Louis XIV and Kang Hsi methods of rule during the 16th and 17th centuries

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This paper discusses the methods of rule of two kings; King Louis XIV of France and King K’ang Hsi of China.

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King Louis XIV was a man who exhibited diversity of characters. He was a competent ruler who achieved great things for France which has earned it the prestigious name. On the other hand, he was tyrant in his way of leadership since he believed in absolutism. He did not tolerate some things like nobles in power and religious tolerance.

The Chinese emperor K’ang Hsi was a man of great personal vitality and exceptional administrative and military ability. He was one of the greatest emperors of the Ch’ing period. He helped China gain great wealth and popularity.


King Louis XIV, the Sun King born in 1638 and ruled over France from 1643 to 1715 and King K’ang Hsi born in 1654 and ruled over China from 1661 to 1722.

King Louis XIV’s reign of 72 years makes him one of the longest-reigning king in the world. He toiled successfully in creating a centralized state governed from the capital in order to wipe away the feudalism which till then persisted in France hence leading to the modern state. As a product of his efforts Louis XIV became the typical absolute monarch.

K’ang Hsi’s reign of 61 years makes him also the longest-reigning Chinese Emperor in history and one of the longest in the world, though he ascended the throne at the age of seven he did not do much until later. He is a pivotal image in the Chinese history and he is considered one of the China’s greatest Emperors. This follows after he had defeated Three Feudatories and the Zheng Jing government who earlier on would not submit to Qing rule. He expanded the Qing Empire and his reign led to long-term stability and relative wealth after years of war and chaos.

Analysis of King Louis XIV Methods of Rule

He refused to be assisted by nobles instead opted to rule by himself.

This is seen when France was under Cardinal Mazarin (Louis XIV first minister) and very young Louis XIV (age 5), Fronde or rebellion breaks out. This is directed at Mazarin and the parliaments specifically that of Paris want the right to declare edicts as being unconstitutional. This incites the prominent nobles to participate since they think they can govern the country if the king is powerless.

This therefore affects young Louis XIV and on Mazarin’s death (1961), he declares that he is going to rule alone. He firmly believes in absolutism and divine right. All things he performs is calculated to snatch power away from the nobles and strengthen the position of the king.

His ambition enables him to exploit the spread public yearning for peace and order which resulted from the long foreign wars and domestic civil strife caused by various events like the Fronde and abuses of the people committed by some nobles. To lift the people out of oppression of the powerful, he used trials to impose order by punishing some of the extreme abuses by nobles, thus increasing public support.

Louis XIV also gets rid of Nicolas Fouquet, the Finance Superintendant when the French treasury was close to bankruptcy. Fouquet had not committed any financial imprudence. Also, Fouquet had competently and loyally delivered his obligations, but his growing ambition to succeed Richelieu and Mazarin in power was so intense that Louis had to rid himself of him if he was to rule alone.

He filled high executive offices with commoners or newer nobles.

Louis XIV believed that his power can only succeed if he filled high executive offices with commoners or new nobles; this is as a result of the Fronde. This is because he believes that he can a commoner to a nonentity by simply dismissing him but cannot destroy the established influence of a great nobleman of ancient lineage so easily.

Therefore, he half-forced the great nobles into serving him formally as aristocrats while he assigned commoners or newer nobles as ministers and regional intendants. The power of the great nobles became ever weaker as aristocrats. The decrease of the power of the high aristocracy could be witnessed in the lack of such rebellions as the Fronde after Louis XIV.

He firmly believes in absolutism and divine right.

King Louis XIV’s policy is pro-absolutism, religious intoleration, and expansion. He put the nobles in Versailles thus making it easier for him to watch their activities. He greatly encourages commerce but he firmly opposes religious toleration to the extent that he imprisons or evicts many non-Catholics from France which causes a tremendous loss to the French economy since most of French Protestants and the Jews were quite wealth.

He also fights against many states to expand France and gain more power despite the principle of balance of power. He constantly fights against England, Netherlands, Spain, and Austria hence increasing the power and influence of France in Europe. He successfully toiled to create a centralized state governed from the capital so as to wipe away the feudalism which until then persisted in France, hence giving rise to the current state. Louis XIV therefore, became the typical absolute monarch as a product of his effort.

Furthermore, during his reign, France achieved cultural dominance with various cultural figures apart from political and military excellence. The cultural achievements realized by these figures contributed to the prestige of France, its people, its language and its king.

He increased taxation because of his extravagant life-style.

Although Louis XIV is a more competent ruler, he has also some problems. His life-style is so extravagant hence he spends too much money on the military and fighting wars. This therefore means more taxes for the peasants and lower classes since the nobles don’t pay taxes. This among many other factors ultimately led to the French Revolution.

Analysis of King K’ang Hsi Methods of Rule

He did not welcome different officials struggle for position with the government

During the reign of King K’ang His, different officials also attempted to get position with the government. The King did not take this kindly. He made sure that he had many sons and protected them so as to succeed him.

K’ang Hsi tried to live forever through his children. He had fifty six children in his life time, but only one was born to his first wife. Thirty years after he was assisted into power by his
uncle Songgotu, he had him executed. Then also had his sons killed. K’ang Hsi did all these in fear of them gaining much power. He was very protective of his sons.

His empire used the ancient’s military system that was far more efficient and strict

During K’ang Hsi’s reign, the empire still used the ancestor’s military system. The change in system between Kangxi and Qianlong is the main reason for the fall of Qianlong. According to the old system, a general or a soldier was to be slain if he returns by himself. Primarily, a group of general and soldiers are to co-exist. This of course meant that the generals and soldiers would fight for their lives since if the rest of the group were defeated, he would also die either way.

He was open to Christian ecumenical alliance, dedicated to western science, trade expansion, repeated tax reductions, attention to water conservation and imperial tours of inspection.

The above made K’ang Hsi gain favour and support of his people despite his incompetency in certain areas. In 1692, he welcomed and encouraged the missionaries of all orders to greatly expand their numbers in China, and extending the right to settle and teach throughout the empire, which represented the government’s commitment to spread the new Western learning throughout the population. He was praised for both his dedication to Western science and his openness to the Christian ecumenical alliance.

Being an economical individual, K’ang Hsi strived to keep government expenditures to a minimum in spite of the costly military operations of the late 17th century. Through systematizing the provincial financial reports and reducing expenditures at the capital, he managed to accumulate a surplus in the imperial treasury. Hence was able to reduce taxes.

Became open towards his health as a means to gain public sympathy hence their trust and support in hard times.

King K’ang Hsi attempted to prolong his life with awareness into his diet, medicine and memory.

He also tried to get public sympathy with his openness towards his health, therefore gaining the their trust and support in hard times. He identified that admission to his physical weakness was the final honestly but preventing physical weakness was the final common sense.

Practicing medicine was a highly specialized practice during the Emperor K’ang Hsi. He actually had big groups of men for diagnosis and treatment. Finally, he knew that death was inevitable, but he tried to live forever through his children.

He did Great Clearance of the south china so as to fight the anti-Qing movement.

In order to fight the anti-Qing movement, K’ang Hsi commanded the Great clearance in southern China. This entailed moving the entire population of the coastal regions of southern China inland. He recorded three concerns which included the flood control of the Yellow River, the repairing of the Grand Canal and the Revolt of the Three Feudatories in South China.

He also aided in mediating a truce in the long-running Trinh-Nguyen War in the year 1673 in a diplomatic success. The two fighting clans signed peace treaty that lasted for 101 years.


King Louis XIV’s reign was filled with both and bad sides of him. He was a tyrant at the same time a family man; he was a treasonous at the same time a patriotic. Under his reign, France attained  political and military excellence and also cultural dominance contributing to the prestige of France, its people, its language and its king.

Although King K’ang Hsi’s reign ended on such a gloomy note, it was of very essential in the consolidation of Manchu rule in China. Certainly, in almost every respect, militarily, politically, economically, and culturally, his reign laid the foundations for China’s marvelous 18th century.


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