Louis XIV was the son of Louis XIII and dominated France in the second half of the Seventeenth Century. Louis XIV called himself the ‘Sun King’ and his reign is famous for the extension of absolute royal rule and the building of the palace at Versailles which seemed to summarise Louis XIV’s reign. The two politicians who are most associated with Louis XIV are Jean-Baptiste Colbert and Jules Mazarin.
Louis XIV was born in 1638. He became king of France aged 5 on the death of his father, Louis XIII, in 1643. He died in 1715. As king of France, Louis XIV developed a formidable relationship with the most famous politician of his reign – Jules Mazarin (Giulio Mazzarini).
Louis XIII wanted his son to represent all that was good of France. Louis XIV’s education was thorough but had a major input of physical work so that he was seen to be a strong ruler. His early experiences in life ‘trained’ him to distrust people – especially the nobility who had proved historically disloyal to a weak monarch as was seen in the French Wars of Religion. In one sense, the Frondes was a defining time in Louis XIV’s life where at the age of 10 he had to flee Paris three times. The Frondes also saw his life threatened by the ‘Paris Mob’. Mazarin supported his master’s desire to be an absolute ruler.
Louis XIV was a handsome young man with good health.
“(Louis XIV) was graceful, dignified and awe-inspiring, if humourless.”
(E N Williams)
Louis took his position as king very seriously. He saw that what was good for him was good for France. In fact, he saw little difference between the two. Louis worked between 6 to 9 hours a day on issues involving France. The frivolous side displayed by some European monarchs was not found in Louis XIV – though he was a womaniser. Skilled in the Arts and Science, Louis XIV was also a good huntsman.
He married Maria Theresa in 1660 aged 22. Maria was the daughter of Philip IV of Spain. They had six children but only one survived – the Dauphin, Louis de France.
Louis XIV married again in either 1683 or 1684 to Francoise, the widow of a poet called Paul Scarron. This marriage was in secret, hence why we are not sure when the marriage was.
Louis also had a number of public affairs that were seemingly tolerated by all.
His first major mistress was Marie Mancini between 1657 to 1660. She was the niece of Mazarin.
Between 1661 to 1667 his mistress was Louise de la Valliere with whom he had four children.
Louis XIV’s third major mistress was Athenais de Montespan with whom he had seven children.
Louis XIV died in 1715 aged 77. He had served his country as king for 72 years.