Louis XIV: Great King or Tyrant?

Louis XIV: Great King or Tyrant? (Please explain!)

  • Great King

    Votes: 34 73.9%
  • Tyrant

    Votes: 12 26.1%

  • Total voters
    46

gladiatrice

Ad Honorem
Oct 2013
3,463
Montreal, QC


Louis XIV is easily one of the most recognisable figures in French history, if not world history. In his 70+ year reign, he forged France into one of the greatest countries in the world, the formidable foe of Europe. Even his sobriquets emanate greatness: Louis le Grand, Louis Dieudonné, and of course, Le Roi Soleil. France expanded greatly under his rule, and many new colonies cropped up in the Americas, Asia, and Africa. During his reign, France had a large and efficient army, which was an instrument Louis used in scare tactics against the rest of the Continent. His territorial successes were not only overseas; he swallowed up portions of Europe in his numerous wars. Three-fifths of Louis' reign was spent in war.

Beyond martial conquests, Louis' reign was a cultural accomplishment. Not only was the genius Jean-Baptiste Lully Louis' primary court composer, Louis did well for art and science. Indeed, Louis XIV was the man who invented ballet! Louis himself was a great patron of the arts, and in 1666, he founded l'Académie des sciences.

However, because Louis spent so much time in war, he plunged France into debt. He also revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, which destroyed any rights that the French Protestants may have had. Sadly, this revocation fell in the same time frame as Catholic James II's ascension to the English throne, which made people even more suspicious of him. After Louis died in 1715, France was in crippling debt. His opulence sewed the seeds of the French Revolution some years later.

So, here's the question I'm curious to know your opinion about: was Louis XIV truly a great king, or was he just a tyrant? I look forward to the debate! I hope to formulate stronger arguments in favour of Louis as the thread goes on; I feel like debates get progressively better when you can actively bounce ideas off of other historians.
 
Sep 2014
1,211
Queens, NYC
I don't think he was just a tyrant. He was, for a while, a good and effective king. He was also, most of the time, definitely a "my way or the highway" guy. He was, on occasion, heavyhanded.
 
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May 2016
811
Vatican occupied America
Extravagance and combined with stupid wars both of which sapped France of it's strength and set a bad example for future generations. Also, was a completely horrid moral example. Ignoring the mistresses, except for his main one the Marquise de Montespan, who alone destroyed his moral influence upon France. One can't have ones mistress being part of a Satanic witch cult, even serving as one of the altars and have any moral authority. Louis may not of known what she was doing, but the rest of his court likely did. isn't also in his reign that those two nobles after using a whore blew up her privates with a firecracker and nothing at all happening to them.

You left out that he also concentrated all economic power in his hands and awarded it to favorites rather than to men who would of built the economy and set the stage for France to have been the inventive and industrial center of Europe rather than England. He is mainly responsible for France becoming a second rate power next to England and eventually just an English dog, as it is today. Even the academy of science was just a copy of the English one and allowed England too much influence upon and control of French science.

So did he uphold law and the public good - no, so at best a d grate for that.
Did it represent a moral example that would have influenced the French to be better people - no, F certainly here.

Did he built a fine palace - yes, we can give him an A for that at least, though this is another example of his bad moral example. He concentrated all the nobles at his court and turned them into worthless consumers/vampires upon society (the same as our current Western global elite). This alienated them from the people ad deprived the people of any ability to influence a ruler for the local good. He at the same time filled the bureaucracy with middle class creatures of his own, but these had no loyalty to the crown and after him were one of the main factors leading to the downfall of the Bourbons.

Was he good or evil - unfortunately completely evil, not that we can blame him too much for that as he had incompetent guides in the Jesuits and Catholic church, both of whom have always been eternal enemies of right and justice, still he must be given an f for these.

Was an an upholder of political Freedom (AKA Liberalism) and of the popular will - no on both counts.

His general character was that of an egomaniac combined with a sociopathic personality - exactly like Obama or Hitler or Jimmy Seville or however one spells that British pedophile's name. It takes rare vanity to regard oneself as the sun giving life to all of those around one or as God's gift. He did not have much personal goodness to go along with his almost complete or complete lack of goodness otherwise, grandiose sociopaths like him are the closest sociopaths to actual psychopaths, though when they're trying to be a good ruler they can be a great influence for good, as for example JFK, but Louis was not trying to be a good ruler, he was just concerned with his own empty glory and vanity. He also lacked intellect, though he was intelligent, without intellect one can't detect and test it in others and promote it.

Summary:
Materially: F
Intellectually: C
Personal righteousness: D-
Moral righteousness: F
Economic righteousness: F
Martial righteousness: at best a D, as I pointed out I can judge this in his case.
Political righteousness: F
Overall grade F, very much a tyrant, like Hitler or Obama, nothing worthwhile in him, as there was in JFK (whom he realistically might have resembled).

Was he the champion of peace - obviously no, as he was an imperialist constantly bringing murder into the world for his own vanity. I'm ignorant of how he behaved towards civilians and their property in his wars, so can't grade him here.

Did he promote free trade (not in the Adam Smith since, but in the sense of getting rid of monopolies and maintaining just markets) and did he oppose slavery - mais non, his grade must again be an f.
 
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Space Shark

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
3,474
Redneck Country, AKA Texas
I don't think it would be fair to put the Sun King into either category entirely, because he was a bit of both. But above all, he was a firm believer in divine right of kings, and had one of the best strategic positions in Europe for decades.
 
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Apr 2010
1,038
evergreen state, USA
I have a biography of Louis XIV buried in some box or other. I think I'll dig it out and read it again.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,739
He was king for 72 years of the period generally known as "The Great Century" in French history. France had, relative others, never been as great, victorious, splendid or wealthy before, and wasn't going to quite be again. Certainly far from all of it down to the monarch, but he was a political genius of his time. (Which is as always an excellent reason for hating him of course — it's usually not the unsuccesful people that get that treatment.) The period preceeding it saw Spain dominate, and in the period afterwards things got trickier again
 
Last edited:
Apr 2012
1,040
The Netherlands
Louis was responsible for some despicable things like the treatment of the Huguenots but I wouldn't call him a mere tyrant.

I would certainly not call him a good king though. Making yourself the Pariah of Europe and waging for over simple ego kind of prevent him from being a truly great monarch. The wars in the later period of Louis life were purely because Louis himself wanted them or inspired by resentment over his earlier actions. They were his doing and they left France in massive debt.

A big reason the coalitions against Louis started, kept grewing and grew was because his actions erased any good will he had made in his earlier life.
 

Belisarius

Forum Staff
Jun 2006
10,359
U.K.
Extravagance and combined with stupid wars both of which sapped France of it's strength and set a bad example for future generations. Also, was a completely horrid moral example. Ignoring the mistresses, except for his main one the Marquise de Montespan, who alone destroyed his moral influence upon France. One can't have ones mistress being part of a Satanic witch cult, even serving as one of the altars and have any moral authority. Louis may not of known what she was doing, but the rest of his court likely did. isn't also in his reign that those two nobles after using a whore blew up her privates with a firecracker and nothing at all happening to them.

You left out that he also concentrated all economic power in his hands and awarded it to favorites rather than to men who would of built the economy and set the stage for France to have been the inventive and industrial center of Europe rather than England. He is mainly responsible for France becoming a second rate power next to England and eventually just an English dog, as it is today. Even the academy of science was just a copy of the English one and allowed England too much influence upon and control of French science.

So did he uphold law and the public good - no, so at best a d grate for that.
Did it represent a moral example that would have influenced the French to be better people - no, F certainly here.

Did he built a fine palace - yes, we can give him an A for that at least, though this is another example of his bad moral example. He concentrated all the nobles at his court and turned them into worthless consumers/vampires upon society (the same as our current Western global elite). This alienated them from the people ad deprived the people of any ability to influence a ruler for the local good. He at the same time filled the bureaucracy with middle class creatures of his own, but these had no loyalty to the crown and after him were one of the main factors leading to the downfall of the Bourbons.

Was he good or evil - unfortunately completely evil, not that we can blame him too much for that as he had incompetent guides in the Jesuits and Catholic church, both of whom have always been eternal enemies of right and justice, still he must be given an f for these.

Was an an upholder of political Freedom (AKA Liberalism) and of the popular will - no on both counts.

His general character was that of an egomaniac combined with a sociopathic personality - exactly like Obama or Hitler or Jimmy Seville or however one spells that British pedophile's name. It takes rare vanity to regard oneself as the sun giving life to all of those around one or as God's gift. He did not have much personal goodness to go along with his almost complete or complete lack of goodness otherwise, grandiose sociopaths like him are the closest sociopaths to actual psychopaths, though when they're trying to be a good ruler they can be a great influence for good, as for example JFK, but Louis was not trying to be a good ruler, he was just concerned with his own empty glory and vanity. He also lacked intellect, though he was intelligent, without intellect one can't detect and test it in others and promote it.

Summary:
Materially: F
Intellectually: C
Personal righteousness: D-
Moral righteousness: F
Economic righteousness: F
Martial righteousness: at best a D, as I pointed out I can judge this in his case.
Political righteousness: F
Overall grade F, very much a tyrant, like Hitler or Obama, nothing worthwhile in him, as there was in JFK (whom he realistically might have resembled).

Was he the champion of peace - obviously no, as he was an imperialist constantly bringing murder into the world for his own vanity. I'm ignorant of how he behaved towards civilians and their property in his wars, so can't grade him here.

Did he promote free trade (not in the Adam Smith since, but in the sense of getting rid of monopolies and maintaining just markets) and did he oppose slavery - mais non, his grade must again be an f.
Hmm..so not a fan, then? :D

You seem to grade him on a 21st century "good vs evil" curve, whilst ignoring the mores of the century in which he lived and the fact that he "modernised" France. I personally subscribe to the "bit of both" school as regards greatness and tyranny; he was little different from his contemporaries in that respect. It was, after all, an "age of Absolutism".