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Louis XIV

1638-1715. King of France. When he began his personal reign (1661), France was the strongest nation in Europe. Within the land, the nobility was subdued and forced to attend the king at his new palace of Versailles (the court moved there in 1682, although the buildings were not completed until 1710). The French administrative structure, the most highly developed in Europe, was centralized in the king. During the seventeenth century, French culture reached its highest point and was consciously and slavishly imitated by other lands. Louis's religious policy emphasized the autonomy of the French Church (Gallicanism*) and he persecuted the Jansenists with papal approval. He also issued the revocation of the Edict of Nantes* (1685) which rejected religious toleration in France and forced the Huguenots to convert to Roman Catholicism or else emigrate. Louis's foreign policy was based upon the desire to extend France to what was considered her natural boundaries. This led to the building of a large war machine and to four major wars. His reign can be divided into two parts at the year 1685. Until that time he was very successful, but in his last twenty-five years when the nations of Europe united against him, the resulting wars drained the strength of France.

M. Ashley, Louis XIV and the Greatness of France (1946); W.H. Lewis, The Splendid Century (1953); W.F. Church (ed.), The Greatness of Louis XIV: Myth or Reality (1959); J.B. Wolf, Louis XIV (1968).