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King Louis XIV

King Louis XIV, is considered to be the greatest absolute monarch in France‘s history.  He earned this title not through political genius, but through his ideals of greatness and thirst for cultivating France to the forefront of enlightenment .  During his reign, culture flourished and the people of France enjoyed an unparalleled time of grandeur and sophistication in the arts.  France became the envy of every European country.  It was exclusively King Louis XIV who was responsible for promoting this cosmopolitan image and enjoying absolute power, both of which garnered him the title of “Louis the Great”.

King Louis XIV

His title of Louis the Great was in part of his own accord and declaration.  He was an absolute monarch and claimed he was divinely appointed as the “Sun King”.  The time was ripe in France for a change in the court due to the oppressive power of the French nobility. French nobles had caused 11 civil wars in the past 40 years . Richelieu and Mazarin had tried using both bribes and severe punishment to bring them under control. Louis tried a new approach and brought the nobility to his court. There the nobles were encouraged to gamble, drink, and pursue women. The most powerful nobles became involved in elaborate procedures and a strange court etiquette French that transformed them into servants and toadies of the Sun King.

Louis XIV’s cultivation of the arts was perhaps his finest asset in lifting him to the heights of greatness.     There were many great Frenchmen alive in the second half of the 17th Century. Two of the greatest French writers, Moliere and Jean Racine, were sponsored by the King who ordered them to sing his praises. Louis XIV took it upon himself to tell artists what was beautiful and what should be painted.

The King was a great builder, and he built many palaces and residences in France. His greatest remaining monument is Versailles, which was simultaneously a triumph and a disaster. Versailles, which probably cost hundreds of millions of dollars in modern money, would sometimes have as many as 40,000 workmen working on its construction at one time . In 1682, Louis moved the entire French court and government to Versailles. At the time many common people thought that Versailles represented the ruination of France because it cost so much to build and it contributed to the impoverishment of the French people. People in the upper classes throughout Europe thought that Versailles enhanced the prestige of the French to have such a magnificent center of government.  Many European rulers tried to reproduce Versailles on smaller scales.

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