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Portrait of the Sun King

The Sun King. The longest-reigning monarch in world history. This is how King Louis XIV of France is described nowadays. His nickname “The Sun King” was given to him because of his belief of the divine right of kings.

Louis XIV was the son of King Louis XIII of France, and was the third monarch of France from the Bourbon Dynasty. Louis XIV was born on September 5, 1638 and became the dauphine (heir to the throne) of France immediately. Louis XIII of France died in 1643, when his son was only four years old, and a Regency Counsel presided over France in Louis’s minority years.

Louis XIV assumed full power in 1661, and had no chief minister to aid him, surprising the nobles. Louis reduced the national debt, instituted military reforms, and established France as an Absolute Monarchy. In the War of Devolution, Louis attempted to take Spain’s territory in Brabant and the Netherlands. The Netherlands were fearful of the French, and formed the Triple Alliance with England and Sweden against France. The Franco-Dutch War had begun. By 1684, the war had ended, and France gained a vast amount of territory, the most during Louis’s reign, but it had angered all of Europe and France soon became isolated. The war of the Grand Alliance fared little better Against France, and Louis soon became the most powerful monarch in all of Europe.

Louis’s final war came with the War of Spanish Succession. It began when Hapsburg Charles II of Spain died without an heir. Charles changed his will twice: first it went to Archduke Charles of Austria, then to Philip of Anjou, the grandson of Louis XIV. This caused a huge war that involved both the Holy Roman Empire and France, the two most powerful empires in Europe, and the two most powerful houses in Europe, Bourbon and Hapsburg, now fought for the Spanish throne. Charles gained enough support to be crowned king of Spain, but it was Philip of Anjou who emerged victorious, and Spain became Bourbon, as it is today. It was the final triumph of Louis of France.

Louis XIV died on September 1, 1715, 4 days before his seventy-seventh birthday. He had reigned as king of France for seventy-two years, longer than any monarch in known history. He left an outstanding and far-reaching legacy, shaping Europe in such a way that it made France the dominant kingdom in a continent. Napoleon and his grandnephew would soon finalize this empire’s life, and its kings. France has remained strong since then– even during the November 2015 Paris Attacks, in which over 100 people were killed by terrorists.