Louis XIV of France
He acceded to the throne on May 14, 1643, a few months before his fifth birthday, but did not assume actual personal control of the government until the death of his First Minister ("premier ministre"), Jules Cardinal Mazarin, in 1661. Louis would remain on the throne till his death just prior to his seventy-seventh birthday in 1715.
The reign of Louis XIV spanned seventy-two years, the longest of any major European monarch. He is known as Louis the Great (in French Louis le Grand or Le Grand Monarque, "the Great Monarch"), after the Parlement de Paris, following the victory of the Franco-Dutch War and the Treaty of Nijmegen, decreed that all public inscriptions and statues of the king should carry that epithet. He is also known as The Sun King (in French Le Roi Soleil) because it was thought that, just as the planets revolve around the Sun, so too should France and the Court revolve around him. As a result, he was associated with Apollo Helios, the Greco-Roman god of the Sun. This is also fitting because, as patron of the Arts, Louis was, like Apollo Musagetes, the "leader of the Muses".
During that period of time he increased the power and influence of France in Europe, fighting three major wars—the Franco-Dutch War, the War of the League of Augsburg, and the War of the Spanish Succession—and two minor conflicts—the War of Devolution, and the War of the Reunions.
The political and military scene in France during his reign was filled with such illustrious names as Mazarin, Fouquet, Colbert, Michel le Tellier, Le Tellier's son Louvois, the Great Condé, Turenne, Vauban, Villars and Tourville. Under his reign, France achieved not only political and military pre-eminence, but also cultural dominance with various cultural figures such as Molière, Racine, Boileau, La Fontaine, Lully, Le Brun, Rigaud, Louis Le Vau, Jules Hardouin Mansart, Claude Perrault and Le Nôtre. The cultural achievements accomplished by these figures contributed to the prestige of France, its people, its language and its king.
Louis XIV worked successfully to create a centralized state governed from the capital in order to sweep away the fragmented feudalism which had hitherto persisted in France, thus giving rise to the modern state. As a result of his efforts, which seemed absolutist, Louis XIV became the archetype of such a monarch. The phrase "L'État, c'est moi" ("I am the State") is frequently attributed to him, though this is considered by historians to be a historical inaccuracy and is more likely to have been conceived by political opponents as a way of confirming the stereotypical view of the absolutism he represented. Quite contrary to that apocryphal quote, Louis XIV is actually reported to have said on his death bed: "Je m'en vais, mais l'État demeurera toujours." ("I am going away, but the State will always remain").