Thursday, June 2, 2011

Louis XIV-"the Sun King"

The symbol of the often Golden reign of one of the greatest monarchs of post Renaissance Europe-Louis XIV "the Sun King." He chose this title to illustrate that he was the radiant center of Europe, France and his Court.

Louis Bourbon (1638-1715), King of France from 1643-1715 as Louis XIV. Reigning for seventy-two years, Louis XIV was the longest ruling monarch in French history. In his reign France challenged the other powers of Europe for supreme mastery though a series of ever more costly wars. His early successes were tempered by the massive debt his government incurred through these conflicts.

This neoclassical painting of "the Sun King" and his family brings forth visions of the grander of the ancient empires and gods of old.  An absolute monarch, Louis thought of himself and the country as one, "L'√Čtat, c'est moi" ("I am the state").

One of the greatest and long lasting accomplishments of Louis XIV was the grand Baroque Palace of Versailles. In addition to the beauty and luxury this massive palace complex afforded the king, Versailles was also built as an enticing "flame for the moths of nobility." Louis envisioned Versailles as a palace of such opulence that none of his troublesome nobles would ever wish to leave. This allowed the king to keep a close watch on those who might have challenged his authority.

The orange territories, including the valuable Alsace and Franche-Comte, were added to France by Louis XIV.  While his territorial gains were important, the cost in lives and money was immense. He recognised this as on his death bed when he was reported to say "I have love war to much" as advice for his heir.  When he died he left France with as one of the great world powers, massive debt, and a government run by the aristocrats for the aristocrats-his great grandson Louis XVI and his people would pay the price of the seeds sown by the Sun King.

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