Death At Birth
5th September 1638, the cries of anguish of a lady in labor are adding to the cacophony of battle. The Chateau of Saint-Germain-En-Laye is besieged. The Fronde is in full swing and the Nobles are on the brink of having what they desire.
The monarch is dead. The battle lost.
Louis XIV was born on the eve of his father’s murder, in the middle of a French Revolution and during a time when the Regency itself was on the brink of devastation. All said, Louis’ future was dying even as he took his first breath. Yet, the young Dauphin survived the hardships and grew up to become one of the strongest French monarchs in history.
Turmoil and Destruction
Annulling her husband’s will, Anne of Austria became the sole Regent of France, abolishing the Regency Council that was supposed to take up office after Louis XIII’s (Louis XIV’s father) death. While Queen Anne reigned, the great nobles launched a major revolt against the Monarchy. Though uncoordinated, it lasted 5 years and was finally suppressed with the help of Cardinal Mazarin, a friend of Louis’ mother.
However, the 5 years of the Fronde had a devastating effect on the young Dauphin (Prince) and the family was forced to flee the capital several times to escape the wrath of the nobles. Events such as these nurtured a hate for the capital in Louis XIV and destroyed his childhood.
Rebirth of a Nation
In March 1661, after the cardinal’s death, Louis XIV assumed control of the government. Seeing the people’s yearning for law and order in the country, Louis started a 7 year struggle against corruption and a long path to administrative and fiscal reforms. His first step was to rule without chief minister. This unprecedented move was all too well thought over and it is said that Louis did this in order give himself complete and total government control.
In his first year, the newly appointed monarch faced the first obstacle on his path, Fouquet, the Super-intendant of Finances. Though Fouquet had not been much different from his predecessors in terms of financial anomalies, Louis grew jealous of his lavish lifestyle and his chateau, Vaux-le-Vicomte. Charging Fouquet of treasury embezzlement, Louis ended his ambitions and sentenced him to a lifetime in prison. This coup also allowed Louis XIV to eradicate the position and appoint Colbert (a close friend and mentor) as Controller-General of Finances.
Beauty in the Beast
Louis XIV was not only active in politics, he also contributed greatly to the arts. His contributions varied from literature through to theatre. Louis also took many great artists under his protection such as the comedian Moliere and the composer Jean-Baptiste Lully.
However, the French monarch’s greatest artistic accomplishment is by far his colossal feat in architecture, in which he converted...