How Did Louis XIV Impact the World?

The court of Louis XIV was the political, social and cultural center of Europe during his long reign. Louis pioneered the centralized modern state, and the absolutist monarchy he created served as a model for virtually every other government in Europe.

Louis XIV came to the throne while still a child in the wake of the Fronde, a destructive civil war that saw members of the French nobility ravaging the country over private feuds. As king, Louis centralized the authority of the state at the court in Versailles. There, nobles struggled over royal favor, rather than fighting over their differences in private wars. This alone stabilized France and established the strong central government that was to become the hallmark of European countries for hundreds of years.

Overseas, Louis XIV pursued an expansionist policy. During his reign, France acquired a colonial empire that encompassed much of North America and the Caribbean, as well as parts of India and the south seas. Wealth flowed from this empire, and it funded a lavish court lifestyle that rulers across the continent tried to emulate. The fashions and philosophies of Louis XIV’s court were assiduously studied as far abroad as London, Madrid and St. Petersburg.