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King Louis XIV of France led an absolute monarchy during France’s classical age. He revoked the Edict of Nantes and is known for his aggressive foreign policy.
Louis XIV - Versailles (3:14)
Louis XIV - Marriage (3:42)
Louis XIV - Early Life (2:57)
Louis XIV - Death & Legacy (3:44)
Learn about the history of Versailles and how it became the grand architectural feat it is today.
Learn about the many women in Louis XIV's life and the one he was forced to marry, Maria Theresa of Spain.
Discover the early life of Louis XIV before his rise to power as king of France.
Learn about the death of Louis XIV and the legacy he left behind.
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Louis XIV was born September 5, 1638, in Saint-Germaine-en-Laye, France. He became king in 1643. As of 1661, he started reforming France. In 1667 he invaded the Spanish Netherlands. From 1672–1678 he engaged France in the Franco-Dutch War. In 1688 he led a war between France and the Grand Alliance. By the 1680s, Louis XIV generated public hostility. He died in Versailles, France, on September 1, 1715.
"I am the state."
"I have loved war too much."
Louis XIV was born on September 5, 1638, in Saint-Germaine-en-Laye, France, and christened Louis-Dieudonné—French for “Gift of God.” His mother was the Hapsburg Spanish queen Anne of Austria, and his father was Louis XIII, king of France. Louis XIV had a brother named Philippe, who was two years younger.
On May 14, 1643, when Louis XIV was just 4 1/2 years old, his father passed away. Not much more than a toddler, Louis XIV succeeded his father to the throne, becoming the leader of 19 million French subjects and a highly unstable government. Over the course of his childhood, Louis XIV was primed as a leader, receiving a practical education rather than a scholarly one. Louis XIV’s godfather, Italian-born Chief Minister Cardinal Jules Mazarin, was responsible for tutoring the boy in history, politics and the arts. Louis XIV’s governor, Nicolas de Neufville, was appointed to keep watch over the lad, but incidents like young Louis XIV’s near drowning indicate that the monarch was overlooked as a child, if not as a ruler in the making.
In 1648, when Louis XIV was still shy of 10 years old, the Parlement of Paris rebelled against his chief minister, Mazarin. In an attempt to overthrow the crown, they waged a civil war, called the Fronde, against its supporters. Throughout the long war, Louis XIV suffered many hardships, including poverty and starvation. To Louis XIV’s relief, Mazarin finally achieved victory over the rebels in 1653. After the civil war ended, Mazarin began to build an elaborate administration as Louis XIV stood by and observed his mentor. By then, Louis XIV had come of age, but he was still afraid to question Mazarin’s authority.
A few years later, Louis XIV fell in love with Marie Mancini, Mazarin’s niece. Ultimately choosing duty over love, in 1660 he married the daughter of the king of Spain, Marie-Thérèse of Austria, instead. The marriage ensured ratification of the peace treaty that Mazarin had sought to establish with Hapsburg Spain.
Although Louis XIV’s mother, Anne, had become his regent when he took the throne as a child, Chief Minister Cardinal Jules Mazarin held the true power throughout Louis XIV’s early reign. It wasn’t until Mazarin died in 1661, when Louis XIV was in his twenties, that the young king finally took control of the French government. Upon assuming full responsibility for the kingdom, Louis XIV quickly set about reforming France according to his own vision.
His first goal as absolute monarch was to centralize and rein in control of France.
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