King Louis XIV of France, known as the Sun King, became an absolute monarch in 1661 when he decided to rule France directly, instead of through a prime minister. He was 23 years old at the time and 18 years into his reign, having succeeded to the throne of France at the age of four.

God's Representative on Earth

Louis XIV believed that his authority came directly from God and that he was God's representative on earth. As such, he believed himself to be head of the church in France -- a belief that led him to revoke the Edict of Nantes, which had granted tolerance for Protestants, in 1685. Louis XIV changed the nature of the French court, curbing the independence of the French nobility and developing a highly centralized form of government that revolved around his person. In the king's own words, "L'Etat, c'est moi" or "I am the state."

Absolute Monarch

Louis XIV played a direct role in supervising France's economic policies, using the system of mercantilism, whereby he granted monopolies, charged tariffs and expanded French colonial interests. He disliked Paris because its residents had rebelled against his mother's rule as regent when he was young, and he moved the government to Versailles. King Louis XIV personally led the military, expanding the French army and navy and leading them in a series of wars that lasted throughout his reign. He was also a patron of the arts. He tightly controlled all aspects of French government during his 72 year reign -- the longest reign of any European monarch.