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François-Michel le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois

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François Michel Le Tellier
First Minister of State
In office
7 September 1683 – 16 July 1691
MonarchLouis XIV
Preceded byJean-Baptiste Colbert
Succeeded byVacant (1691–1715)
Guillaume Dubois
Secretary of State of the Maison du Roi
In office
6 September 1683 – 16 July 1691
MonarchLouis XIV
Preceded byJean-Baptiste Colbert
Succeeded byÉdouard Colbert de Villacerf
Secretary of State of War
In office
24 February 1662 – 16 July 1691
MonarchLouis XIV
Preceded byMichel Le Tellier
Succeeded byLouis François Marie Le Tellier
Personal details
Born(1641-01-18)18 January 1641
Paris, France
Died16 July 1691(1691-07-16) (aged 50)
Versailles, France
Anne de Souvré
(m. 1662⁠–⁠1691)
Madeleine Charlotte
Louis François
Parent(s)Michel Le Tellier
Élisabeth Turpin

François Michel Le Tellier, Marquis de 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. He is commonly referred to as "Louvois". Together with his father, Michel le Tellier, he oversaw an increase in the numbers of the French Army, eventually reaching 340,000 soldiers[1] – an army that would fight four wars between 1667 and 1713. Louvois was a key military and strategic advisor to Louis XIV, who transformed the French Army into an instrument of royal authority and foreign policy.

According to Cathal Nolan, he created the Régiment du Roi in 1663 and founded the Royal-Artillerie regiment in 1673. These innovations influenced military planners beyond France. Louvois sought out new wars as a means of concentrating more power and wealth in his own hands. He reorganized the French Army and exercised strict control over officers--but that resulted in slower tactical and operational response times. He had more success upgrading logistics for armies on the move. He improved the magazine system left by his father and introduced portable ovens to bake bread during halt days. He accumulated enough grain and wagons to provide his armies with 200,000 rations per day for up to six months during the Dutch War (1672-1678). This helped ensure the French king's early victories. Despite his flaws, Louvois is appreciated by historians for creating the role of civilian "minister of war."[2]

Early life[edit]

Louvois was born in Paris on 18 January 1641, to Michel Le Tellier, and Élisabeth Turpin.[3] 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.[4]

His talents were noticed by Turenne in the War of Devolution (1667–68), who gave him instruction in the art of supplying 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".[4]

The Man in the Iron Mask, whose name was given as Eustache Dauger, was first mentioned in a letter written by Louvois, dated 19 July 1669.[5]


Portrait engraved from life in 1677 by Robert Nanteuil

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.[4]

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").[4]

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.[4]

Later life[edit]

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[4] 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.[citation needed] His sudden death caused suspicion of poison.[4]


Louvois was a proficient war ministers. French history can 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.[4]


Portrait of Anne de Souvree, 1670s

Louvois, through a marriage arranged by his father, wed an heiress, Anne de Souvré, Marquise de Courtenvaux.[4]

He had six children with Anne:[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lynn, J. (1994). Recalculating French Army Growth during the Grand Siecle, 1610-1715. French Historical Studies, 18(4), 881-906. doi:10.2307/286722
  2. ^ Cathal J. Nolan, Wars of the Age of Louis XIV (2008) pp 266-267.
  3. ^ Fleury 1837, p. 305.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Chisholm 1911, p. 69.
  5. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Iron Mask" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 14 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 836.



  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Louvois, François Michel Le Tellier, Marquis de". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 69. Endnotes:
    • 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.
Political offices
Preceded by Secretary of State for War
Succeeded by