Foreign Policy
Louis XIV., 1661-1715
Intellectual Life

Louis XIV. : Foreign Policy

When LOUIS XIV. took sole control of power in France in 1660, the long war between France and Spain (1643-1659) had just ended with the PEACE OF THE PYRENEES, which brought France the ROUSSILLON and the ARTOIS.
With the state coffers being filled by the mercantilist policies of able JEAN BAPTISTE COLBERT and French nobility tamed by palace life at VERSAILLES, Louis XIV. established a STANDING ARMY - France being the first European kingdom to maintain a permanent army. Other states, in the case of a war, had to sign up armies before they could strike. The French army was not only always available, but also better trained, as military training was uninterrupted. A MILITARY ACADEMY was founded, where officers were instructed.

In 1667-1668 French armies occupied the Spanish Netherlands and the Franche Comte in the WAR OF DEVOLUTION. The Dutch Republic organized an anti-French alliance, and France had to return most of the conquered territories, holding on to Walloon Flanders (Lille) in the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (= Aachen).
In 1672. in alliance with Britain, Sweden, the bishops of Cologne and Muenster, the French army attacked the Dutch Republic, which stood alone. By opening the dykes, the Dutch saved Holland from French occupation; the British, defeated overseas, soon left the alliance. The war, which had broken Dutch economic supremacy, was terminated in the PEACE OF NIJMEGEN 1678/79; the loser, again, was Spain which had to cede the FRANCHE COMTE and parts of HAINAUT.
Meanwhile it had become clear that Louis XVI. pursued a policy of aggression, using his military power to occupy and annex territories for which France had no legitimate claim. France now introduced the CHAMBERS OF REUNION, courts of dubious legitimacy which annexed territories to France on the grounds that these once have belonged to another territory now French and thus had to be reunited. Large scale land robbery undertaken in the shadow of the mighty French army - France's neighbour to the North, the Spanish Netherlands, was worn out, the neighbours to the east, German principalities varying from medium to tiny size, unable to resist.
WILLIAM III., stadholder of the Netherlands, sensed that France strove for the hegemony on the European continent. He worked for the goal of establishing an alliance against France, headed by the Netherlands, joined by the Empire, Spain, the Pope, Venice and England, a coalition France faced in the WAR OF THE GRAND ALLIANCE (1688-1697). Heidelberg, capital of the Palatinate, was sacked by French troops in 1689 and 1693.
Louis XIV. supported the Stuarts in England, hoping for King Charles II. to openly convert to Catholicism and reintroduce it in England. When English king James II. had to flee his country - his attempt to force Catholicism on his protestant subjects had resulted in the GLORIOUS REVOLUTION - James' son in law William III. was called in, crowned king - William, the architect of the Anti-French coalition. Louis XIV. now had to realize that he had overstretched France's sources; the PEACE OF RIJSWIJK signed in 1697 was a victory of the Alliance. France had to give up many territories annexed by the Chambers of Reunion, but consolidated its hold on the ALSACE.
William III. died in 1702, and by that time the next war, the WAR OF SPANISH SUCCESSION (1700-1713) was in full rage, the object now having a BOURBON, Philip V. , succeed the last Habsburg king. In the PEACE OF UTRECHT 1713, France gained the tiny principality of ORANGE (near Avignon) and BARCELONETTE, on the border to Piemont.

In the Peace of Rijswijk, Spain also recognized France's hold of the colony of SAINT DOMINGUE (Haiti), a valuable asset as it was to turn into the world's major producer of sugar. The slaves which were to generate the wealth of France's colonial plantation production were imported from West Africa, where France had colonies (Senegal).

The Battle of Blenheim 1704, from Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World by Edward Shepherd Creasey (who died in 1878)
War of the Grand Alliance (1688-1697), from Simonides, Infoplease, under the name "War of the Augsburg League" from regiments.com, under the name "King William's War" from USDA History
War of Devolution, from Infoplease, Simonides
War of Spanish Succession, from regiments.org
Treaty of Utrecht 1713, from Canada in the Making; Peace of Utrecht 1713, from infoplease
Treaty of Rijswijk, from infoplease
Map of Europe in 1700, from euratlas.com
French Conquest (1648-1766), from History of Elsass-Lothringia (i.e. Alsace- Lorraine), a chronology
Timeline French Foreign Policy : Louis XIV., from France Diplomatie
DOCUMENTS Louis XIV's Declaration of War against the Dutch, 1672, from Hillsdale, in English
The Siege of Puigcerda (Roussillon), 1678, from Hillsdale
William Blathwayt Papers, from Marshall/Osborn Collection, Beinecke Library, Yale Univ.; Blathwayt was serving William III. as diplomat; detailed inventory of letters, mostly from 1692-1703, referring to the wars with France
A French Letter of Marque, 1693, from Hillsdale
A French Letter of Marque, 1695, from Aristidum, in French
Defeat of the French in Catalonia, 1695, from Hillsdale
Dr. Hare's account of the Battle of Blenheim, 1704, from Hillsdale
The Duke of Marlborough's account of the Battle of Blenheim, 1704, from Hillsdale
Battle of Schellenberg, 1704, from Hillsdale
Poem : The Battle of Blenheim (1704) by Robert Southey (1774-1843)
Map : Battle of Blenheim, 1704, from Gardiner's Atlas, 1892
Treaty of Utrecht, 1713 : excerpts, posted by W.J. McLean (concerning Newfoundland); further extracts, from The Royal House of Bourbon
Traite d'Utrecht (1713) entre la France et l'Angleterre, from Histoire du Quebec. Documents, in French, extracts
The Renunciations of 1713 by Felipe V, the duc d'Orleans and the duc de Berry, from Heraldica
The London Gazette, Nov. 9th-12th 1674 Nov. 4th-8th 1675, Apr. 24th-27th 1676, July 8th-11th 1678, Jan. 19th-33nd 1692 from Electronic Historical Publications
Map : border changes in Flanders according to the Treaty of Rijswijk, from C.R.D.P. de Lille
The surrender of Strassburg in 1681, posted by Philippe Nithard, in French
French Medals, 17th Century, from Medal web, Collection Benjamin Weiss

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on February 27th 2005

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics

Impressum · Datenschutz