Louis XIV of France was one of the most influential rulers of his time. During his reign, he made many changes to both his domestic and foreign policy in an attempt to centralize power and make France the leading country in Europe. Louis XIV’s domestic policy focused on strengthening the monarchy and making sure that the nobles were kept in check. He did this by creating new institutions, such as the Palace of Versailles, and by passing laws that limited the power of the nobility.
Louis XIV’s foreign policy was focused on expanding French territory and influence. He did this through a series of wars, such as the War of Devolution and the Nine Years’ War. Louis XIV was successful in many of his endeavors, but his policies also had some negative consequences. For instance, his foreign policy led to France becoming embroiled in a number of costly wars. Additionally, Louis XIV’s policies alienated many of his subjects, both at home and abroad. Overall, Louis XIV was a very effective ruler who left a lasting impact on France and European politics.
Louis XIV strove hard for international supremacy. He would use his foreign policy to establish a worldwide monarchy for himself or, alternatively, to increase the defenses of France by securing natural borders. He succeeded in establishing an absolutist and centralized state during his reign. Louis was involved in four significant conflicts during his reign, some of which he may be blamed as the provocateur; nevertheless, I believe that his actions were primarily defensive.
The first of these wars was the Dutch War (1672-1678). Louis’ main objectives were to control the Dutch and to establish French predominance in Europe. The second war was the War of Devolution (1667-1668). The objective of this war was to enforce Louis’ claim to the Spanish Netherlands which had been left to his wife Maria Theresa upon the death of her father, Philip IV of Spain. The third war was the League of Augsburg or the War of the Grand Alliance (1688-1697).
This conflict arose out of Louis’ revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. The Edict had granted religious toleration to France’s Protestant minority, the Huguenots. Louis’ revocation of the Edict spurred a series of revolts by the Huguenots and their allies, both foreign and domestic. The fourth and final war Louis was involved in was the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). The objective of this conflict was to prevent the union of the French and Spanish crowns under Louis’ grandson, Philip V.
Louis XIV’s main goals for his domestic policy were to increase the power of the monarchy, to centralize the government, to gain control of the nobility, and to reduce the influence of the Huguenots. Louis achieved these objectives through a series of policies and measures such as: using intendants to collect taxes and oversee royal policy, strengthening the army and navy, establishing the Académie Française and the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture to help standardize French culture, and revoking the Edict of Nantes.
Louis’ policies were largely successful. He was able to increase the power of the monarchy and centralize the government to a large degree. However, he was not completely successful in reducing the influence of the Huguenots or in gaining control of the nobility. The nobility proved to be a continual thorn in Louis’ side throughout his reign. They resented his centralization efforts and often rebelled against his authority. In spite of this, Louis was able to rule effectively for over 50 years, dying peacefully in his bed at the age of 77.
Louis XIV’s legacy is a mixed one. On the one hand, he was an effective ruler who helped to make France a leading European power. On the other hand, his policies laid the groundwork for the French Revolution of 1789. Louis’ centralization efforts weakened the nobility and increased the power of the monarchy. This created a situation in which the king had absolute power but was not accountable to anyone.
This would prove to be a dangerous combination when Louis XVI came to the throne in 1774. Louis XVI was not as capable as Louis XIV and he was unable to prevent the outbreak of revolution in 1789. The French Revolution would ultimately lead to the overthrow of the monarchy and the execution of Louis XVI in 1793. Louis XIV’s legacy, therefore, is a complex one. He was both a great king and the cause of his own downfall.
Despite his animosity towards the Dutch, Louis XIV authorized a war of Devolution in 1667 and nettled him part of Flanders. The Dutch subsequently targeted him with the Triple Alliance, which began the third Dutch conflict. Louis proved to be an incredibly profligate spender, lavishing money on pageantry at court. In the decade that followed, Louis XVI restricted his activities to diplomacy.
However, in 1672 Louis again went to war, this time against the Dutch Republic and England. The Dutch wars continued until the Treaty of Nijmegen in 1678-79, which added more territory to France. In order to finance his various wars and projects, Louis XIV taxed his subjects heavily. This caused discontent among the nobility and commoners alike.
One of Louis’ most controversial policies was the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, which had granted religious toleration to France’s Protestant minority, known as Huguenots. Louis’ domestic policies were aimed at making France a strong and centralized state. He accomplished this by appointing intendants to oversee royal officials in the provinces, centralizing power within the bureaucracy, and standardizing French coinage and weights and measures. Louis also rebuilt the French army, making it one of the most powerful in Europe.
Lastly, Louis XIV built numerous palaces, most notably the Palace of Versailles, which served to showcase his power and wealth. Louis’ foreign policy was aimed at making France the dominant European power. In order to achieve this, he engaged in a series of wars that left his treasury depleted. Louis also revoked the Edict of Nantes, which caused many Huguenots to flee France. Ultimately, Louis’ policies led to increased discontent among his subjects and helped pave the way for the French Revolution.