the sun king -- 1/11/22

Today's selection -- from Our First Revolution by Michael Barone. The life of King Louis XIV:

"Louis XIV … moved in 1682 from the Louvre in Paris to what had once been a hunting lodge in Versailles, and now the two main wings of the palace were completed; the Orangerie was under construction, and the porcelain Trianon had been demolished to be replaced by one built of marble. The Hall of Mirrors was complete, but the chapel was not yet built. The palace was overcrowded with nobles whose presence the king commanded, and with the king's ministers, who had working quarters; the halls were full of refuse and the stench was unbearable. 'The French nobility, invited or summoned from their estates,' writes Winston Churchill, 'were housed in one teeming hotbed of sub­servience, scandal, and intrigue in the royal palace.' The king had brought his court from Paris to Versailles because he disliked the city, from which he had been forced to flee as a child during the Fronde re­volt, and loved the fresh air, forests, and footpaths of the country. Louis was a hard-working king who insisted on punctuality and cere­mony. He was attended by his doctors and designated lords when he woke each morning and put on his clothes and his wig; he attended mass and then tended to business in his study and then lunched, usu­ally alone; then came more work in his study, a change of clothes, and hunting or a long walk. Then more time in the study, a visit to the chambers of his seccond wife, Madame de Maintenon, a formal sup­per, time in the study with his legitimate and illegitimate children, then he dressed for bed, fed his dogs, and gave a final audience to those with business for him.

Louis receiving the Doge of Genoa at Versailles on 15 May 1685, following the Bombardment of Genoa.

"Louis, his unadmiring courtier Saint-Simon tells us, had 'a passion for detail. He was interested in everything that touched on his troops: uniforms, arms, maneuvers, training, discipline, in a word, all sorts of vulgar details. He was just as interested in his construction projects, his households and his kitchens.' And in public and private affairs, he 'took great pains to inform himself on what was happening every­where, in public places, private homes, and even on the international scene. He also wanted to know about family secrets and private rela­tionships. Spies and informers of all kind were numberless.' At the end of 1687, Louis was 49; he had been king for 44 years and, after the death of Cardinal Mazarin, had assumed personal control of government -- 'l'etat c'est moi' -- twenty-six years before. Louis was the greatest monarch in Europe, with the largest treasury and army and, with able ambassadors and agents in every capital, probably the best ­informed man in Europe. Yet in the seventeenth century, communi­cations, even for the Sun King, moved slowly, and decisions had to be made with imperfect information and carried out with incomplete supervision.

"Throughout his active reign Louis had been on the offensive. Through war and diplomacy he expanded France's boundaries, but he did not achieve all his goals. He overran most of the Netherlands in 1672, but was forced to retreat and failed to destroy the United Provinces. In the following years he alienated erstwhile allies -- Sweden, Denmark, Brandenburg, Bavaria. His secret payments to Charles II gained him an ally, but only for a time. He made peace with the United Provinces and its allies in 1678, but made an enduring enemy of William of Orange. In 1684 he signed a 20-year truce with the Habsburg power, Spain, and the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I.

"But Louis was still eager to expand France's boundaries to the east and to assert a claim to the Spanish throne on the death of the sickly, childless King Charles II, who was expected to die anytime. (He lived on until 1700.) He continued to make aggressive moves. In 1684 he ordered his fleet to bombard Genoa for the offense of building ships for Spain. In 1685 he revoked the Edict of Nantes, and in 1686 he sent French troops into Savoy to massacre Protestant Waldensians. In 1687 he refused to renounce the diplomatic immunity for a large swath of Rome around the French embassy. Pope Innocent XI refused to receive the French ambassador and to approve Louis's choice of French bishops, and excommunicated Louis himself.' In 1687, in an­ticipation of the death of his ally the elderly archbishop Max Heinrich Wittelsbach of Cologne -- one of the seven electors entitled to choose new Holy Roman Emperors -- Louis procured the election of his client Cardinal Bishop Wilhelm Egon von Furstenberg of Strasbourg, as coadjutor of Cologne. Among Archbishop Wittelsbach's lands were the bishoprics of Hildesheim, Munster, and Liege, which in­cluded territory just south of Hanover, directly east of the United Provinces and along the Maas River in present-day Belgium: almost a necklace around the Dutch Republic."



Michael Barone


Our First Revolution


Crown Publishing Group



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