The future Louis XIV was born at the royal château of Saint-Germain on 5 September 1638. He was the first child of King Louis XIII and of Anne of Austria, who, despite her title, was a Spanish princess, the daughter of King Philip III. In 1643, while still a young child, he succeeded his father as King of France and he reigned until 1715, dying just four days before his seventy-seventh birthday.
These brief biographical details contain the key to two of the most significant factors to be considered when assessing the reign of Louis XIV. First, there is the matter of its sheer length. No other reign in modern European history lasted so long and we need to bear in mind that over such a lengthy period the king's attitudes and policies were likely to undergo modification and change. Only a singularly insensitive or stupid man-and Louis was neither-could have remained immune to changing circumstances and ideas as his reign stretched on into the generation of his great-grandchildren. Although we will shortly consider those influences and principles which shaped his basic outlook, we should not overlook the fundamental importance of his longevity.
The second key factor concerns Louis's family or dynastic connections. That Louis's ancestral blood relations were more Habsburg than Bourbon is often overlooked. He was descended from a line of great European princes which included Charles the Bold of Burgundy, the Medici Lorenzo the Magnificent of Florence, the Emperor Charles V, and Philip II of Spain, the last his great-grandfather. The effect of this impressive lineage was to make Louis perceive Europe in a fashion very different from that of later rulers. Whereas modern governments