The House of Austria has always been one of the most influential enemies of France. Long before Louis XIV the Holy Roman Empire aspired to keep its leading position in Europe. Huge territories and insatiable ambitions of its rulers, who were ready to use any mean of a policy of restraint not to allow their neighbours to become strong, made Europe play their game for quite a long period of time. The Holy Roman Empire after the Thirty Year War included The German princely states, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Burgundy, The Duchy of Milan, The Kingdom of Naples & many other lands.
It was a serious problem for France to have the Habsburgs from the both sides . The Great Cardinal de Richelieu made first steps to establish a sort of diplomatic relationship which gave to the state a chance to breath and to grow. His tactic was so successful, that by the time when Louis XIV began reigning, France got the power, the army and even its own navy.
Faith and supporting of Protestantism were another reasons why France & the Habsburgs had a strained relationship. The Holy Roman Empire, being a polyethnic state, supported various forms of Protestantism, especially Calvinism, strictly forbidden in France. This cancer of Christianity would turn into horrors of the French Revolution a century later, while for Louis XIV, the Habsburgs’ tolerance would turn into a nightmare after the revocation of l’Edict de Nantes. Chasing French Protestants moved to the German states and then invented disgusting lies about the King, further used by the French Revolution leaders.
In brief, I would mention Leopold I, the Emperor of that period and one of Louis’s main adversaries. He was a mediocre ruler as well as a cold and a rather awkward person. Initially he was going to become a priest, but when smallpox took his brother Ferdinand, he was destined to ascend the throne. He was lack of a diplomatic flexibility, was dogmatic and very conservative, besides he regarded France & Louis XIV’s only as a menace. Only imagine, their rivalry with His Majesty lasted for 47 years! Incredible persistence, I must admit…instead of working together to consolidate peace in Europe.
Vive le Roy! 🙂