for 18 years. Louis decided henceforth to be his own prime minister; and when he was waited upon after the death of the cardinal by the functionaries of state, and asked to whom they must in future address themselves on questions of public business, the king replied, much to their astonishment, " To myself." His first business was to institute, with the assistance of Colbert, a rigid scrutiny into the condition of the finances.
Fouquet, a man of brilliant ability, who had long been minister of finance, had accumulated an enormous fortune by peculation. By order of the king he was arrested, Sept. 5, 1661, brought to trial, convicted, and condemned to perpetual imprisonment. He was succeeded by Colbert, under whose administration order was restored in the finances, the revenue greatly increased, manufactures established, and every species of internal improvement promoted. In foreign affairs, the first act of Louis announced to the world that henceforth the king of France was determined to make himself respected by his neighbors. In 1661 a quarrel broke out at London between D'Estrades, the French ambassador at the English court, and Vatteville, the Spanish ambassador. The latter claimed precedence of the former on the ground that Spain stood higher than France in the scale of nations. An encounter took place between their respective retinues during a public procession, which resulted in the discomfiture of the French ambassador, whose carriage was broken to pieces, his horses killed, and his son and several of his attendants wounded, while the Spanish ambassador forcibly took precedence in the procession.
Louis, when he received the news, immediately ordered the Spanish ambassador at his own court to quit France, recalled the French ambassador from Madrid, and sent a message to the king of Spain declaring that if he did not at once admit the right of France to precedence and make a formal apology for the outrage at London, he might prepare for immediate war. The Spanish monarch yielded to this threat, and sent a special ambassador, who on March 24, 1662, waited upon Louis at Fontainebleau, and, in the presence of all the foreign ministers then resident at the court, declared, in the name of his royal master, that henceforward the Spanish ambassadors should never compete with those of France. The duke de Crequi, French ambassador at Rome, got into a quarrel with the pope's brother and with the papal guards, in which some of the ambassador's servants were wounded and one killed. The pope made such reparation as would have satisfied any of the French king's predecessors; some of the guards were hanged, and the governor of Rome was dismissed from office for not having prevented the riot. Louis, however, demanded ampler atonement, and began to march troops toward the Italian frontier.
The pope became frightened, and at length consented to disband his guard, to exile his brother, to send a cardinal to Paris to make a formal apology, and to build a monument in Rome recording the offence and its reparation. The energy and determination displayed by Louis in these affairs made a deep impression on the whole of Europe, and, with the increasing order and prosperity of France, made him greatly admired and beloved at home. His power in his own kingdom was now entirely absolute; his famous saying, L'etat c'est moi, "I am the state," was literally true. His administration was efficiently supported by accomplished statesmen and great generals. The internal affairs, directed by Colbert, and the department of war, by Louvois, were both in the highest state of order and efficiency; and a powerful navy, commanded by the duke of Beaufort, the grandson of Henry IV., maintained the power of France upon the ocean. The other nations of Europe were at the time distracted and enfeebled by internal evils or foreign dangers.
The careless and profligate Charles II. of England was privately a pensioner of the French king; Spain, though her prodigious empire was yet unbroken in extent, was weakened by dissensions among her ill-compacted constituent kingdoms; Germany was divided by religious animosities; and Holland was torn by internal factions, and was wasting her energies in attempts at conquest in Brazil. In France, on the other hand, the policy of Richelieu and Mazarin, notwithstanding the civil commotions stirred up against the latter by the turbulent leaders of the Fronde, had at length completely triumphed, and there was no longer among either the people or the aristocracy any serious opposition to the royal authority. The ability unexpectedly displayed by the king, the grace and dignity of his person, the weariness which the nation felt of civil contentions, the change from poverty and distress to prosperity and abundance produced by the reforms in the finances, and the humiliation of Spain and the pope, all tended to increase the power of the crown and to render the people submissive and contented.
The nobles, whose turbulence and feudal independence had been hitherto the chief check upon the royal power, now turned courtiers and vied with each other in flattery and subserviency; and devotion to the king became as much a fashion as opposition to the court had been in the times of the Fronde. The king, with the aid of Colbert and other able ministers, made great and successful efforts to advance the industries of his kingdom, to improve the roads and means of travelling, and to foster literature, science, and the arts. A large proportion of the great monuments of France had their origin in his reign; among others, the stupendous harbors, ship yards, and fortifications of Brest, Rochefort, Lorient, Havre, Dunkirk, Cette, and Toulon; the canal of Languedoc, which unites the Atlantic with the Mediterranean, was constructed by his orders. In 1663 the academy of inscriptions and belles-lettres was founded, and in 1666 the academy of sciences, and eminent foreign men of science were invited to take up their abode in France. Cassini was called from Italy, Huygens from Holland, and Roemer from Denmark. An observatory was erected at Paris, and apartments were assigned to the academy of sciences in the palace of the Louvre. An academy of painting and sculpture was also founded at Paris, and in 1667 the French academy of art was established at Rome for the benefit of young French artists.
Every man distinguished in letters or in art was rewarded with substantial benefits; large sums were set apart for increasing the royal library; men of learning and discrimination were sent to every part of the world to collect books, manuscripts, and antiques; and 19 professorships were founded in the royal college. Many of the narrow and dark streets which deformed Paris were cleared away, and splendid buildings erected in their stead, while almost the whole of the city was repaved and relighted, and it soon became the most cleanly, orderly, and secure capital in Europe. Reforms of still greater importance were made by the promulgation, in 1667, of the famous ordonnance civile, which created a great and beneficial change in the whole body of French law, and swept away a mass of abuses and absurdities which had been accumulating for ages. This was followed by an improved criminal code in 1670, and subsequently by the regulation of commercial law and by the abolition of local jurisdictions belonging to the great nobles. - In his foreign policy, Louis purchased Dunkirk from Charles II. of England for 5,000,000 livres in 1662, covertly aided Portugal against Spain in 1665, notwithstanding his treaty obligations to the latter power, concluded a commercial alliance with Holland in 1666, and aided that republic against England during the war of 1665-'7. At the same time his fleet in the Mediterranean swept that sea of the Barbary pirates, and humbled the Algerines, who were compelled to set free their Christian slaves.
After long negotiations with the duke of Lorraine, Louis himself in 1667 marched into the territories of that prince and forced him to cede the town of Marsal to France. In 1665 Philip IV. of Spain died, and Louis raised a claim to the Spanish possessions in the Netherlands on behalf of his wife, the daughter of Philip. In support of this claim he suddenly invaded Flanders at the head of an army of 35,000 men, and in three weeks had taken a dozen important towns, including the strongly fortified city of Lille, which after a siege of nine days had surrendered to Louis in person. These rapid conquests alarmed the whole of Europe. A triple alliance was formed, Jan. 23, 1668, between Holland, England, and Sweden, for the purpose of obliging France and Spain to make peace. Louis, however, continued his career of conquest, and in February, 1668, Franche-Comte was invaded by-an army led by the great Conde assisted by the king, and in 14 days the whole of that province had submitted. The commissioners of Sweden, Holland, and England now met at Aix-la-Chapelle with those of France and Spain, and a treaty was signed, May 2, 1668, by which the important and strongly fortified territory known afterward as French Flanders was retained by Louis, and Franche-Comte, which was entirely surrounded by his own dominions and was at his mercy whenever he chose to take it, was restored to Spain. Louis now endeavored to break up by diplomacy the coalition against him, which had extended to the German states.
The electors of Cologne and Hanover, the bishops of Munster, Osnabruck, and Strasburg, and the king of Sweden were gained over, and Spain itself was partially conciliated. The great object of his policy at this time, however, was to detach England from her alliance with Holland, in order that his growing navy might not be crushed by the power of the two chief maritime states of Europe. This was effected by bribing the English cabinet, and by playing off upon Charles II. not only the seductions of French gold, but the influence of his sister Henrietta, the duchess of Orleans, and the charms of Mlle, de Querouailles, who afterward became the notorious duchess of Portsmouth. On May 22, 1670, a treaty was signed at Dover, by which the king of England became a pensioner of France, and promised to make war upon his ally the Dutch republic. In the same year Louis resumed military operations by taking possession of Lorraine. In 1672 Charles began his promised war on the Dutch by an attack upon their Smyrna fleet as it was passing through the English channel. Louis in person invaded Holland at the head of 100,000 men, accompanied by Turenne, Conde, Vauban, and Louvois, and speedily made himself master of three provinces and 40 fortresses.
He behaved throughout the campaign with marked clemency to his prisoners and to the peaceful population. No plunder was permitted, and whatever was taken for the use of the army was amply paid for. His activity and courage were also conspicuous. He frequently exposed himself to the fire of the enemy, went to bed late, rose at 3 A. M., and gave almost every moment to the performance of his duties as king and general. The Dutch, alarmed at the rapid progress of the French, sent deputies to sue for peace. Louis demanded an indemnity of 20,-000,000 livres, the cession of extensive territories, the public exercise of the Catholic religion throughout the United Provinces, and other severe and humiliating conditions. The ancient spirit of the Dutch rose at these demands, and they resolved to perish rather than submit. The grand pensionary De Witt, who counselled submission, was torn to pieces by the people. William of Orange was elected stadtholder and commander-in-chief, and the dikes which shut out the ocean were cut in several places, covering the country with water, which, though it ruined the land, effectually impeded the progress of the invaders.
Preparations were also made to transport in the last emergency the whole nation to the East Indies. In the mean time formidable alliances were rapidly forming against France. The emperor of Germany sent 20,000 men under Montecuculi to join the great elector of Brandenburg, the founder of the military power of Prussia, who had already taken the field with 30,000 troops for the relief of Holland; Spain herself was making exertions for the same purpose, and had raised 15,000 men to reenforce the prince of Orange; and even the debased English court, pressed by the murmurs of the people, who could not see with indifference a Protestant country conquered by a Catholic monarch, began to waver in its subserviency. Louis, leaving Vauban to fortify the places he had taken, hastened to Paris to devise measures to counteract the combinations against him. He provided with prompt vigor for the preservation of his conquests and for the defence of his eastern frontier against the Germans. A war of several years followed, in which the French armies, led by Turenne, Conde, Luxembourg, and other great generals, combated more or less successfully against the forces of half of Europe. Louis himself, in June, 1673, commanded at the siege and capture of Maestricht; and in 1674 he led an army to the conquest of Franche-Comte, which was now permanently annexed to France. In this year the devastation of the Palatinate by the army of Turenne, under orders from the minister Louvois, brought upon Louis general execration.
In lG76-'8 the king made brilliant campaigns in Flanders, and took in person the towns of Conde, Bouchain, Valenciennes, Cambrai, Ghent, and Ypres. The war was at length terminated by the treaties of Nime-guen, concluded in 1678 and 1679, by which Louis retained Franche-Comte, French Flanders, Alsace, and some of his conquests on the Rhine. The negotiations were in great part carried on directly by himself, and his letters during their progress exhibit great diplomatic ability. He did not suffer Europe to remain long at peace. In 1680 he advanced claims to various German territories, and in September, 1681, seized by force upon the important city of Strasburg. This led to war with the German empire and with Spain, resulting in the acquisition by France of the town and territory of Luxemburg, which were confirmed to Louis by the treaty of Ratisbon, August, 1684. The prince of Orange was unwearied in his efforts to array Europe in opposition to the French monarch, whose schemes of aggrandizement were now clearly manifested; and in 1686 the league of Augsburg was formed, by which Holland, Austria, Spain, Bavaria, and Savoy formed a coalition against France. Louis prepared with his usual energy for the contest, which he began himself in September, 1688, by invading and overrunning the Palatinate, which was again desolated with fire and sword in the most cruel and barbarous manner.
These atrocities, however, like those of the former war, were committed by order of Louvois, and were strongly condemned by the king when they came to his knowledge. In the war that ensued, his armies, no longer led by Conde and Turenne, met with severe reverses. Colbert had died in 1683, and France was beginning to feel seriously the immense expenses of war, carried on as it was by Louis with standing armies of a magnitude unknown in Europe since the days of the Romans. The treasury was exhausted, and to replenish it the king and the principal nobles sent their plate to the mint, and various other extreme means were resorted to. As the war advanced, the military genius of the duke of Luxembourg redeemed the honor of the French arms at Leuze, Steenkerk, Neerwinden, and in other battles.
The English revolution of 1688 had raised to the throne of Great Britain the prince of Orange, the ablest and most determined of the enemies of Louis, and had added the forces of that kingdom to the coalition against France. The war continued with mingled success and reverses on the part of Louis till September, 1697, when it was terminated by the peace of Ryswick. By the treaties here made, Louis granted to the Dutch extraordinary commercial privileges, and regained from them Pondicherry in India; to Spain he restored his conquests in Catalonia, and a large part of Flanders, with many strong fortresses; to the Germans he restored all that he had taken; he gave up Lorraine to its legitimate sovereign, and lastly recognized William III. as king of England. Charles II. of Spain died Nov. 1, 1700, and, having no heir, left his crown by will to Philip, duke of Anjou, grandson of Louis, a testament accepted by the French king, with the ominous remark that "the Pyrenees no longer existed." This event set all Europe in commotion, and led in the following year to the war of the Spanish succession, Austria, England, Holland, Prussia, and Hanover having formed an alliance against France. This great struggle was in the end eminently disastrous to Louis, who saw his armies defeated by Prince Eugene, Marlborough, and others, his fleets destroyed, his kingdom invaded, his resources exhausted, and France distressed by famine, caused by the most rigorous winter ever known in Europe. He therefore sought for peace, and after rejecting with haughty disdain the severe and humiliating conditions at first demanded by the triumphant allies, succeeded by skilful diplomacy in effecting the treaties of Utrecht, April 11,1713, with Holland and England, and in the following year the treaty of Rastadt with the German empire.
These were the last important events in the foreign policy of the reign of Louis. In the internal history of France, the most striking events were the outbreak of poisoning in Paris (for an account of which see Beinvilliers); the tragical death of Henrietta of England; the revocation of the edict of Nantes, Oct. 22, 1685, and the subsequent persecution of the Protestants, which was accompanied with frightful barbarities, and cost France half a million of her most industrious inhabitants, who fled to different parts, taking with them their skill and industry; the revolt of the Camisards in 1703; the building of the magnificent palace of Versailles; and the singular and mysterious detention of the man in the iron mask. During the greater part of his reign the mistresses of Louis XIV. played an important and often a conspicuous part in the affairs of his brilliant court. The most noted of these were the duchess de La Valliere and the marchioness de Montespan, by both of whom he had several children, who were acknowledged and legitimated.
His queen, Maria Theresa, died July 30, 1683, and in the year 1685 or 1686 Louis was privately married to Mme. de Maintenon, whom he had in vain sought to make his mistress, and who exercised over him a powerful influence which ended only with his life. - The reign of Louis XIV. has been styled the Augustan age of France, and it will certainly ever be illustrious from the splendid array of great men whom the king assembled around his throne. We have already mentioned his great ministers Colbert and Louvois. Among his generals, besides Turenne, Conde, and Luxembourg, were Catinat, Crequi, Bouflers, Montesquiou, Vendome, and Villars, all of them eminent soldiers; his distinguished naval commanders were Chateau-Renaud, Duquesne, Tourville, and Dugnay-Trouin; Mole, Lamoignon, Talon, and D'Aguesseau were among the civilians of his reign; Vauban and Piquet were his engineers; Perault, Mansart, Blondel, and Levau his architects; Lenotre his landscape gardener; and Puget, Girardon, Poussin, Claude Lorraine, Lesueur, Le Brun, and the two Mi-gnards were among his sculptors and painters.
In the list of the literary notabilities of his reign are the names of Corneille, Racine, Mo-liere, Quinault, La Fontaine, La Bruyere, Boi-leau, Bossuet, Bourdaloue, Massillon, Fenelon, Flechier, Fleury, and Mme, de Sevigne, most of whom still hold a place in the foremost rank of French authors. At an early period of his reign Louis XIV. established at his court a most rigid system of etiquette, which he always maintained with jealous care. He rose at 8 o'clock, performed his devotions, and was dressed by his valets in presence of a crowd of courtiers, and then read for an hour, at the close of which time he breakfasted. He left his chamber at 10, attended the council, and heard mass at 12. From noon until 1 o'clock he appeared in public. At 1 he dined, seated alone at the table, and waited on by the highest officers of the court. After dinner he spent some time with the royal family, and then held conferences with his ministers; afterward he received petitions and gave audiences, during which he exhibited great urbanity and patience. The rest of the afternoon was spent in conversation, in driving, at the theatre, or the card table.
At supper, which was his favorite repast, he collected about him all the princesses and their ladies of honor, and passed the evening in conversation and amusements. In person the king was about 5 ft. 8 in. in height, but had the art by his dress and carriage to appear much taller, and was universally admired by his contemporaries for his majestic air. His features were large and handsome, and his manner singularly grave and commanding. In the latter part of his life he devoted much time to his religious duties. His old age was embittered by the reverses of his armies, by the deaths of his children and grandchildren, and by remorse for the vices of his early life. His last words to his great-grandson who succeeded him were: "My child, you are about to become a great king; do not imitate me either in my taste for building or in my love of war. Endeavor, on the contrary, to live in peace with the neighboring nations; render to God all that you owe him, and cause his name to be honored by your subjects.
Strive also to relieve the burdens of your people, which I myself have been unable to do." - The most noted French works upon this reign are Voltaire's Siecle de Louis XIV., St. Simon's Memoires, and Louis XIV. et son siecle, by Alexandre Dumas. See also "Louis XIV. and the Court of France in the 17th Century," by Miss Pardoe (London, 1847).