On this day in 1638 Louis XIV of France (d. 1715) was born.
Louis XIV, known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a monarch of the House of Bourbon who ruled as King of France and Navarre from 1643 until his death. His reign of 72 years and 110 days is the longest of any monarch of a major country in European history.
Louis began his personal rule of France in 1661 after the death of his chief minister, the Italian Cardinal Mazarin. An adherent of the concept of the divine right of kings, which advocates the divine origin of monarchical rule, Louis continued his predecessors’ work of creating a centralized state governed from the capital.
He sought to eliminate the remnants of feudalism persisting in parts of France and, by compelling many members of the nobility to inhabit his lavish Palace of Versailles, succeeded in pacifying the aristocracy, many members of which had participated in the Fronde rebellion during Louis’s minority.
By these means he became one of the most powerful French monarchs and consolidated a system of absolute monarchical rule in France that endured until the French Revolution.
During Louis’s reign, France was the leading European power and it fought three major wars: the Franco-Dutch War, the War of the League of Augsburg, and the War of the Spanish Succession.
There were also two lesser conflicts: the War of Devolution and the War of the Reunions. Louis encouraged and benefited from the work of prominent political, military, and cultural figures.
Upon his death just days before his seventy-seventh birthday, Louis was succeeded by his five-year-old great-grandson, Louis XV. All of his intermediate heirs predeceased him: his son Louis, le Grand Dauphin; the Dauphin’s eldest son Louis, Duke of Burgundy; and Burgundy’s eldest son Louis, Duke of Brittany (the elder brother of Louis XV).