Photos – Library of Congress
The “Sun King”
• Ruled as King of France and
of Navarre from May 14,
1643 until his death just
prior to his 77 birthday. He
acceded to the throne a few
months before his fifth
birthday, but did not
assume actual personal
control of the government
until the death of his first
minister (premier minister),
Jules Cardinal Mazarin, in
1661. Louis XIV, ruled France
for 72 years—the longest
reign of any French or other
major European monarch.
• After a first Fronde (Fronde Parlementaire) ended, the
second Fronde, that of the princes, began in 1650.
• Nobles of all ranks, from princes of the Blood Royal and
cousins of the king to nobles of legitimated royal
descent and nobles of ancient families, participated in
the rebellion against royal rule. Even the clergy was
represented by Jean François Paul de Gondi, Cardinal de
• The result of these tumultuous times, when the Queen
Mother reputedly sold her jewels to feed her children,
was a king filled with a permanent distrust for the
nobility and the mob.
“L’état c’est moi”
Louis's reign can be characterized by the remark attributed to him,
"L'état, c'est moi" [I am the state].
Louis continued the nobility's exemption from taxes but forced its members into
financial dependence on the crown, thus creating a court nobility occupied with
ceremonial etiquette and petty intrigues.
The provincial nobles also lost political power.
Louis used the bourgeoisie to build his centralized bureaucracy. He curtailed local
authorities and created specialized ministries, filled by professionals responsible to
Under his minister Jean Baptiste Colbert-industry and commerce grew –
Navy was developed and the war minister, The Marquis de Louvois, established the
foundations of French military greatness.
During his reign, Louis instituted various legal reforms. The major legal
code, both civil and criminal, formulated by Louis XIV, the Code Louis,
also played a large part in France's legal history as it was the basis for
Napoleon I's Code Napoléon, which is itself the basis for the modern
French legal codes.
It sought to provide France with a single system of law where there were
two, customary law in the north and Roman law in the south.
The Code Forestier sought to control and oversee the forestry industry in
France, protecting forests from destruction.
The Code Noir granted sanction to slavery (though it did extend a
measure of humanity to the practice such as prohibiting the separation of
families), but no person could disown a slave in the French colonies
unless he were a member of the Roman Catholic Church, and a Catholic
priest had baptize each slave.
“I have no intention of sharing my
authority with them.”
• The Dutch War (1672-78), during
which Louis XIV demonstrated
strategic and tactical capabilities,
provided the occasion for a
skillful propaganda campaign by
his historian-poets Boileau (b.
1636-d. 1711) and Racine (b. 1639-
d. 1699). The war also produced
the Campagnes de Louis XIV
which contains maps of the
operations and movements of
French troops. Louis is illustrated
here at the beginning of the
volume dressed as a Roman
The Sun Myth
Louis XIV chose the sun as his emblem.
• The sun was associated with Apollo, god of
peace and arts, and was also the heavenly body
which gave life to all things, regulating
everything as it rose and set.
• Like Apollo, the warrior-king Louis XIV brought
peace[at least in the early days!], was a patron
of the arts, and dispensed his bounty. The
regularity of his work habits and his ritual
risings were another point of solar comparison.
• Throughout Versailles, decoration combines
images and attributes of Apollo (laurel, lyre,
tripod) with the king's portraits and emblems.
The Apollo Salon is the main room of the Grand
Apartment because it was originally the
monarch's state chamber. The path of the sun is
also traced in the layout of the gardens.
• Louis is depicted at the Greek God, Apollo, in
the painting below - - one of Louis's personal
State control of culture reached unprecedented heights under
Louis XIV, the Sun King.
*Newly created academies in the arts and sciences generated
heroic representations of the king that reinforced the royal
*Increasing censorship targeted "scandalous" texts and political
writings incompatible with absolute monarchy.
*Systematic purchases of treasures from ancient and modern
cultures the world over enhanced the regime's prestige.
*The need to reign supreme in cultural matters also spawned
French Classicism, the crowning cultural achievement of France's
golden age under Louis XIV.
Le Ballet Royal
• The costumes contributed to the dazzling
entertainment of Le Ballet royal de la nuit, as did
scenery changes and the ballet's diverse characters. The
ballet ends with the appearance of Aurore, who yields
her place to the rising Sun, Apollo, played the first time
by the young king Louis XIV. During his lifetime, Louis
performed a wide range of roles--including plebeian
characters. These drawings are of the Lute Player, the
Warrior, and Apollo.
• King Louis XIV built the palace as an expression of his
absolute power and filled his desire to establish a new center
for the royal court. The court was officially established at
Versailles in May of 1682. By moving the court to his
residence, King Louis XIV hoped to gain more control over
government while distancing himself from the population in
Queen’s bedroom King’s chamber
Reception of Le Grand Conde at Versailles
by Jan-Leon Gerome
• One key to his power was his control of central
policy making machinery of government.
• The chief offices of state were located at
Versailles so Louis could watch over them.
The Period of Decline
The turning point in Louis's reign between the earlier grandeur and the
later disasters came after Colbert's death (1683).
In 1685 the king took the disastrous step of revoking the Protestant
(HUGUENOT) minority's right to worship by his Edict of Fontainebleau, often
called the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
Many Huguenots--who constituted an industrious segment of French
society--left the country, taking with them considerable capital as well as
In addition Louis' s display of religious intolerance helped unite the
Protestant powers of Europe against the Sun King
The “Sun” sets…
• As the Sun King's reign passed into its twilight years, some judged
the social stability and routine he had created as oppressive to the
• A "counter-cultural" revolution under his successors, Louis XV
(1715-1774) and Louis XVI (1774-1793), unleashed Enlightenment
ideas and values which tore away at the theatrical and courtly
foundations that Richelieu and Louis XIV had given the state.
• The cultural vitality of the realm shifted decisively from the royal
court at Versailles to Paris.
• The increased role of the press, of reports of scientific and
commercial activities, of exploration and discoveries, as well as the
weekly meetings of academies and salons energized literary,
artistic, and artisan circles.
• Analyze the text and/or documents.
• Share your findings with others reading the
same document or section.
• Present findings to class.
• Write a one paragraph (5 sentences minimum)
using fact and opinion on King Louis XIV as a
cult like figure.
Cult – NOUN:
A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false,
with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the
guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader. The followers of such a
religion or sect.
A system or community of religious worship and ritual.
The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony
A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to
have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.
Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person,
principle, or thing.The object of such devotion.
An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or
Cult of personality
or personality cult
is a derogatory term for what is perceived to be
excessive adulation of a single living leader.