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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.
The Palace of Versailles (0:47)
Louis XIV - Mini Biography (3:12)
Louis XIV - Versailles (3:14)
Louis XIV - Marriage (3:42)
Louis XIV put many years and drained the treasury to build his grand palace at Versailles.
Louis XIV became king in 1643 and started reforming France in 1661. In 1667 he invaded the Spanish Netherlands and engaged in the Franco-Dutch War in 1672. By the 1680s, he was public shunned and died in France in 1715.
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.
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With the help of his finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV established reforms that cut France's deficit and promoted industrial growth. During his reign, Louis XIV managed to improve France's disorganized system of taxation and limit formerly haphazard borrowing practices. He also conveniently declared members of nobility exempt from paying taxes,
causing them to become even more fiscally dependent on the crown.
In implementing administrative reforms toward a more orderly and stable French government, Louis XIV forced provincial nobles to relinquish their former political influence. In so doing, he constructed a more centralized administration with the bourgeoisie, or middle class, as its foundation.
Along with his changes to the government, Louis XIV created a number of programs and institutes to infuse more of the arts into French culture. In this vein, the Academy of Inscriptions and Belle-Lettres was founded in 1663, followed by the Royal Academy of Music in 1666. Louis XIV also had Colbert oversee the construction of the Paris Observatory from 1667 to 1672.
Louis XIV is notorious for his overbearing approach to foreign policy. In 1667, he launched the invasion of the Spanish Netherlands, deeming it his wife's rightful inheritance. The War of Devolution, as the conflict was named, lasted a year and ended when the French surrendered and gave the land back to Spain. France's only conquest was to occupy a few towns in Flanders.
Dissatisfied with the outcome, Louis XIV engaged his country in the Franco-Dutch War from 1672 to 1678, during which France managed to acquire more land in Flanders and the Franche-Compté. The victory promoted France to the status of a dominant power. This status, coupled with Louis XIV's campaigns to continually expand territorial claims through the use of military force, positioned France as a threat to other European nations.
Near the end of the 1680s, those nations, including Spain, England and the Holy Roman Empire, responded by banding together to form the Grand Alliance. A war between France and the Grand Alliance broke out in 1688 and waged on for nearly a decade, leading to its becoming known as the Nine Years' War.
By the 1680s, Louis XIV had begun to generate public hostility, due, in part, to his efforts to establish religious uniformity throughout France. The king was a devout Catholic, and his persecution of the Huguenots came to a head with his 1685 revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which had formerly granted the Huguenots rights as a religious majority. Under the Edict of Fontainebleau, Louis XIV orchestrated the destruction of Protestant churches and schools throughout France and forced all children to be educated and baptized as Catholics. The revocation and the new edict served to alienate Protestants, prompting many to leave France and seek religious freedom elsewhere.
After the war against the Grand Alliance, France still held most of its original territory, but the country's resources were significantly drained.
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