Saturday, 8 July 2017

Louis XIV of France (LSI): Personality Type Analysis

Louis XIV, sometimes called "the Sun King" and "Louis the Great", reigned as King of France and Navarre from 1643 until his death in 1715 at the age of 76. He was the third French king of the House of Bourbon, ascending the throne when he was 4 upon the death of his father, King Louis XIII (IEI). His reign was the zenith of France as the leading European power politically, militarily and culturally. Louis XIV re-invented the French monarchy as a manifestation and celebration of the absolute power of the king; he was regarded by his contemporaries, as he is still today, as the archetype of the absolute monarch. His personal tastes in art, architecture, etiquette and even landscaping had a huge impact among his contemporaries which is felt still today.

Louis XIII, supported by his prime minister Cardinal Richelieu (LSI), had already greatly increased the authority of the monarchy; however, the death of both men in quick succession led to a weaker government, during Louis XIV's minority, under his mother Queen Anne and Richelieu's successor, Cardinal Mazarin. They broadly continued the previous reign's policies but their unpopularity, heavy-handedness and perceived lower legitimacy led to a series of revolts and civil wars collectively known as the Fronde; the most serious of them led by many nobles, including Louis XIII's brother, Gaston d'Orleans. The Fronde revolts were kept at bay by the Queen and Mazarin until Louis XIV's coronation at the age of 16, formally signalling the end of the Regency and essentially draining the will of the nobles towards revolt. Nevertheless Louis kept Cardinal Mazarin as chief minister until his death in 1660, when Louis was 22. The king immediately announced that from now on he would not have a prime minister - which had been the norm for four decades - and that he would govern himself: as he put it, "I request and order you to seal no orders except by my command . . . I order you not to sign anything, not even a passport . . . without my command". Even if later he allowed his minister a little more independence, it remains true that for the next five decades Louis made all major government decisions and nothing was decided against his will.

After this announcement, Louis still moved carefully to get rid of the most powerful left-over from Mazarin's cabinet, Nicolas Fouquet, the Superintendent of Finances (i.e. finance minister). Fouquet had managed to make himself almost independent of Mazarin's authority and his control over the state finances was total. He also built up a vast personal fortune and network of supporters, and he advertised his power and wealth by building the magnificent palace of Vaux-le-Vicomte. The king considered him too powerful and potentially too dangerous to be merely sacked; so he carefully first let Fouquet feel secure that he had the king's esteem, and then quickly had him arrested, when he least expected, by the chief musketeer, d'Artagnan. Fouquet was tried and found guilty of embezzlement, and sentenced to banishment. Louis 'commuted' the sentence to life imprisonment. Fouquet died in prison some 19 years after his arrest. To this day, his trial is the subject of French scholarly analysis as an example of an unfair, highly politicised trial for trumped-up charges.

The above already points to Louis XIV as an individual, not only with great focus on F, but also with a seemingly subtle, masterful approach to it. In isolation, Louis' merciless destruction of Nicolas Fouquet could be interpreted as either personal vindictiveness in destroying someone whom he considered irredeemable - pointing to R blocked with F, that is the Gamma quadra - or as the ruthless elimination of a powerful minister in a way as to signal to the whole nation that the king was all-powerful, establishing his authority, which would point to F blocked with L, that is the Beta quadra.

Having gotten rid of Fouquet, Louis appointed as ministers men whom he could trust and who owed their positions to him, such as Jean-Baptiste Colbert as finance minister. Colbert overhauled the taxation system, greatly increasing revenues and rescuing the state from near bankruptcy, and introduced measures to encourage manufacture and trade, greatly improving infrastructure, aiming at a positive trade balance. While Colbert had to have the king's support in all his actions, Louis XIV was not very concerned with economic policies as such, seeing the increased economic and financial strength as a means to enhance the power of the monarchy and of the French state. Accordingly, Louis soon started spending immense sums on building the huge palace complex at Versailles (at a cost of perhaps 10% of the annual budget, over many years), and on an aggressive foreign policy, with a succession of wars, all of which drained the state's finances, especially the last one, the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). So the net result of Louis XIV's reign was that at his death he left a national debt five times higher than he had found it, and ten times higher than Colbert had left when he died three decades earlier.

Louis XIV spent over half of the period of his personal rule at war. All his five major wars had, generally speaking, the aims of expanding France's borders, or attacking external enemies (like the Dutch Republic), or installing on foreign thrones monarchs friendly to France. All his wars were aggressive ones started by him, even if arguably with some justification. They were broadly successful - one of Louis XIV's legacies was an enlarged French territory, with frontiers starting to resemble today's - but at huge cost to the population and economy of France, which was even more bankrupt when he died than when he took the reigns of government.

As for his palace at Versailles - which was built despite Colbert's exasperation with the cost - Louis' reasons for building it were manifold. First, he regarded the palace in Paris (the Louvre) as vulnerable to riots and revolts (as per his experience of the Fronde), and he seemed to have had an obvious dislike for the place. Second, he intended the palace to be a visible, giant advertisement of the power, wealth and glory of the monarchy (interestingly he was inspired by Fouquet's own Vaux-le-Vicomte palace). Third, and perhaps most importantly, he intended for the whole of the French nobility to make Versailles their main, if not only, residence. Louis XIV's power as king was still counterbalanced to some extent by the estates and regional legal powers of the nobility, which still made them possible sources of revolts. By keeping all the nobles either at Versailles, or on the battlefield in periods of war, the king kept them under his eye and under his control.

The above summarises (a bit simplistically) the main policies and priorities of Louis XIV as king: to increase the power and territorial extent of France, to increase the power and prestige of the monarchy, and to reduce the independence and power of the nobility in relation to the king. Although those could be seen as obvious aims for a king, that is not necessarily so and Louis was personally the author of all the specific policies. It can be argued therefore that more than just his position as king, they point to Louis's own personal psychology. confirming an intense focus on F. Louis' personal project of using a vast luxury palace as a visible advertisement of the power and prestige of the monarchy (which is F+E), and his dismissal of P concerns when pursuing F goals, point to E rather than P as a valued function, so Beta is his quadra.

In Versailles, Louis designed and implemented a rigid system of etiquette, which he followed daily and expected the courtiers to follow. It included a fixed routine for when he would get out of bed, go to mass, have his meals, see his ministers, have some brief private time with his family, then go to bed - the Duke of Saint-Simon, an eyewitness, said in his memoirs that it was possible to know exactly what the king was doing, no matter how far you were from Versailles, just by looking at a watch. It also included a rigid, perhaps petty, hierarchical order of etiquette in the sense of which ranks in the nobility were allowed to be present at the king's most intimate moments and on what kind of armchair they could sit while in the king's presence. It is revealing that Louis subjected not only others but himself to this regimented lifestyle (his two successors, Louis XV (ILI) and Louis XVI (LII) "escaped" from that routine often). This liking for a rigid structure for his daily routine, as well as for the social positions of those around him, point to L and F as valued and strong functions.

The Duke of Saint-Simon left some interesting observations:
His mind was occupied with small things rather than with great, and he delighted in all sorts of petty details, such as the dress and drill of his soldiers, and it was just the same with regard to his building operations, his household, and even his cookery. He always thought he could teach something of their own craft even to the most skilful professional men, and they, for their part, used to listen gratefully to lessons which they had long ago learnt by heart. He imagined that all this showed his indefatigable industry; in reality, it was a great waste of time, and his Ministers turned it to good account for their own purposes, as soon as they had learnt the art of managing him, they kept his attention engaged with a mass of details, while they contrived to get their own way in more important matters.
Although the Duke was not necessarily a neutral witness, if there is some truth to this portrait, it points to a person with an apparent focus on S, and even S+P, making the S4 of EIEs very unlikely and suggesting LSI or SLE among Beta types.

Louis expected the nobles to spend most of their time in Versailles; he did not mind so much if they also spent time in their own estates, but considered it an affront if they preferred to stay in Paris instead. The moment that the king decided a noble was guilty of that, he would regard him essentially as persona non grata and ignore the man's existence, saying "I do not know who he is" or "I never see him here". The moment that happened, the man was condemned to irreversible social oblivion. This ruthlessness in dealing with individuals who broke his rules - perhaps unwittingly in some cases - points again to R in a weaker and less valued function than L. Also, Louis officially allowed anyone to approach him with requests when he was walking in the garden, but his almost invariable answer was "I will think about it" - suggesting that being so accessible was again one of the rules he imposed on himself rather than deeply felt.  However, according to Saint-Simon, when someone managed to get a private audience with the king, regardless of rank, then Louis was inclined to be "kind-hearted and just", and it was permissible to contradict or even interrupt the king, as long as a posture of reverence was maintained, with Louis then even making exceptions to his rules. This willingness to make exceptions for individuals who did manage to speak to him on a more personal basis suggests some concern for R, and seems most like R3.

Finally, the Duke of Saint-Simon has this to say about Louis's greatest weakness:
His Ministers, generals, mistresses, and courtiers soon found out his weak point, namely, his love of hearing his own praises. There was nothing he liked so much as flattery, or, to put it more plainly, adulation; the coarser and clumsier it was, the more he relished it. That was the only way to approach him; if he ever took a liking to a man it was invariably due to some lucky stroke of flattery in the first instance, and to indefatigable perseverance in the same line afterwards. His Ministers owed much of their influence to their frequent opportunities for burning incense before him...

Not only does this confirm the E valuing of Louis XIV, but it also points most clearly to E5.

All the evidence points very clearly to Louis XIV as a Beta, with focus on F, L and a craving for E the most obvious and consistent traits, but also with some inclination to drift towards focusing on S. That would point to LSI or SLE as possible types, but it is difficult to imagine a SLE who would voluntarily submit himself, over decades, to Louis's repetitive around-the-clock regimented lifestyle, that pointing more to the energy levels of an Integrator type and to having L as more important than F. L1, F2, R3, E5 and S8 fit very well what is known of Louis XIV, making him a likely LSI.

To learn more about LSI, click here.

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.

Sources: besides the French Wikipedia, my mental image of Louis XIV was first shaped by Will and Ariel Durant's The Age of Louis XIV. Excerpts of the memoirs of the Duke of Saint-Simon are available online, like here. A description of the king's boring routine is  here.  The excellent French television series Secrets d'histoire has several episodes on Louis XIV in YouTube.

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