Louis XIV was a monarch of the House of Bourbon who reigned as King of France from 1643 until his death in 1715. Starting at the age of 4, his reign of 72 years and 110 days is the longest recorded of any monarch of a sovereign country in European history. Take a look below for 30 more interesting and awesome facts about Louis XIV.
1. In the age of absolutism in Europe, Louis XIV’s France was a leader in the growing centralization of power.
2. Louis began his personal rule of France in 1661, after the death of his chief minister, the Italian Cardinal Mazarin.
3. An adherent of the concept of the divine right of kings, which advocates the divine origin of monarchical rule, Louis continued his predecessors’ work of creating a centralized state governed from the capital.
4. He sought to eliminate the remnants of feudalism persisting in parts of France and, by compelling many members of the nobility to inhabit his lavish Palace of Versailles, succeeded in pacifying the aristocracy, many members of which had participated in the Fronde rebellion during Louis’ minority.
5. He became one of the most powerful French monarchs and consolidated a system of absolute monarchical rule in France that endured until the French Revolution.
6. Louis encouraged and benefited from the work of prominent political, military and cultural figures such as Mazarin, Colbert, Louvois, the Grand Conde, Turenne, Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban, Andre Charles Boulle, Moliere, Racine, Boileau, La Fontaine, Lully, Marais, Le Brun, Rigaud, Bossuet, La Vau, Mansart, Charles, Claude Perrault and Le Notre.
7. Under his rule, the Edict of Nantes, which granted rights to Huguenots, was abolished. The revocation effectively forced Huguenots to emigrate or convert in a wave of dragonnades, which managed to virtually destroy the French Protestant minority.
8. During Louis’ reign, France was the leading European power, and it fought three major wars: the Franco-Dutch War, the War of the League of Augsburg, and the War of the Spanish Succession.
9. Warfare defined the foreign policy of Louis XIV, and his personality shaped his approach.
10. Impelled by a mix of commerce, revenge and pique, Louis sensed that warfare was the ideal way to enhance his glory.
11. In peacetime, he concentrated on preparing for the next war.
12. He taught his diplomats that their job was to create tactical and strategic advantages for the French military.
13. Louis inherited the French throne when he was only four years old.
14. Anne of Austria, Louis’ mother, gave birth to him when she was 37 years old. Before Louis was born, Anne suffered through many stillbirths before him.
15. His improbably survival inspired Anne and others to believe that he truly was ordained by God to flourish and rule.
16. Louis XIV adopted the sun insignia to evoke how his position as the King of France was truly ordained as God’s representative in life.
17. Louis’ mother served as his regent for the first part of his reign, as he was only a child. Anne was proactive in her rule, despite Louis’ father leaving provisions in his will to limit Anne’s powers over their children.
18. France was an active participant in Jesuit missions to China. As a result, Louis’ court hosted several East Asian dignitaries and official members.
19. One of Louis’ earliest romances was with Marie Mancini, the niece of his mother’s close ally Cardinal Mazarin. However, his mother wouldn’t risk them getting married, and had Mancini sent away for her own marriage in Italy.
20. In 1660, Maria Theresa of Spain married Louis when they were both 22. She was his first cousin.
21. Although he and his first wife shared a mutual affection, he was never faithful to her.
22. Louis fathered 13 illegitimate children with three other women in addition to carrying on liaisons with countless other lovers.
23. Later in life, Louis found himself taken by the piety and compassion of his children’s governess, Francoise d’Aubigne. He eventually married her. Their union was never publicly declared, but it was an open secret at court.
24. Historians still contest whether or not Louis had an affair with his brother’s wife, Henrietta of England.
25. The dogmatic, self-aggrandizing aesthetic of French classicism is so associated with Louis XIV and his absolute monarchy that it’s called simply “Style Louis XIV.”
26. Louis was a big fan of ballet and even danced it himself. He performed 80 roles in 40 major ballets, often in leading or god-like roles.
27. Throughout the 1660s, he founded the Academie Royale de Danse and the Academie d’Opera, two critical elements in the evolution of French ballet.
28. Later in life, Louis legitimized his illegitimate children with his main mistress, Madame de Montepsan, as heirs to the throne. In one move, he founded several new royalist dynasties within the French aristocracy.
29. In 1661, Louis truly transformed Versailles from a private hunting lodge into a public monument to royal opulence. The palace of more than 700 rooms became a center for French power and was officially turned into the new court in 1682.
30. The state of Louisiana gets its name from Louis XIV. When Frenchman Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, claimed the interior of land drained by the Mississippi River in 1682, he named it after the French King.