What Were Some of the Failures of Louis XIV?

Although historians note Louis XIV’s promotion of science, art and technology in France, his insistence on absolute power based on the “divine right of kings,” his persecution of Protestants and his system of favoritism in appointing provincial officials helped sow the seeds of civil unrest that eventually led to revolution years after his death. Louis XIV’s aggressive plans to expand France’s borders in the area of the Rhine River resulted in a war with Austria and its allies, the Netherlands, Prussia and England, which were all major European powers. The conflict, known as the War of the League of Augsburg, ended in a 1697 peace treaty that was perceived as a defeat for France, leaving the country in a state of financial exhaustion.

Louis XIV, who was also called “the Sun King,” was known for his extreme vanity, which was viewed by the writer Voltaire as the source of the king’s continuing attempts at conquest and achieving glory. Around 4 years after the War of the League of Augsburg ended in September 1697, the War of the Spanish Succession began.

The war lasted 12 years and became one of the costliest conflicts in European history up until that time. Louis XIV increased taxes in order to cover the costs of the war and further alienated powerful factions in French society that included the nobility. Attempts by the king to ensure the continuance of his dynasty through his illegitimate sons only further exacerbated the resentment towards his absolutist reign.