Henry VIII and Louis XIVHenry VIII and Louis XIV were both men whose accomplishments on anational level for their respective countries of England and France were great,but whose very different personal problems gave them a negative impression inhistory.
The two leaders had very different ruling styles, but with a few similarthemes throughout. Perhaps the best thing to look at first is their verydifferent attitudes toward God and Gods power in monarchy and state. HenryVIII on England grew up as a very strong Catholic, at the insistence of hismother and father. He was known to be a man of daily devotionals, setting anexample for his people (Canon 76). His own writings, most especially a book ofCatholicism entitled The Sanctoreum earned him the title from Pope Leo III thetitle Defender of the Faith. His book had served as an answer to theteachings of Martin Luther, a man whose principals Henry later put into effectin his very own country, in the Protestant Reformation.
France, however, was a very strongly Catholic country where the Romanchurch had a great deal of influence. Louis, although supposed not to be a veryfastidious devote of the religion, or any religion, took part in a minorreorganization of the Roman Catholic Church inside France. It is apparent nowthat Louis basically went along with the reforms dictated by the pope in regardsto religion.
In economic matters, the two rulers perhaps differed even more greatly.
Henry was a fastidious economist, often commenting about the expense of thingsat the royal court, and taking action to have whatever the latest offense to thetreasury happened to be. Louis, however, spent extravagantly, sparing noexpense for himself or his nobles. His ultimate goal was once again to make thecourt of France the center of fashion and art once again. He created Versailles,a monstrosity of Baroque art, most of it gilded with pure gold and otherprecious metal. It is a sprawling country estate with an even more spectacularexterior than interior. Louis bankrupted the Treasury of France through anotherextrvangance as well: his wars. Louis fought four major wars. His great aimwas to make himself supreme in Europe. As a start, he planned to conquer alllands west of the Rhine River. He gained several important territories, but wasalways checked by the alliances that other countries formed to oppose him. Inthe War of Spanish Succession, England took an important part in defeating him,leading to animosity between the two countries and their respective rulers.
This war, which ended in 1714, left France exhausted and weakened.
Both men had a common ability to see the goodness in other men as royaladvisors. Both hired surprisingly intelligent and wise men to run their affairsfor them, perhaps Henry even more than Louis XIV. One of Henrys chief advisorsis immortalized in Shakespeares The Life and Times of Kind Henry VIII.
Cardinal Wolsey is spoken of there as a man such as history had never yet laidtheir eyes upon, a man who could have others get his own will enforced(Shakespeare 78). Wolsey spent little time at the British court, but the timehe spent was valuable. He served as chief advisor to a young, newly crowned,and impressionable King Henry. He formed Henrys ideas about government, spokefor the monarch in assembly, and reputedly taught Henry everything he knew abouteconomics from an early age.Two other advisors are also known to history asserving in Henrys later life, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More.
Likewise, Louis XIV, in a mark of true genius, was wise enough toappoint someone wiser than himself to run the government. He had many, andoddly, most of their names have been erased from history. Jean Baptise Colbert,advisor to Louis in his formative years as a monarch, later wrote in prison, The man was a fool, but would not surround himself with other fools (Olivier178).
In their personal lives, the monarchs had a great number of similarities.
Both Henry VIII and Louis XIV were fond of women, drink, and debate.
Henry is perhaps most famous for his six wives, and the bloody ends thatmost of them came to. Out of six, only two were not banished, publicly executed,or otherwise humiliated.A quick rundown: Katharine Aragon of Spain, Henrysfirst bride. She was banished from royal view and stripped of her title aftershe failed to produce sons and Henry fell in love with a young lady in waitingnamed Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn: was executed for adultery and charges ofwitchcraft. Jane Seymour: recorded in history as the only wife Henry trulyloved. Died a few weeks after giving birth to Henrys much wanted son. Anne ofCleves: Princess of Germany who was not beautiful in Henrys eyes, and was sentaway. Catherine Howard: Commoner executed for adultery. Catherine Parr:Outlived Henry.
Henry jousted in many tournaments until a leg injury prevented this typeof activity. He also grew quite ill and obese in later life, but never lost hislove of sports and other athletic activities.
Louis XIV liked to watch the tournaments more than he liked to actuallyparticipate in them. But his libidinous habits did not differ much from thoseof his neighbor across the Channel. He was married to Queen Marie Therese, butreportedly had at least ten other mistresses at one time. He had three childrenby his wife, but supposedly twelve other illegitimate children by his mistresses.
It was, in fact, some of these personal habits that led to the downfallsof the monarchs.
Henry VIII, who had been the great Defender of the Faith in hisearlier years, was in a bit of a dilemma. He no longer wanted to be married tohis aging wife, devoutly Catholic Katharine of Aragon. He was in love with ayoung lady named Anne Boleyn. Any Catholic knows that divorce is frowned upon.
But in order to marry Anne, Henry needed this divorce. He broke from theCatholic church, and, with the help of Thomas Cromwell, another top advisor,created the Church of England. Unfortunately, to wipe out all cells ofopposition, Henry was forced to destroy many who did not support this break withthe Church.
Another thing contributing to Henrys downfall was his illness. Legendhas it that Anne Boleyns spirit took revenge on the one who had ordered herexecution.It is more likely, according tomany modern historians, that Henryhad a virus much like that which his father died of. He suffered a painful end:constantly coughing up blood, and crippled by a flaring leg injury. For thelast few years of his life, he was unable to govern his country well, and powerfled from England.
Louis XIV had a very different problem. His difficulty was simply thathe spent more than France could afford. Not only had the building of Versaillesseverely disabled the Treasury, his extravagant spending on his variousmistresses and illegitimate children got out of hand. He was to the point, bythe end of his reign, of setting up a well-appointed and furnished estate foreach of these families. Not only that, but the Spanish War of Successionseverely crippled the treasury, and Louis never could truly raised the taxesenough to cover his love of these little wars and women.
Louis was known in Europe for being the longest reigning king in all ofmodern history. He kept court at his various palaces and fought in his wars foralmost 72 years. After his cheif advisor Jean Baptiste Colbert died in 1685,the reign of the Sun King became less glorified. He forced the noble familiesto stay at court at Versailles, creating the problem of absentee landlords forthe commoners, who lived in relative poverty compared to the great splendour ofVersailles. Louis died gradually of disease, and after his reign, politicalinfluence in France declined greatly for a number of years. However, Franceremembers him in a much better way than history admires Henry the VIII.
Both monarchs suffered troubled lives, and still managed to accomplishgreat things for England and France. Henry VIII raised scientific awareness andappreciation for art that had previously been absent from England. Louis XIVadded a new dimension to the arts such as the world had never seen. His reignwas known as ranking above all others in art and literature, as well as dancing.
And yet, even today they are remembered for the most part their failings, Henryfor his matrimonial troubles and Louis for his economic extravagances. It mightdo better to weigh the pros and cons of history instead of blind judgment on thebasis of few facts when thinking of Henry VIII and Louis XIV.