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Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Louis XIV of France


Louis XIV was born on September 5, 1638 in the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye to Louis XIII and Anne of Austria.

Louis was born after 23 years of childless marriage and four stillbirths. His parents regarded him as a divine gift. He was christened "Louis-Dieudonné" (the latter word meaning "God-given"), and received the titles premier fils de France ("First Son of France") and the more traditional title Dauphin de Viennois.

Anne of Austria compared herself with mothers in the Bible who had born a child in their later years, so from an early age a Christ like mythology was attached to Louis.

Louis-Dieudonné, Dauphin of France, in 1643 by Claude Deruet

Louis's relationship with his mother was uncommonly affectionate for the time and the Queen spent much of her time with her son. Both were greatly interested in food and theatre, and it is highly likely that Louis developed these interests through his close relationship with his mother.

Louis XIII and Anne had a second child, Philippe I, Duc d'Orléans, in 1640.


Louis XIII mistrusted his wife and he sought to prevent her from gaining influence over the realm after his death. In defiance of custom, which would have made Queen Anne the sole Regent of France, he decreed that a regency council would rule on his son's behalf.

Louis ascended the throne on May 14, 1643 after his father's death and his coronation took place on June 7, 1654. The coronation took place in Reims, the traditional site of the crowning of the kings of France.

In 1649 young Louis was forced to flee Paris for nearly four years to escape a civil war when the nobility supported by the people, rebelled against Mazarin’s imposition of a tax.

He began his personal rule of France in 1661 after the death of his chief minister, the Italian Cardinal Mazarin.

Louis XIV, King of France, in 1661

A hard working king who worked a minimum nine hour day in affairs of state, Louis expected his servants to have the same attitude.

Louis was nicknamed the "Sun King" due to the brilliance of his courts.

The court of Louis XIV was known as "the perfumed court" due to the scents, which were applied daily, not only to the skin but also to clothing, fans and furniture.

Servants were employed by the palace to attend exclusively to the scenting of the court. A floral pavilion filled with rich scents was constructed, dried flowers were put in strategically placed ornamental bowls, and perfumes were sprayed liberally on guests, clothing, furniture, walls, and even dinnerware.

At Louis court prestige was measured by the height of the chair one was allowed to sit in. Only the king and queen could sit in chairs with arms.

During Louis' reign France commerce and industry prospered but he financed his glorious lifestyle and his many wars by taxing his subjects. The taxation to finance the king's extravagances reduced the common people to misery.

Louis's second wife, Mme de Maintenon warned him of God's extravagance if he didn't cut back on his extravagance. By the time the French king died the economy was in tatters.


During his long reign Louis carried out a series of wars, his goal being the dictatorship of Europe.

In 1667 Louis XIV  attempted to annex Spanish Netherlands but was frustrated by an alliance of Holland, England and Sweden. Louis had claimed the Spanish Netherlands.belonged to his wife. (She was the daughter of the late King Philip IV of Spain.).

In 1672 Louis XIV invaded the Netherlands and achieved some gains. Two years later, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain and Netherlands formed an alliance against France.

In 1679 The Treaty of Nijmegen ended the war between the French and the Holy Roman Empire.

Louis XIV occupied the city of Strasbourg in 1681 and ordered its citizens to adopt French fashions within four months.

The League of Augsburg was formed in 1686  by the Holy Roman Emperor, Spain, Sweden, Saxony, and Bavaria. Their stated intention was to return France to at least the borders agreed to in the Treaty of Nijmegen. The Pope secretly supported the alliance as well. Three years later England joined the League and the following year, Spain and Savoy did.

The War of the League of Augsburg,lasted from 1688 to 1697. Although an attempt to restore James II to the English throne failed at the Battle of the Boyne on July 1, 1690, France accumulated a string of victories from Flanders in the north, Germany in the east, and Italy and Spain in the south, to the high seas and the colonies.

In 1695. Louis XIV ordered the surprise destruction of a Flemish city to divert the attention of these troops. This led to the bombardment of Brussels, in which 4-5000 buildings were destroyed, including the entire city center. However, the strategy harmed Louis XIV's reputation.

The 1697 Treaty of Ryswick ended the War of the League of Augsburg. Louis recognized William III as the English King and all French conquests since 1679 were returned to Spain.

The War of the Spanish Succession was fought from 1701 to 1714.over who had the right to be king of Spain after the previous monarch, Charles II, died childless. France wanted Philip of Anjou, a grandson of Louis, to rule. Great Britain, the Dutch Republic and other states wanted to prevent this.

The French army of Louis XIV was defeated in 1704 at the Battle of Bleinheim. The 52,000 men, the armies of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy, defeated the 60,000 Franco Bavarians, thus ending the prospect of French dominance of Europe.

The Battle of Almansa, fought on April 25, 1707, was one of the most decisive engagements of the War of the Spanish Succession. At Almansa, the Franco–Spanish army under the English mercenary Duke of Berwick soundly defeated the allied forces of Portugal, England, and the Netherlands led by the Earl of Galway, reclaiming most of eastern Spain for the Bourbons. It was probably the only major battle in history in which the English forces were commanded by a Frenchman, the French by an Englishman.

The Franco-Spanish army led by the Duke of Berwick defeated decisively the Alliance forces of Portugal, England, and the Dutch Republic at the Battle of Almansa.

By 1705 famine was spreading through France partly caused by the huge cost of the many wars King Louis XIV had embarked on. Between 1693 and 1710, over two million people died in two famines, made worse as foraging armies seized food supplies from the villages.

The 1713 Peace of Utrecht ended the War of Spanish Succession and the French supremacy in Europe. Philip of Anjou became the next king of Spain known as Philip V. Britain and its allies accepted Philip as King of Spain, who gave up his right to be king also of France. Austria got most of Spanish Italy. Britain gained Spanish Majorca and Gibraltar.

On his deathbed Louis felt he was suffering from God's punishment for his earlier military policies.


Louis' mother and the Prime Minister Cardinal Mazarin both opposed the young king's desire to marry Marie Mancini, Mazarin's niece. At issue was the Prime Minister's insistence of a political alliance with Spain. After an intense war of nerves, political reasoning overruled love and in 1660 Louis XIV married Infanta Maria Theresa of Spain as part of the Peace of Pyrenees which brought the Franco Spanish War to the end.

Maria Theresa is handed over to the French and her husband by proxy, Louis XIV

The marriage took place in Saint-Jean-de-Luz at the recently rebuilt church of Saint Jean the Baptist on June 9, 1660.  The unimpressed Louis quipped "Il n'y a pas de Pyrenees."

Famed for her virtue and piety, Maria Theresa is frequently viewed as an object of pity in historical accounts of her husband's reign, since she had no choice but to tolerate his many illicit love affairs.

Maria Theresa died painfully on July 30, 1683, at Versailles. Upon her death, Louis XIV said: "This is the first trouble which she has given me."

Portrait of Maria Theresa of Spain (1638-1683) as Queen of France

Louis took a series of mistresses, both official and unofficial. Among them were Madame de Pompadour (1745 to 1751 and a court favourite until her death in 1764), Louise de La Vallière (with whom he had 6 children; 1661–67)  and who was retired to a convent., Françoise-Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan, Claude de Vin des Œillets (1 child born in 1676), and Marie Angélique de Scorailles (1679–81), who died at age 19 in childbirth. Through these liaisons, he produced numerous illegitimate children, most of whom he married to members of cadet branches of the royal family.

Madame de Pompadour was with the king for 19 years, though for many years they did not have sexual relations. She ‘contracted’ that out, finding young women for him to sleep with.


Louis had seven children by the married Francoise de Montespan who became his mistress in 1667. When Louis decided he wanted the Marquise of Montespan as his mistress he threw her husband into the Bastille.

Madame Montespan once lost four million francs in half an hour at the gaming table.

In 1669, when Madame de Montespan's first child by Louis was born, the prudish Françoise d'Aubigné  was put in care of the infant Louis Auguste, Duke of Maine. Though the king was initially put off by her strict religious practice, when Louis Auguste and his siblings were legitimized on December 20, 1673, she became the royal governess at Saint-Germain.

As governess, Francoise was one of very few people permitted to speak with the king as an equal, without holding back. Louis was charmed by having someone who would speak to him in this way. In time, she became the king's only true friend.

Suspicion that Madame de Montespan might be capable of murder or worse began when the King's eye strayed to another beauty, the Duchess of Fontanges. When the Duchess died in 1681, many at the time suspected that she had been poisoned by her rival.

The claims were made that de Montespan arranged for a black mass to be celebrated in order to become the king’s mistress and Louis ditched his more beautiful mistress for her. However as younger and more lovely girls caught the king’s eyes, de Montespan was forced to scurry back and forth from the fortune teller. It is said that 1,500 children were sacrificed in these black masses in order to keep de Montespan in Louis’ arms. The Affaire des Poisons was to be the beginning of the end of the reign of La Montespan.

Eventually Madame de Montespan was exiled by Louis to a convent for life and her associates including the fortune teller were put to death.

After Louis's queen, Maria Theresa, died in 1683. Louis, married Françoise d'Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon in a private ceremony by François de Harlay de Champvallon, Archbishop of Paris. Their wedding which took place in late 1683 or early 1684, was kept a secret. Louis remained more faithful to his second wife.

Almost all of Louis XIV's legitimate children died during childhood. The only one to survive to adulthood, his eldest son, Louis, Dauphin de Viennois, known as "The Grand Dauphin" died in 1711, leaving three children.

Louis XIV had a long-lasting impact on childbirth, instigating years of belief that women should give birth lying on a table with their legs in stirrups. This came about after he commanded the construction of a viewing table so that he could have a better view of the birth of one of his mistress's children. When word got around of the king's decision, "lesser mortals" quickly copied the practice, and saw it as the preferred position for many years.


 In 1662 Louis conceived the plan for a magnificent new palace at Versailles just outside of Paris, which was originally his father’s hunting lodge. Over 30,000 laborers and 6000 horses were employed at one time during the construction of Versailles. It cost him over $250 million.

In 1682 Louis abandoned his old home, the Louvre, and moved his court to Versailles to establish his independence from the Paris nobility, but the work still continued for most of his reign. The palace and its land contained 1500 fountains and had a population of 2000 courtiers and servants. Another 5000 lived nearby.

The Cour royale and the Cour de marbre at Versailles. By Harry -, FAL, Wikipedia Commons

At his new home at Versailles, Louis dined in magnificent pomp and ceremony on food prepared by nearly 500 kitchen staff. His meal was carried to the royal quarters by a procession of high-ranking personnel crying "the King's meat". Behind them were a parade of servants carrying baskets of cutlery, seasonings, spices and toothpicks.

The kitchens were so far away from the dining room at Versailles, that the king's meals were often cold.

Even the king's rising in the morning and going to bed at night were attended by elaborate ceremonies called the "levee and couchee." Each noblemen had his own duty and part to play in these rituals.

Louis opened Versailles to the public, so the populace could come and watch the King dine.

At Versailles there was a service of sedan chairs to carry residents from one point to another.

Louis collected beds, he owned 414 in total. All were elaborately carved, gilded and hung with costly embroideries.

Louis' great joy was the magnificent bed in the Palace of Versailles, on which were woven in gold the words "The Triumph of Venus". But when Louis married his religious second wife, the Marquise de Maintenon, she had the pagan subject replaced by "The Sacrifice of Abraham."

Versailles had no bathrooms or WCs in the whole building.


Louis enjoyed spending his afternoon hunting in his Versailles grounds and entertainments in the evenings.

The French king formed a band of violin players as a child.

Music was played in Louis' presence 24 hours a day, whether he was walking, sleeping or negotiating with foreign diplomats. The 24 violins of his orchestra consisted of six violins, six basses and twelve violas.

Louis was an enthusiastic dancer from his teenage years,, preferring it to singing. He was a skilled performer in over 30 ballets.

Louis founded the first modern school for dance; The Royal Academy of dance, in 1661.

The title of Sun King was derived from the "sun" costume that Louis wore when he danced in the 13 hour "Ballet de la nuit." at court when he was 15 from which all subsequent ballet activities throughout the world can be traced.

Louis liked dancing the minuet which was the Twist of the 17th century.

Louis XIV prided himself on his muscular ballet dancer legs. In most of his portraits, he is exposing his calves.

The court at Versailles attracted writers and artists from all over France. Louis and Mme de Maintenon loved Moliere's comedies which were often performed at his court.

Painting from 1667 depicting Louis as patron of the fine arts.

Louis enjoyed boating. The French king had a Venetian Gondola carried across the Alps for him and also he liked to sail in mini ships on the great lake at Versailles.

A keen coin collector, Louis visited the French national collection everyday. "I always learn something new there," he said.

Louis enjoyed billiards and played it under doctor's orders. It was recommended that the exercise of stretching across the billiards table would improve his digestion.


The king had a passion for vegetables and fruit and he developed gardening to produce his own.

Louis' magnificent Royal Feasts always ended with marmalades and jellies served in silver dishes made from fruit grown in the King's own gardens and glasshouses. The fruit dish he favored was strawberries in wine.

By the late 1690s, Louis XIV was growing in his gardens a new type of green pea introduced from Italy and was creating a fashion for them. However his second wife, the puritanical Madame de Maintenon did not approve. She wrote. "Some ladies, even after having supped at the Royal Table, and well supped too, returning to their own homes, at the risk of suffering from indigestion, will again eat peas before going to bed. It is both a fashion and madness."

Louis had a great liking for asparagus and he regularly received supplies of his favorite vegetable.

The Sun King was addicted to aniseed lozenges to "sweeten his breath."

The Dutch presented a coffee tree to Louis. His love of a good cup of coffee led Louis to build the first greenhouse to nurture his beloved tree.

Though it's not 100% clear how it got there, chocolate was popular in the court of Louis XIV, at least before his second marriage to the rather puritanical Madame de Maintenon. By 1693, she had persuaded him to suppress it at Versailles, but, in spite of her opposition, chocolate continued to gain in popularity in France.

Louis XIV’s favourite seasoning was soy sauce.

Louis XIV established a new dining etiquette. Instead of dishes being placed on the table all at once without any thought to complementary dishes they were served in a defined sequence.

For years members of the court and other dignitaries have considered it a privilege merely to stand by and watch Louis XIV devour his food. Entire families of Parisians crowd round every Sunday to admire the dexterity of their king, who could knock the small end of an egg in a single stroke.

By the mid 1700s, King Louis was suffering from gout caused by drinking too much of his favorite
wine which was made with egg white and sugar.

Still a gourmand even in his mid 70s, Louis XIV's diet continued to astound onlookers and frighten his doctors.


Louis XIV was a mere 5'4" and he wore high heeled shoes as a result of his short physique.

Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV of France was proud of his fine head of hair. He wore it in long curls.

When he started going bald, Louis introduced the fashion of wearing a long, curled periwig on the head. His courtiers loyally adopted his fashion and a wig craze took hold in Paris and then spread through Europe.

Once he had taken to wearing wigs, Louis XIV would permit only his hairdresser to see him without one. When he went to bed he insisted on passing his wig out to a page from behind the drawn curtains of his four-poster, reversing the process in the morning.

Louis once received the Siamese Ambassador in Versailles' Hall of Mirrors, wearing a fur coat entrusted with diamonds valued at one sixth of the cost of Versailles.

During Louis XIV's reign, people wishing to dress in the extreme of fashion spent extravagant sums on buttons without regard to their usefulness. The king himself spent the equivalent of $600,000 on jeweled buttons, including a diamond-studded set valued at $120,000.

The Sun King loved to dress up like the Greek sun god Apollo.

Such was the etiquette, it required seven persons including some princes to put the king's shirt on when he got up in the morning.


Louis was a staunch Catholic and renowned for praying to God in a loud voice.

Despite quarreling with the pope, Louis backed the church as long as the church remembered whom rules in France.

Louis' policy of rule was "L'etat c'est moi" (I am the state) basically gave himself carte blanche to do anything. He first used this phrase in response to the Parisian Parliament's objections to his fiscal demands back in 1655 when still a teenager. They'd protested in the interests of the state.

Louis assembled all aristocrats at Versailles and persuaded them to try to emulate his extravagant tastes in fashion, thus forcing them into debt and keeping insurgence at bay.

The religious faith of the even-tempered Madame de Maintenon influenced the French king. As a result Louis had a faith that persuaded him to trust God in setbacks, attend church, but also into persecuting the Protestants. He wished France to have one religion and demanded that every Frenchman should practice his blend of Christianity, thereby encouraging the forced conversion of Huguenots.

In 1681, Louis excluded the Huguenots from all financial positions and trade guilds and the next year banned them all top posts

In 1685 the Edict of Fontainebleau forbade Protestant worship and made Catholic baptism compulsory. He forced Jansenism out of France.


In 1686 Louis XIV had an operation for an anal fistula.Twice he was sliced open without any form of anesthetic.

On hearing of King Louis’ recovery from his operation for anal fistula, a group of French nuns at the cloister of Saint Cyr heard of his recovery and celebrated by writing a song “Dieu Savvez le Roi”. A travelling Englishman heard the tune, copied it down and when he returned to England it was translated into "God Save The King."

When Louis' doctor ordered him to bathe for medical reasons the French king tried to get out of it by pretending to have a terrible headache as soon as he was immersed in water.

By 1713 the elderly Louis XIV's toes had started to rot. One of them dropped off and was found by his valet in one of the royal bed socks.

By this stage the king was struggling to chew as doctors, while removing several of the king's bad teeth, had accidentally broken his upper jaw and smashed his palate. Consequently when Louis tried to drink his soup, it cascaded out of his nose.


King Louis XIV of France, the world's longest reigning monarch, died of gangrene at Versailles on September 1, 1715, four days before his 77th birthday.

During his long reign of 72 years Louis had carried out a series of wars, his goal being the dictatorship of Europe. On his deathbed he felt he was suffering from God's punishment for his earlier military policies. However despite his fathering of at least 12 illegitimate children and his autocratic ways Louis retained his faith in God throughout his life and seldom missed daily attendance at Mass.

Was Louis really Louis? In 1669 a mysterious masked prisoner started his sentence that lasted until his death in 1703. For all the 34 years he wore a black velvet mask and no one knew who he was. 150 years later Alexander Dumas wrote his famous book The Man In The Iron Mask about a king kept in prison in an iron mask whilst his identical twin reigned.

Louis XIV mounted the throne in 1643.(1+6+4+3=14). He died in 1715 (1+7+1+5=14). Louis reigned 77 years. (7+7=14) He was born in 1638 and died in 1715. 1+6+3+8+1+7+1+5=3353. 3=3=5=3=14.

Sources Comptons Encyclopedia,  Food For Thought by Ed Pearce, Would You Believe This Too,

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