The Wars of Louis XIV
The King [ Louis XIV] with an unbelievable coolness placed his army in battle formation as it arrived, extending his right near to Valenciennes and his left to the woods of Saint Armand. Nothing escaped his Majesty's skill and foresight. He sent Marshal de Lorge with thirty squadrons and a thousand musketeers to the heights behind the woods. He established his artillery in an advantageous post. He had the dragoons and the infantry occupy the houses which were in his first line....The King wished to command the right wing and his first line....In this position the King ordered the firing of three cannon shots to tell the enemy of the desire and the intention that he had to give battle, and to assure them that he waited and sought the opportunity.
Louvois, quoted in John Wolf, Louis XIV ( New York, 1968), pp. 250-51. Louvois, the French minister of war, was describing the preliminaries to the Battle of Valenciennes in May 1676.
While England was taking great strides toward becoming a major naval power, France was making even more progress toward becoming the dominant land power in Europe. France's natural wealth had only to be focused on war in order for it to outstrip its rivals. That focusing was largely done early in the reign of Louis XIV ( 1643-1715). As was true for Philip II of Spain in the previous century, Louis would overreach when he was at the height of his power and suffer major reverses, although French power would not decline as badly as Spain's had.
Before France could assert the political dominance created by its military success in the Thirty Years War, it had to undergo the ordeal of civil war. In the 1640s, economic depression and bad harvests, coupled with the heavy taxes needed for the war against the Habsburgs, led to popular revolts across France. The uprisings, known as the Fronde, persuaded France to make peace in the Thirty Years War, although Spain refused the peace terms and continued the war. Fortunately for France, Spain was in no position to take advantage of the French troubles. The return home of the French armies in 1648 merely added more men to the rebellion. The