Louis XIV, also known as the “Sun King”, has been said to be the greatest ruler in all of France’s history, but many still accuse him of having bad aspects such as having homosexual habits, being anti-protestant, not understanding commoners, and following Colbert’s mercantilist principles which did not have a solid basis. There are many supporters of Louis, such as Pellison, Boussuet, and Mousnier, but also many adversaries: Leibnitz, Saint-Simon, Sorel, and Gooch. His rule cannot be classified as completely good, or completely bad, but many incorrect claims which supported the Sun King were made about him which need to be corrected.
Many people made statements that were pro-Louis by saying “He surrounded himself with numerous men who were extremely intelligent and capable,” this may be true but many think that these capable men were homosexuals who satisfied the Sun King’s needs. Louis XIV was never openly gay, but it was said about him, partly because of his brother, Phillippe. Philippe was openly gay, and thus the object of scorn, which also affected Louis XIV. Louis also did not have as many mistresses as the rulers of other countries such as England and Spain, and more male servants than those countries too. Also the fact that he is the French ruler does not make his national background convincing to be heterosexual.
Louis XIV supported Colbert’s mercantilist principles, and because of them he did not go bankrupt as soon as he did. Colbert believed that one country could become wealthy only at the expense of another, this was a general mercantilist thought but it had no solid foundations. Countries do not only become wealthy at the expense of others, that could be one way but there are many more such as exploiting natural resources. Colbert thought that the world was at a limit of goods and resources, while the world does have a limit, it was, and still isn’t, close to being achieved.
Colbert also believed that the wealth of a nation is measured by the amount of gold and silver it has; this made the Sun King strive for expansion which cost massive amounts of tax raises because of the costs of an army. In the end Colbert’s principles brought the downfall of France’s economy because of Canadian interests. He believed that the only use for Canada was to take all the gold and silver from it, this caused massive inflation as time went on, too much to control. From following Colbert’s policies France’s economy thrived early on, but collapsed in the end.
While many debaters say that Louis XIV was the epitome of monarchy and absolutist beliefs, there are were many faults during his reign. His proud saying “L’etat C’est Mois!” which translates to “The state is mine” was spoken frequently and with good reason by the Sun King. He took complete power over the country; with this power he delayed meetings of the Estates General for over a century. This was not popular with the people who, with that motif, had no say in the government at all, when as before that had a minor say. During Louis’ reign France was established into three estates, and 2 of them showed grand signs of dislike toward the king.
A nobleman, the Baron of Montesquieu, wrote a book about general beliefs of the nobility. The book was entitled The Spirit of the Laws; it discussed how there can be no liberty when all power is placed in the hands of one, or even a handful of rulers. He believed that the government must be based on a separation of powers, into three or more branches, to give equal liberty to all of the people; because France lacked this it had a poorly assembled government. There are also theories on Louis XIV disliking aspects about his reign, for upon his death bed he warned his great grandson not to partake in his ways. That the Sun King had had too much extravagance and too much power that his successor should spend more time with his people instead of his friends.
Some might say that Louis’ religious policies were based on toleration or unity but this is wrong for many reasons. Louis himself was a catholic at heart and mind, while not publicly, he disliked Protestants and their faiths. This is shown also with his personal advisers, who were all catholic. Louis himself committed an act that threatened his reign; he revoked the Edict of Nantes. This revocation proved how Louis did not wish to tolerate Protestants, and how he did not wish to make peace or friends with them. Louis also believed that as absolute monarch, he could control everybody’s beliefs. “One king, one law, one faith” was a common phrase used to describe Louis’ feelings toward the Protestants, and everyone who did not accept Catholicism.
Louis XIV had many bad tendencies during his reign, but also many good ones. Some of these good traits and acts have been over exaggerated and need to stand corrected. Such as his like of male advisors who were extremely capable, this hints at homosexual tendencies of Louis XIV. Also his following of Colbert’s principles brought the inevitable downfall of Frances economy and his dislike of people opposed to the catholic faith did not bring him religious allies from the Protestants. Finally he did not understand the commoners when he claimed that he was the absolute ruler or France. While there are many downsides to Louis XIV we cannot forget his positive aspects, he ruled well into his seventies and built a marvelous palace, Versailles, to keep his legacy forever.