concentrate their attention exclusively upon their own well-defined sovereign areas or states, Louis took a wider view of the European continent. There were few areas which had not concerned his family at some point in the past and many in which the king retained a residual interest.
This dynastic rather than national outlook helps to throw light upon Louis's relations with the Habsburg powers in Germany and Spain. It is also a salutary reminder of the fact that both international relations and domestic politics in the age of Louis XIV were based upon criteria which were fundamentally different in kind from those to which we have now become accustomed.
Bearing these twin considerations in mind we can proceed to examine the particular influences which helped to mould Louis XIV's kingship.
The French king inherited with his crown the title of Most Christian Majesty. Upon his accession he was anointed with holy oil in a ceremony which not only confirmed his status as the leading layman in France but also made him the country's leading ecclesiastical figure. Though not a cleric himself, he was entitled to preside over the council of the French Church, and to legislate as its head on matters concerning its relations with the secular power and with the Papacy. The evident sign of his God-given authority was the royal claim to possess miraculous powers of healing. These the French king ceremoniously exercised on the great feast days of the year, by touching subjects afflicted with 'the King's Evil' or scrofula, a distressing skin complaint.
By the time of Louis XIV's accession the doctrine of the divine right of kings had become firmly established in the wake of the civil wars of religion at the end of the previous century. The assassination of two of Louis's predecessors, Henry III and Henry IV, ironically bolstered the authority of kingship. In the interests of peace and stability subjects preferred to believe that the monarchy was inseparable from the divinity and that no power on earth could challenge the one without affronting the other. This doctrine further distanced the monarchy from the people, though the religious connotations of the royal office had for a long time created an awesome image for the king of France.