Louis XIV

Louis XIV

Known as Louis the Great (Louis le Grand) or the Sun King (le RoiSoleil), was a monarch of the House of Bourbon who ruled as King of France from 1643 until his death in 1715. His reign of 72 years and 110 days is the longest of any monarch of a major country in European history. In this age of absolutism in Europe, Louis XIV’s France was a leader in the growing centralization of power.

Louis XIV, King of France and Navarre was just a baby of nearly 5 years old when he ascended to the throne in 1643 and he personally led the government from 1661 until his death.He was born on 5 September 1638. His parents were totally incompatible: Louis XIII was petulant, introverted and ungentle, while his mother, Anne of Austria of the Spanish line of the House of Habsburg was beautiful, flirtatious, meticulous and well-raised. After the death of Louis XIII,when the heir was only 5 years old, the child was raised in an unusual environment, for Anne of Austria was then a regent which held the relations of power together with Cardinal Jules Mazarin, aclever and unscrupulous Italian careerist. Together they watched over the king-child’s education and it is not without significance the fact that Mazarin became the godfather of the king. Between 1648 and 1653 France was torn apart by a series of uprisings known as the Fronde (Fronde means sling, the weapon of the Parisian kids).

Louis XIV was deeply influenced by the Fronde, not questioning his belief that the order and the authority were the antidote to chaos. Louis learned from Mazarin to believe that the monarchy was ordained by God, to identify himself with France, to work hard and to take his tasks seriously.

He learned to pretend, pretending to cynicism and contempt. Louis XIV formal education has not been neglected, although it was quite small as it was. In fact, most of his education was a typical aristocratic one consisting of ancient history, a little modern history, a smattering of geography and mathematics, a thorough knowledge of Spanish and Italian. He learned to speak and write French in an excellent manner, unlike some of his predecessors. He was taught to ride, to shoot firearms and to dance, things which he did very well by instinct. He inherited from his mother her undoubted Catholic piety and hatred of heresy, though, just like her, he did not possess a deep knowledge of theological problems. Louis XIV stature had to be around 1,62 meters, only to be enhanced by high heels and by wearing big wigs to appear taller. However, the short stature of Louis was in any event the offset of his innate dignity and reliability. In addition, he had a lot of charm. He was intelligent, learned quickly and had a good memory for faces and facts. He enjoyed a remarkable self-control, thinking that it was below his dignity to get angry or to exult. Louis always took off his hat to women, even to the most humble maids.

On 6 May 1682, the King and the Crown Court moved from the Louvre to Versailles, and thus it became the unofficial capital of France until 1715. In the time of Louis XIV, Versailles was the largest and imposing royal palace in Europe. In this era, he was served by 35.000 ministers. The wealth and luxury of the gardens, attics, and royal apartments were well known. The spectacles where Louis was an actor or a dancer were followed by feasts and fireworks, traditions that have long remained in the habit of the kings of France.

His old age has been pestered by rheumatism, indigestion and gout. Three dolphins (heirs) died because of Guy-Crescent Fagon, the royal doctor in 11 months and to cover his own incompetence, Fagon encouraged the rumours that they had been poisoned. In the summer of 1715, Louis XIV was far from feeling good. He had lost his appetite and was sleeping quite a few hours per night, which was not surprising since Fagon insisted that the king should cover himself with a feather floss coverlet in order to sweat. In August, the King’s leg began to hurt and black spots appeared on his leg. Fagonhas put a diagnosis of sciatica, although everyone knew it’s gangrene. Finally, Fagon prescribed an amputation but this time the king has defied hisdoctor. The Sun King’s death was gruesome and prolonged. His end came on 1 September 1715. He blessed the boy who was to succeed him on throne, advising him not to imitate his exaggerated passion for building and wars.

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