François-Michel le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois

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François Michel le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois.

François Michel Le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois (18 January 1641 – 16 July 1691) was the French Secretary of State for War for a significant part of the reign of Louis XIV. Louvois and his father, Michel le Tellier, would increase the French Army to 400,000 soldiers, an army that would fight four wars between 1667 and 1713. He is commonly referred to as "Louvois".

Early life

Louvois was born in Paris on 18 January 1641, to Michel Le Tellier,[1] and Elisabeth Turpin.[2] 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.[1]

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".[1]

The Man in the Iron Mask, whose name was given as Eustache Dauger, is first mentioned in a letter written by Louvois, dated 19 July 1669.[3]


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.[1]

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").[1]

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, though this account is challenged by Voltaire, who wrote in "Le Siecle de Louis XIV" that Louvois died while taking waters in Balarue. His sudden death caused a suspicion of poison.[1]


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 and shameless.[1]


Louvois, through a marriage arranged by his father, wed an heiress, Anne de Souvré, Marquise de Courtenvaux.[1]

He had six children with Anne:[citation needed]

  • 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

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Chisholm 1911, p. 69.
  2. Fleury 1837, p. 305.
  3. Chisholm 1910, p. 836.


  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Louvois, François Michel Le Tellier, Marquis de". Encyclopædia Britannica. 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 69.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> 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
Michel le Tellier
Secretary of State for War
Succeeded by
Louis-François le Tellier de Louvois, marquis de Barbezieux