European Royalty: The French Bourbons--Louis XIV (1643-1715)

Figure 1.--This is painting of Louis XIV. I am not sure when it was painted, but as Louis became king at the ge of 5 years, he would hve already become king here. I'm not sure who the painter was.

The successor to Louis XIII was his acclaimed son, Louis XIV (1643-1715). The famed Sun King whose ruled marked the apogee of royal absolutism in France and in fact Europe. Louis dominated European afffairs during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Louis was born in St. Germain-en-Laye in 1638. He was at the time called le Dieudonné, the gift of God, because his parent's mairrage had for so many years been barren. Many Frenchmen had dispaired of a heir. Few French kings had such illustrious ancestors, the much loved Henry IV on his father's side and Phillip II, the somber, pious master of the Spanish Armada. The consciousness of his ancestors and the fact that he became king at such an early age that he could hardly recall a time when he had not been king.


Louis' father was King Louis XIII of France (1601-43). Louis XIII's father was King Henry IV (1553- ). His mother was Marie de' Medici (1573- ). Louis died at a rather young age, leaving the throne to his very young son. Louis' mother was Habsburg Princess Anne of Austria (1601- ). Her father was Habsburg King Philip III (1578- ) of Spain. Her mother was Habsburg Princess Margaret of Austria (1584- ).

Louis XIII ( -1643)

Louis XIII was the eldest son of Henry IV and Marie de Médicis. He was born at Fontainebleau in 1601. Louis was raised under the harsh regime of his governess, Madame de Montglat, and from 1609. of his governor, the Marquis de Souvré. Louis reportedly desposed his father's illegitimate children with whom he shared the royal nursery. One of those brothers, Gaston Duke d'Orleans later attempted to gain the crown. Their father was murdered in 1610 and his mother became regent. Louis was a shy youth and became attached in Charles d'Albert, the royal falconer who he was to make Duke de Luynes. Louis' mother acting as regent forced the boy to mary Anne of Austria--the daughter of Philip III of Spain. France's great nobles objected. Louis who was only 14 was required to consumatethe marriage, an experience which reportedly apauled him and affected him throughout his life. Louis ended the regency in 1617 when he rebelled against his mother and her Italian favorite who, with the aid of d'Albert he had killed. He had his mother imprisoned. Even so she led conspiracies against her son. Louis made Richelieu his chief minister, but regarded him at first as his mother's protégé. They gradually became very close and suceeded in checking Habsburg power in Europe. One of their great achievements was to gain control over the nobillity by cancelling several impirtant privliges. Although he came to regard his Habsburg wife as unloyal, the two after years without children produced the future Louis XIV (1638). Louis' premature death left his his son king at only 5 years of age and Anne in control of France.

Anne of Austria (1601- )

Anne of Austria was the queen consort of King Louis XIII of France (1610–43) and became one of the most important French queens. The King has severe doubts about Anne, but his premature death left her in control of France as regent for their son Louis (1643). Annewas a Hassburg princes, the eldest daughter of King Philip III of Spain and Margaret of Austria, Anne married the teenage Louis XIII (1615). Louis from the very beginning exhibited little interest in her. Anne's reputation was damaged as a result of the indiscression of te Englishman George Villiers, 1st duke of Buckingham (1625). Villiers openly flaunted his interest in Anne at court. Cardinal Richleau, Louis' chief minister (1624-42), was suspicious of Anne because of her sympathies with Spain. The Cardinal influenced Louis to resist Anne's efforts to acquire any real influence. A long running struggle developed between the two. Anne came to hate the Cardinal as a result. Anne unwisely took in Marie de Rohan-Montbazon, duchesse de Chevreuse to her hosehold. She also became close to the queen mother, Marie de Médicis. She attempted to convince Louis to dissmiss Cardinal Richelieu (the Day of Dupes, 1630). The animosity only increased when Richelieu he engineered a war with Spain and her brother King Philip IV (1635). Although queen of France, she remained sympathetic to Spanish because of family ties. Richelieu secretly ordered that she be closely followed. His spies gathered proof that during a visit to the nunnery at Val-de-Grâce where she secretly corresponded with her brother. The Cardinal proved to Louis that this was treason. Any action against the Queen, however, was awkward as she gave the King two sons--the dauphin Louis (1638) and Philippe (1640). Louis attempted to prevent Anne from becoming sole regent in case of death through codicils in his will. After his death (1643) , however, Anne suceeded in having the Parlement of Paris annul the will. With Louis' death and Anne's appointment as sole regent, the French nobels, many of whom disliked the queen, moved to regain the priviliges that Richelieu suceeded in cancelling during Louis XIII's reign. The Queen rejected the demands of the nobels. She was detrrmined that her son would inherit the full authority that Louis and Richeliuu had succeeded in ammassing. She replaced Richelieu with Cardinal Jules Mazarin, an Italian-born prelate. Mazarin was a close associate of Richelieu. Anne and Mazarin became very close. Some historians allege an intimate reltionship and a secret marriage. They were confronted with a rebellion by the nobility--the Fronde (1648-53). The nobels threatened the monarchy and forced Anne to dismiss Mazarin (1651). The Fronde was, hwever, not aunified effort, but in effect aseries of revolys. Mazarin coached the Queen well and she astutely played off factions of the nobiity. When the rebellion collapsed, Anne brought Mazarin back. Officially Anne's regency ended durng the Fronde (1651). Her son Louis XIV was proclaimed of age to reign. Louis was, however, still only a teenager and relied heavily on his mother and Mazarin. France did not make peace with Spain for several more years (1659). Louis married Anne's niece, Marie-Thérèse, the daughter of Philip IV (1660).


Louis was born in 1638. He experienced a tramautic childhood and his very life was threatened by the Fronde (1648-1653). His mind was molded by the bitter Fronde. He was aware how civil and religious war had cost his contemprary, Charles II of England his crown. The great cardinal Richelieu had died in 1642 a year before his father's death. This left Queen Anne and a very young boy to complete King Louis' work. The Queen foud an Otalian-born prelate and protege of Richelieu, Cardinal Mazarin (1602-61), to assist her. They were immediately confronted with theFronde (1648-53) which for a time threatened the monarchy. Courtiers at the time described Louis as having a robust constitution and exhibiting asolemn dignity. They remarked on his grace and noble appearance. Perhaps but this sounds rather how one who wanted to stay in the good graces of the royal family would describe the young prince. Louis grew up with his younger brother Phillie under the close supervision of their mother. Her son Louis XIV was proclaimed of age to reign. Louis was, however, still only a teenager and relied heavily on his mother and Mazarin.

Figure 2.--Louis XIV's younger brother, Philippe, was reportedly kept in dresses longer than usual to reduce his potential threat to Louis. Philippe founded the Orleans line of the Bourbon family. I'm not sure who the painter was. Notice the long dresses women and small boys wore.

Childhood Clothing

HBC has little information at this time on the clothing Louis wore as a boy. There are several portraits of him and Phillipe which provide some information. Available paintings suggest that he wore dresses as a young boy. One painting shows him as a very young boy wearing a long dress. He is with mother Anne of Austria, Queen of France. When he was breeched or the circumstances are unknown. Once breeched he seems to have wore scaled down adult clothing suitable for his station. Dedicated children's clothing was at the time unknown. Another painting shows him with Cardinal Bentivoglio and his young brother Philippe. In this painting Philippe is still wearing a long dress. I don't remember the name of the painter.

First Marriage (1660)

Louis married his cousin, the Spanish Hapsburg princess--the Infanta Marie-Thérèse in 1660. Her father was Habsburg King Philip IV of Spain (1605- ). Her mother was Elizabeth de Bourbon (1602- ). This political union required him to put aside the love of his life--the intelligent and beautiful daughter of Mazarin--Marie Mancini. The marriage was Mazarin's last exercise in state-craft. Louis' Spanish ancestry strengthened by the marriage was to eventually lead to the disastrous War of the Spanish Sucession late in Louis' reign. Louis and Marie-Thérèse had three sons and daughters, but only one child survved--the Dauphin Louis (1661-1711). Both the Dauphin and his son Louis Duke of Burgandy ( -1712) died relatively young. Eventually it was the son of the Duke of Burgandy, Louis XIV's great grandson, King Louis XV (1710-74), that would succeed him. The Dauphin had two other children. The second became King Philip V of Spain (1683- ). His assumption of the throne was to spark the War of the Spanish Succession. The Dauphin's third son was Charles du Berry (1686- ).

Second Marriage (1684)

Louis after the death of Marie-Thérèse married Francoise d'Aubigne in 1684. They had three children: Louise Francisca de Bourbon (1673- ), Mademoiselle Francoise Marie de Blois (1677- ), and Louis Alex de Bourbon, Count of Toulouse (1678- ). We have a painting with one of the King's daughter's showing long ribbons at the back, but we are not sure which one. I think it is Mademoiselle Francoise Marie de Blois.

Mistresses and Illigetimate Children

Louis married twice, but he had liasons with quite a few ladies of the court outside of his marriages. Louis apparenly had remarkable energy. Reports suggest that he performed his marital nightly, he apparently did not long remain faithful after his marriage with Marie-Thérèse (1660). Among his mistresses were: Louise de la Valliere, duchesse de Vaujours; Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, marquise de Montespan; and Marie-Angelique de Scoraille, duchesse de Fontanges. These affairs were the subject of endless court gossip and had some serious political repercussions, although becausee Louis XIV was internsely involved in government, less important than his grandson Louis XIV. The result was a substantial number of illegitimate children. Historians differ somewhat on the actual count, but 16-17 is the usual tally. Eight of these children were legitimated and recived titles. Louis did not abandon them, but took an interest in their lives as he grew older. He saw to it that they were married into prestigious nobel families. This included branches of the Royal family. As a result, their desendents, in effect cadet branches of the royal family, would play important roles in the 18th century. By all accounts, an older Louis was more faithful to his second wife--Françoise d'Aubigné, marquise de Maintenon. He married her in secret (about 1685). It was also morganatic and lasted until his death.


Louis moved into his new palace at Versailles in 1682. Up to then the French court had been nomadic. The King deliberately attracted the great nobels to court, knowing that they would be more dangerously employed elsewhere. Versailles and court life were a major step in his accendency over the quarelsone nobility. Few nobels wanted to absent themselves from the luxuries and brillance of court life. His rule was in fact a period of floweing of art, literature, drama, and dance. Louis himself was a gifted dancer and actually participated in court ballets until 1669 after hearing Racine's comment that the Roman's scorned their emoeror because he acted in the theater. The one area in which Louis' court lagged was art, although this was not appreciated at the time because the Louis XIV Style was so dominant in the decorative arts throughout Europe. The French court had many and strict rules called " l'étiquette " it is a bit alike the " bonnes manières " The " étiquette " concerned all aspects of behaviour. For instance the way to address the royals, titles, to use, greetings, dance, games, clothes, dressing, costumes, writting, table art, the children's education, travels, ceremonies, and much more. All these rules were very strict. Tthe ministres attended coort functions. The Huissiers watched without participating. At Versailles all persons from the princes down to the staff were expected to follow court étiquette. New comers like foreign ambassadors could be rediculed for small breeches in étiquette During Louis XIV's reign in particular, court étiquette becam more and more complicated. His court was the most prestigious in Europe. And he staid on the French throne for an amazing 72 years.

Figure 3.--This portrait by Le Brun shows King Louis XIV attended to by young nobels, notice their elaborate clothes and hair styles in the Cavelier style. I am not sure just when this portrait was painted but it looks like it may have been the 1670s. Note at the time women wore long dresses, but it was still fashionable foryoung men to dsplay theirlegs.


They are several portaits and scenes of Louis XIV when he was baby and boy wich were painted by the prestigious école de l'Art. A number unfortunatly were destroyed during the " Révolution terreur " after the fall of the French Monarchy. Afew were repainted after the Revolution. The most prestigious painters of the world worked for Louis XIV such as: René Antoine Houasse, Justus van Egmont, Henry de Gissey, Jean Nocret, and the famous Hyacinthe Rigaud and Charles Le Brun (1619-90). They were very appreciated at the Cour ( royal court ) de Versailles. These artists becam very rich. Charles Le Brun was the dominate force in the decorattive arts during the Long reign of King Louis XIV. Le Brun is certainly an important artist, however, he is not a great artist. He dictated art stnandards and conventions to the rein of Louis XIV. Le Brun studied art in Italy. After returning to Paris he establish a reputation as a leading artist and he was raised to the nobility in 1662 and given the title of "Premier Peintre du roi". He was appointed director of the Gobelins factory in 1663. More importantly for French art, he was also appointed the director of the reorganized Académie. Le Brun proceeded in making the Académie an instrument for imposing his views and judgements onto French artists. He codified a system of art and discouraged innovation and experiment. Le Brun is one opf the reasons that French art in the 17th century compares adversely to that of neighboring countries. One portrait is of special interest to HBC as it shows King Louis XIV and the pages of the royal court (figure 3).


Modern ballet first emerged in France. A major step in the development of ballet as a disciplined art form was the personal interest of French King Louis XIV. Louis was the most powerful king in Europe. He launched a series of aggressive military campaigns to expand France's borders. Louis is better known as the "Sun King" and he sought to dazzle Europe with the splendor of his court and spectacular dance productions was part of the court desplay. This was not merely for show. Louis wanted to make sure the important French nobels were with him at Versailles rather than making trouble in the provinces. Louis took a special interest in dance. He even had a dance master, Beauchamp, and trained daily with him. One of the roles he was famous for dancing was the Rising Sun which is what originally gave rise to the term "Sun King". Louis was also responsible for the Academie Royale de Danse.

Supression of Protestants

France when Louis became king still had a Protestant minority, the Heugenouts, of some importance. Their rights had been guaranteed by Henry IV with the Edict of Nantes which had ended religious strife (1598). Louis XIII and Richlieu had chipped away at their protections and destroyed the military and political power of the Heuguenots. Their continued existance was a mater of concern to Louis. The King like most European monarchs beieved that a monarch's subjects should adhere to the monarch's religion. The principle was "Cuius regio, eius religio". This defined defined religious policy throughout Europe. It was ensrined in the the Peace of Augsburg (1555). It was to cost the Stuarts their throne in England. Louis XIV strongly endorsed the principle, believing as he did in absolute monarchyand centralization of power. It was not really a religious matter wth him, but a political one. He believed that a strong state required a politically and religiously unified people. His first step was to quarter soldiers in Huguenots homes. As a feudal lord he had the right to do this with any of his subjects. The major step with supressing Protestants was the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685). The last of his many mistresses, Madame de Maintenon, seems to have played a role here. She ended his philandering, but seems to have launched Louis' energies in other directions. Louis became more politically engaged. This was most pronounced in two areas: 1) the supression of the Protestants and 2) launching wars of agression. She was born into a Protestant family, but converted to Roman Catholicism. Some historians suggest that she urged Louis to take action against the Protestants. Other historians question this. At any rate, it was an action that Louis was clearly moving toward. It was a disaster for France.

Wars of Louis XIV

Louis achieved military success in a realtively costless war early in his reign. This seems to have wetted his appetite for military "glory". After Madame de Maintenon closed down his constant affairs and philandering, Louis launched upon a series of ememsely expensive foreign wars. Earlier French kings were constantly getting bogged down in Italy with little to show for it. Louis decided to move north with aesire to estblish France's borders on the Rhine. France at the time was the most populace, richest, and powerful state. Louis did succeed in annexing Alscace, but while he waged war mdrcelessy, destroying large areas in the Netherland and Palatinate, he did not succeed in moving France's borders to the Rhine. His desire for Glory united all of Europe against him. English armies entered the Continent and led by Marlbourgh achieved great victories at Blenheim and other battles. With only meager gains, Louis bankupted the French state--a development that would lead directly to the Revolution. The scourging of Germany embittered relations with Germany, a emnity that would last through the centuries. It would a Prussian Army that would defeat Napoleon at Waterloo. And the emnity would have destroye the French nation entirely in World War II had the French not becrecued by the British and Americans--for a second time.

War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14)

The War of the Spanish Succession was the first war of the 18th century, resulting from Louis XIV's desire to gain control over Spain. In fairness tonLouis who had waged a series of unprovoked aggrssive wars, this was not a war he sought. The War was fought in Europe from 1702-14. The War was primarily fought on land and was the first major engagement of English forces on the European continent beyond French coastal areas. It was the last of the wars launched by Louis XIV in his drive to expand French power and territory. Two great military leaders emerged, the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugène who secured major victories over the French. The War eventually statemated and the nglish withdrew. The Treaty of Utrech (1713) left the crown in Bourbon hands, but with the stipulation that the French and Spanish crowns never be unified. England gained important territories including Gibralter and areas of Canada.


Louis had the most glorious court in Europe. He could point to emense artistic and cultural achievements. French was seen as the language of culture and learning. Minarchs in Germany and Russia spoke Frrench, often because they preferred it to their own native language. French became the language of international diplomacy. Louis' reign, no matter, how glorious, came at great cost to France which would lead directly to the Revolution. Louis building on the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIII reached the apogeee of absolutist rule. He achieved the religious unity he sought, but underneath serious problems were developing. The aristocracy retained feudal rights. The middle class which expanded significantly in number and importance was left without political power and prestige. The considerable power and wealth of France under Louis was largely expended in a series of costly continental wars with neigboring countries. While the frontiers were expanded marginally it was done so only at great cost. The treasury was depleted. Policies toward the German states helped fuel the birth of German nationalist thought. The Navy was neglected at great future cost. A protestant accession in England was made possible. Intolerance against the French protestants (Hugenots) cost France and Louis some of their most productive subjects. The ordinary people suffered under heavy taxes. One estimate suggests that a tenth of France's population died of famine in the winter of 1693-94. Even without famine the French economy at a critial junction in European history suffered undered Louis' reign.


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Created: June 6, 1998
Last updated: 2:26 AM 5/6/2009