Today on May 14, 1643, the four-year Louis XIV inherited the French crown following the sudden death of his father.
King Louis XIV, commonly known as the Sun King, ruled over France for more than 72 years to become the longest reigning monarch in European history. Born into the House of Bourbon, he was the first son of King Louis XIII and Queen Anne of Austria. His parents nicknamed him Louis Dieudonne, meaning “gift of God,” after enduring a string of four stillbirths. Anne was particularly fond of her baby son, as her contemporaries cite her for being unusually affectionate towards him. Four years later, the young king ascended the throne following his father’s premature death from intestinal tuberculosis. In defiance of royal tradition, Louis VIII opted to have a regency council rule on behalf of the young king rather than his mother doing it alone.
Anne was enraged by her husband’s last orders and swiftly moved to have his will annulled. A judicial body of nobles ruled in her favor and dismantled the council. The queen-regent alongside her chief minister and close confidant, Cardinal Jules Mazarin, managed state affairs for a decade. In 1651, the government declared Louis XIV had reached the age of majority. He assumed full personal rule over his kingdom ten years later after the death of Mazarin. Louis was a staunch believer in the divine right of kings and worked diligently to consolidate royal authority under a centralized government. He issued sweeping reforms to the old feudal system and compelled reluctant nobles to join him at the lavish Palace of Versailles (perhaps his most famous legacy).
Louis ultimately ushered in a golden age of art and literature and established France as a dominant global power. However, he later provoked several unnecessary wars that took a heavy toll on the state coffers. In 1685, he infamously revoked the Edict of Nantes which caused a mass exodus of French Protestants. Its estimated between 200,000 to 800,000 people migrated due to his religious policies. In many ways, Louis XIV laid the foundation for a century of absolutism, which ultimately caused the French Revolution in 1789. His great-grandson Louis XVI was eventually executed for his refusal to abandon absolute power over the country.