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Topic 2 - Louis XIV (1648-1688) Topic 2 - Louis XIV (1648-1688)

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Vasilis Dimitriadis

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Topic Two
Louis XIV
Ascendency of France
France, after the Thirty Years War, emerged as the greatest nation as well as the greatest threat in the Western
a. Population (20 million);
b. Political claims (Louis XIV’s absolute monarchy)
c. Good, solid, efficient democracy;
d. Huge, efficient and professional army which is unmatchable at that time;
e. Skilled diplomatic relations (Mazarin)
Louis XIV Foreign Policy Objective
1. [Aggressive] Subjugate the rest of Europe; European hegemony;
2. [Defensive] Only natural borders (Alps; The Rhine;)
3. Nothing less but the crown of the Holy Roman Empire;
4. The crown of Spanish Habsburg and its huge territory;
But one consensus was reached: the ultimate decision belonged to Louis himself and his absolute power;
“Gloire” played a huge role in Louis’ decision making.
Louis XIV’s foreign policy is hard to generalize because during Louis XIV’s long reign of 55 years, he
himself is changed from a 22-year-old hot-blooded young man into a cautious old man. French foreign
policy shifted because his characters shifted during his life.
Five Borders:
a. South borders with Spain (Pyrenees) last priority because: Spain is in decline; marriage with Maria
b. South east (Alps) little importance for the mountainous region because few passes allowed for invasion;
easily defended;
c. Both a and b are very far from Paris the center and heart of France;
d. Eastern Border with the Holy Roman Empire geopolitical significance;
e. Northern low lands (Spanish Netherlands; Luxemburg) most important border because:
1) Flat land; easy to attack; hard to defend
2) All rivers run into France from the North; easy to attack; hard to defend;
3) Paris, the heart of France, is almost by the border; crucial importance;
4) Every other nation is fully aware of this weakness;
The Dynastic Union and the Law of Devolution:
Louis XIV married the Spanish Infanta Maria Theresa. It was agreed that with this marriage, Maria Theresa
explicitly renounced all rights to her father's inheritance. As compensation, a huge dowry is going to be paid
by Spain; Louis XIV agreed this treaty only because he knew Spain would not be able to pay the amount,
and he could use this as excuses to claim Spanish territory.
The Law of Devolution: an inheritance law favoring female from the first marriage rather than boys from the
second marriage on inheritance. This is Louis XIV’s political agenda because this law is never intended for
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