The French Wars of Louis XIV.

When Louis XIV entered the French throne in 1643, he was only 5 years old. In the meantime, Cardinal Mazarin took over the official duties, giving Ludwig a high degree of education and preparing him for his future office over the years.

After the death of the Cardinal in 1661, Louis himself took over the rule of France, which at that time still had to suffer from the consequences of the 30-year war. The treasury was empty and displeasure grew in the population. His Finance Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert, however, managed to increase the economic performance significantly and thus again generate significant tax revenues, so that Louis was ready from 1665 ready to enforce his dreams and visions to expand his empire militarily.


Ludwig XIV. 1667 auf einem Gemälde von Henri Testelin

Louis XIV. 1667 on a painting by Henri Testelin



The Devolution War:

Before the seizure of Louis, France was in conflict with Spain. In 1659, the so-called Pyrénées Peace between the two countries was closed to end the 24-year conflict. According to the contract, the Spanish king Philip IV was forced to cede some territories to France and also to agree to the marriage of his daughter Maria Theresa with Louis. In return for the marriage Maria should renounce any hereditary claims under the payment of 500,000 Goldécus. However, this money was never paid to France.

After the death of Philip, Louis made territorial claims to Spain on the grounds of the inheritance of his wife. He further substantiated the claim on the basis of the Brabant inheritance law, in which the so-called devolution, ie the succession of children of a first marriage are above the claim of children of marriages thereafter, regulated, which gave this war the name.
This was intended to cede parts of the Spanish Netherlands to France. The Spanish regent Maria Anna, who led the reign of her minor heir apparent, rejected the claims, after which France prepared for war.

The political preparations for a war were made from 1667. Since Spain was already in a war with Portugal, France joined with them in an alliance against Spain and openly support the Portuguese military. Negotiations were also conducted with the United Netherlands, which had already waged a war with Spain for its independence and were at that time in a war with England. Although a defensive alliance was concluded between the two countries, the question of the Spanish Netherlands could not be clarified. Nevertheless, Ludwig saw himself in favor of the Dutch, especially since he also declared war on England, even if he did not intervene militarily in the conflict. In order to protect himself against intervention by the Holy Roman Empire, Ludwig concluded separate treaties with the counties and duchies bordering the Spanish Netherlands, which prohibited the passage of troops of the Holy Roman Empire. Thus, at least from the eastern direction, these could not oppose the French troops.

On May 24, 1667 began the French campaign against the Spanish Netherlands. Due to the poor preparation and the inadequate organization of the Spanish forces, the defenders could not set up an army to face the enemy. So the defenders retreated to their fortresses and waited for the French troops. Until winter, the troops of Ludwig were able to conquer some fortresses and cities without encountering great resistance. Political negotiations began as the army set up their winter quarters.


Map of the Franco-Dutch War

Map of the Franco-Dutch War


During the winter break, Spanish envoys negotiated with the United Netherlands for an alliance against France. However, the Dutch refused to provoke a war against France. Instead, Spain could conclude a peace treaty with Portugal, which would make the army available for conflict with France from 1668 onwards.
France, however, negotiated with the Viennese court and enticed with the delivery of the entire Spanish territory to the Spanish Netherlands and the Franche-Comté (today's Alsace region). Although the emperor agreed, the treaty was not ratified in order not to worsen the relationship with Spain.
The United Netherlands succeeded in pulling England to her side. Although the Dutch had been close friends and diplomats with France for years, the French troops' invasion and the strengthening of the country were increasingly worrying to the Dutch. This alliance was also joined by Sweden.

To strengthen his bargaining position for possible peace talks, Ludwig decided to conduct a campaign in the Franche-Comté during the winter. The campaign was commissioned by General de Condé, who invaded the area on February 4, 1668. Due to the total military defenselessness of the area, the French troops were able to conquer the area completely without any significant resistance within only 17 days.

After the conquest of the Franche-Comté Ludwig prepared further campaigns against the Spanish Netherlands and Catalonia. But after detailed talks with his foreign minister Hugues de Lionne and Finance Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who advised him both from a continuation, Ludwig saw himself that he is the military alliance of the Spaniards, Englishmen, Dutch and Swedes not yet grown. Therefore, at the end of March 1668, he announced a ceasefire and prepared negotiations that ended on 2 May 1668 with the Treaty of Aachen. Here, the demands of the alliance could prevail and France had to vacate the Franche-Comté and most of the Spanish Netherlands. Only 12 cities (Lille, Tournai, Oudenarde, Courtrai, Furnes, Bergues, Douai with the Fort de Scarpe, Binche, Charleroi, Ath and Armentiers) remained in French possession.




The Dutch War:

In 1667 and 1668 Ludwig led a campaign against the Spanish Netherlands. In the course of this campaign, the United Netherlands, which was otherwise allied with France, feared too strong France and therefore wanted to continue to use the Spanish Netherlands as a buffer zone. For this reason, they formed an alliance with England and Sweden and threatened France with a war, provided that they did not stop their campaign and withdrew their troops. Through years of friendly relations between France and the United Netherlands, Louis regarded his behavior as a betrayal and vowed revenge on the Dutch for their behavior. So it happened that Ludwig secretly sought an alliance with England, an archenemy of the Dutch. This so-called secret treaty of Dover was completed on June 1, 1670 and also joined Sweden a short time later.
Other allies were also Brandenburg and Bavaria. This Ludwig had politically isolated the Netherlands and could start a war against the country.


König Ludwig XIV. von Frankreich, Porträt von 1672

King Louis XIV of France, portrait of 1672


The declaration of war by France, England, the Prince-Bishop of Münster and the Archbishop of Cologne reached the Netherlands in March 1672. By this surprise attack, the French troops were able to conquer almost unchecked vast areas. Only as Wilhelm III. from Oranien several locks and dams open to set wide tracts of land under water, the advance could be stopped. In Groningen, moreover, the troops of the Prince-Bishop of Münster could be repulsed, invading the country from the east.

After the troops of Ludwig could not move on the submerged areas on, she turned in 1673 to the siege of the fortress Maastricht. As this feared an attack on the Spanish Netherlands, Spain and Austria joined in an alliance with the Netherlands. Ludwig was forced to send part of his troops to the Middle Rhine and Alsace in order to prevent an invasion of the Austrians.

In early 1674 England had to conclude a peace treaty after several defeats against the Netherlands, thus leaving the war. Brandenburg also changed sides and joined the alliance with the Netherlands.

Although the first peace negotiations between the warring parties had been conducted since mid-1673, they had already been aborted in early 1674. It was only in 1678 that the peace treaty of Nijmegen ended the conflict after the Alliance realized that it was inferior to the French troops. France had to withdraw from the northern territory of the Spanish Netherlands and returned the conquered territories to the Netherlands after they had assured their future neutrality.




The War of the Reunions:

Although Ludwig was able to achieve some military success, but barely incorporated large areas, he operated from 1679 the so-called Reunionspolitik. This policy was to determine the affiliation of territories with the help of old treaties, which were mainly tuned to the medieval living conditions. For enforcement, the Reunionsklage was submitted, which areas that fell under the division of heirs, should be reclaimed and incorporated into the French territory. The Reunionskammer created for it by Ludwig judged exclusively in his favor. With these judgments he placed the affected princes or cities ultimatums their possessions to France, which were not seldom subsequently occupied militarily. Although these areas belonged to the Holy Roman Empire, this was at the same time busy with the Turkish wars, that it could not stand in the way of France.

In the meantime, however, the kingdom forged an alliance with the Netherlands, Sweden, and Spain in 1683, in case of emergency, to act militarily against France should negotiations on the return of the incorporated territories fail. Because of this alliance, Ludwig was forced to exert pressure on the weakest in his opinion of the Alliance and he threatened again to intimidate Spain with the invasion of the Spanish Netherlands. On October 26, 1683, Spain declared war on France.

Louis had his troops invaded under the leadership of Louis de Crévant, Duke of Humières to Flanders and ordered to terrorize the civilian population in order to continue to put Spain under pressure. The war was waged with a corresponding severity and sacrifices. In December Luxembourg was bombed and besieged in vain by Vauban. The area around Bruges was looted and a suburb of Brussels was set on fire.

In 1684, the French troops invaded northern Spain, but were unable to achieve much success. On June 3, 1684, Luxembourg was finally conquered after a one-month siege. Genoa was also plundered in what is now Italy, as the city built ships for Spain.


Luxembourg's capture in June 1684

Luxembourg's capture in June 1684


After Louis conquered Luxembourg and achieved his most important military goal, he sought peace with the other states. On June 23, 1684, a twenty-year peace agreement with the Netherlands was negotiated. On August 15, 1684, the conflict was finally settled with the Peace of Regensburg. In the contract Spain had to renounce Luxembourg, Bovines, Chimay and Beaumont, which were incorporated into the French territory. In addition, Ludwig was able to retain all areas incorporated by 1641 by the Reunionsklage for the next twenty years.




The Palatine Succession War:

For the Palatine War of Succession two decisive reasons came into play. On the one hand, Elector Karl I of the Palatinate attempted to marry his daughter Elisabeth Charlotte to the Duke Philip of Orléans (Louis' brother), thereby politically binding himself to France and providing protection for his territory against French expansion. Ludwig agreed to the marriage under the Palatine condition that Elizabeth Charlotte rejected any hereditary claims to the Palatinate. After the death of Charles I in 1680, his son Charles II prevailed, but this already died in 1685 and Ludwig, contrary to the agreement, granted an inheritance claim to the Palatinate region. The legitimate throne succession now fell to the Pfalzgräfliche side lines Pfalz-Neuburg, which made no secret about their anti-French attitude and rejected any claims of Ludwig.


Elisabeth Charlotte von der Pfalz

Elisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate


Another cause for triggers was added in Cologne in 1688, when the candidate supported by France was excluded from the bishop election.

Ludwig was at the time of the opinion, the individual imperial cities and areas could set up no noteworthy military resistance and the Holy Roman Empire was at the same time busy with the Turkish War. So it came that Ludwig, in order to give his demands emphatic, in 1688 with his troops crossed the Rhine and invaded the Palatinate and the Rhineland. Ludwig counted on a rapid campaign, accordingly, the French army with scarcely 40,000 men was also relatively small and was subject to the orders of the Dauphin Louis de Bourbon and Marshal Durfort. The first goal was the fortress Philippsburg, which capitulated after 32 active siege on 30 October 1688. In the next few weeks, the cities of Mannheim, the fortress Frankenthal, Mainz and Heidelberg fell. Even up to Ulm and Mergentheim the troops managed to loot the local areas. Heidelberg, Mannheim, Speyer and Worms also suffered from the devastation.


Das brennende Durlach 1689 (zeitgenössische Darstellung)

The burning Durlach 1689 (contemporary illustration)


At the beginning of 1689, the destruction continued by the French troops. Across the conquered territories villages, towns and fortresses were destroyed and burned down to deprive the enemy troops of the deployment area and the supply. Through these measures Ludwig only aggravated the affected population against him and on April 3, 1689 declared the kingdom of France the war.
On May 12, 1689, the Reich formed an alliance consisting of the Netherlands, England, Spain and the Italian Savoy in order to take action against France.

England's accession to the Alliance was facilitated by the fact that during the war a revolution took place in England deposing the reigning King James II and his son-in-law, the Dutch William III. from Orange, wanted to crown. After William had obtained the blessing of the Austrian Emperor Leopold I and the German princes, he followed the request of influential members of the upper and lower house in England and set with an army to the south of England. There he was able to beat the army of Jacob, who then fled with his wife and child to France, and was crowned king on April 11, 1689 in London.


Wilhelm von Oranien

William of Oranien


In the next few years, the French troops could be increasingly pushed back from the conquered territories, but remained faithful to their command of the "scorched earth" and destroyed many villages, towns and fortresses on retreat. Likewise, the campaign was successful in northern Italy at the beginning of successful for France, with the exclamation of the great alliance and the establishment of an army, but managed to push back the French there, too. Only in northern Spain were the French troops able to conquer some areas and penetrate to Barcelona.

Due to the unexpected long course of the war, negotiations have been conducted by Ludwig since 1693 in order to conclude a peace. But it was not until France got into great difficulties due to a great famine in 1693-94 and the high public debt that Ludwig gradually reduced his demands for peace. First a peace could be made in 1696 with Savoy. On September 20, 1697, followed by the Peace of Rijswijk England, the Netherlands and Spain and on 30 October the German Emperor and the participating princes and lords. The treaty stipulated that France relinquished its claims to the Palatinate and returned the occupied territories of the Netherlands and the Right of the Rhine as well as Lorraine. In addition, Ludwig Wilhelm III. as King of England.


Friedensverhandlungen von Rijswijk 1697 (zeitgenössischer Kupferstich)

Peace negotiations of Rijswijk 1697 (contemporary engraving)






You can find the right literature here:


Louis XIV: The Power and the Glory

Louis XIV: The Power and the Glory 1st Edition

This stylish and incisive narrative presents readers with a fresh perspective on one of the most fascinating kings in European history. Louis XIV’s story has all the ingredients of a Dumas classic: legendary beginnings, beguiling women, court intrigue, a mysterious prisoner in an iron mask, lavish court entertainments, the scandal of a mistress who was immersed in the dark arts, and a central character who is handsome and romantic, but with a frighteningly dark side to his character.

Louis believed himself to be semi-divine. His self-identification as the Sun King, which was reflected in iconography by the sun god, Apollo, influenced every aspect of Louis’s life: his political philosophy, his wars, and his relationships with courtiers and subjects.

As a military strategist, Louis’s capacity was ambiguous, but he was an astute politician who led his country to the heights of sophistication and power―and then had the misfortune to live long enough to see it all crumble away. As the sun began to set upon this most glorious of reigns, it brought a gathering darkness filled with the anguish of dead heirs, threatened borders, and a populace that was dangerously dependent upon―but greatly distanced from―its king. one 8-page color insert

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Louis XIV: A Royal Life

Louis XIV: A Royal Life Hardcover – October 6, 1987

Traces the long, intrigue-filled, and opulent life of the Sun King, during whose seventy-three year reign France became the leading power of Europe and celebrated a golden age of culture

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King Louis XIV: A Life From Beginning to End

King Louis XIV: A Life From Beginning to End Paperback – March 22, 2017

He was born on September 5th, 1638 in the French lap of luxury otherwise known as the “Chateau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye.” This extravagant palace of French excess is located about 12 miles west of Paris. His birth name, “Louis-Dieudonne,” is French for, literally, “Gift for God.” This belief of divine right, initially inspired by his mother Queen Anne, would be a powerful theme throughout Louis XIV’s life.

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