François Michel Le Tellier, Marquis of Louvois (18 January 1641 – 16 July 1691) was the French Secretary of State for War during a significant part of the reign of Louis XIV. Together with his father, Michel le Tellier, the French Army would eventually be increased to 340,000 soldiers – an army that would fight four wars between 1667 and 1713. He is commonly referred to as "Louvois".
François Michel Le Tellier
|First Minister of State|
7 September 1683 – 16 July 1691
|Preceded by||Jean-Baptiste Colbert|
|Succeeded by||Vacant (1691–1715)|
|Secretary of State of the Maison du Roi|
6 September 1683 – 16 July 1691
|Preceded by||Jean-Baptiste Colbert|
|Succeeded by||Édouard Colbert de Villacerf|
|Secretary of State of War|
24 February 1662 – 16 July 1691
|Preceded by||Michel Le Tellier|
|Succeeded by||Louis François Marie Le Tellier|
|Born||18 January 1641|
|Died||16 July 1691 (aged 50)|
Anne de Souvré
|Parent(s)||Michel Le Tellier|
Louvois was born in Paris on 18 January 1641, to Michel Le Tellier, and Élisabeth Turpin. Louvois received instructions from his father in the management of state affairs. The young man won the king's confidence, and in 1666 he succeeded his father as war minister.
His talents were perceived by Turenne in the War of Devolution (1667–68), who gave him instruction in the art of providing armies. After the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, Louvois devoted himself to organising the French army. The years between 1668 and 1672, says Camille Rousset, "were years of preparation, when Lionne was labouring with all his might to find allies, Colbert to find money, and Louvois soldiers for Louis".
The work of Louvois in these years is bound up with the historical development of the French army and of armies in general. Here need only be mentioned Louvois's reorganization of the military orders of merit, his foundation of the Hôtel des Invalides, and the almost forcible enrollment of the nobility and gentry of France, in which Louvois carried out part of Louis's measures for curbing the spirit of independence by service in the army or at court.
The success of his measures is to be seen in the victories of the Franco-Dutch War of 1672–78. After the Peace of Nijmegen Louvois was high in favour, his father had been made chancellor, and the influence of Colbert was waning. The ten years of peace between 1678 and 1688 were distinguished in French history by the rise of Madame de Maintenon, the capture of Strasbourg and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in all of which Louvois bore a prominent part. The surprise of Strasbourg in 1681 in time of peace was not only planned but executed by Louvois and Monclar. A saving clause in the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which provided for some liberty of conscience, if not of worship, Louvois sharply annulled with the phrase "Sa majesté veut qu'on fasse sentir les dernières rigueurs a ceux qui ne voudront pas se faire de sa religion" ("His Majesty wishes the worst harshness on those who do not partake of his religion").
He claimed also the credit of inventing the dragonnades, and mitigated the depredations of the soldiery only insofar as the licence accorded was prejudicial to discipline. Discipline, indeed, and complete subjection to the royal authority was the political faith of Louvois.
Colbert died in 1683, and had been replaced by Le Pelletier, an adherent of Louvois, in the controller-generalship of finances, and by Louvois himself in his ministry for public buildings, which he took that he might be the minister able to gratify the king's two favourite pastimes, war and building. Louvois was able to superintend the successes of the first years of the war of the League of Augsburg and in 1688 initiated the collection of Plans-Reliefs of French strongholds that is now the Musée des Plans-Reliefs. However, he died suddenly of apoplexy after leaving the king's cabinet on 16 July 1691, but Voltaire claims in "Le Siecle de Louis XIV" that Louvois died while he was taking waters in Balaruc. His sudden death caused a suspicion of poison.
Louvois was one of the greatest of the rare class of great war ministers. French history can only point to Carnot as his equal. Both had to organize armies out of old material on a new system, both were admirable contrivers of campaigns, and both devoted themselves to the material well-being of the soldiers. In private life and in the means employed for gaining his ends, Louvois was unscrupulous.
Louvois, through a marriage arranged by his father, wed an heiress, Anne de Souvré, Marquise de Courtenvaux.
He had six children with Anne:
- Michael François, Marquis of Courtanvaux, who married the daughter of Jean II d'Estrées
- Madeleine Charlotte (1665–1735), who married François de La Rochefoucauld VIII, Duc de La Roche-Guyon (1663–1728)
- Louis-Nicolas, Marquis de Souvré
- Louis François Marie, Marquis Barbezieux
- Camille de Louvois
- Margaret (died 1711), married Louis Nicolas de Neufville de Villeroy, Marquis of Alincourt
- Lynn, J. (1994). Recalculating French Army Growth during the Grand Siecle, 1610-1715. French Historical Studies, 18(4), 881-906. doi:10.2307/286722
- Fleury 1837, p. 305.
- Chisholm 1911, p. 69.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 14 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 836. .
- Fleury, H (1837), La Chronique de Champagne, publ. sous la direction de H. Fleury et L. Paris, p. 305, retrieved 12 January 2013
- public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Louvois, François Michel Le Tellier, Marquis de". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 69. Endnotes:
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the
- The principal authority for Louvois's life and times is Camille Rousset's Histoire de Louvois (Paris, 1872), a great work founded on the 900 volumes of his despatches at the Depôt de la Guerre. Saint Simon from his class prejudices is hardly to be trusted, but Madame de Sevigne throws many side-lights on his times. Testament politique de Louvois (1695) is spurious.