The Glamour and Court of Louis XIV, King of France, Known as the Sun King

by TessaSchlesinger

Louis XIV, the Sun King of France in the 17th Century spent the fortunes of France on building Versailles, a palace and court of incredible luxury and elegance.

Louis XIV of France, also known as the Sun King, ruled France for more than seventy two years, making him the longest ruling king in European history. He was born on 5 September 1638 and died on 1 September 1715. Politically astute, he stopped the warring between the different members of aristocracy by numbing them with entertainment at his royal court. He was also responsible for converting the earlier ‘palace’ at Versailles into one of the grandest and most opulent palaces in the world. He did that because he wanted to have a second court in which to entertain the many nobles of France. It was officially opened in 1682 when he moved his entire court.to Versailles. He never returned to Paris as he wanted to be away from the political turbulence of Paris. He set about making himself the absolute ruler of France, firmly believing that the King was the absolute representation of the church on earth. The rule of Louis IV during the 17th century is one of the most exciting periods of French history

Description of the Palace at Versailles

Baroque Décor at Versailles

The 'palace' at Versailles was originally a hunting lodge used by his father. Louis the XIV made many improvements and extensions to the Palace at Versailles during his life time. As he wished his entire court to relocate to the palace at Versailles, about twenty five miles south of Paris, he had the palace extended by an additional 600 rooms, bringing the total to about 700 rooms. In addition, the castle had more than 2000 windows, 67 flights of stairs, 1250 fireplaces, and the garden park surrounding it comprised 1800 acres. As was the fashion of the time, Louis XIV commissioned a hall of mirrors, and this has become one of the most famous rooms of the Palace at Versailles. For his throne room, Louis XIV commissioned the Salon of Apollo – the Sun God – to remind people of his magnificence. The palace at Versailles could accommodate 6000 people.

The palace at Versailles had every conceivable kind of facility needed or desired, including a white and gold chapel, a paneled library, a clock room, and a room for the opera which was lit by some 10,000 candles.

The cost of the palace is said to have nearly bankrupted France and some 30,000 people were employed in the building of it.

Baroque décor was very much in fashion during the reign of Louis XIV. It was overly-rich, refined, detailed, with much of it in gold. In addition, furniture, paintings, tapestries, sculptures, murals, crockery and cutlery were designed and made by the best artists in the land. The garden comprised fountains, waterfalls, statues, British like formal gardens, paths with trees on either side, and a mile long canal.

Palace at Versailles
Palace at Versailles
Gardens at Versailles Palace
Gardens at Versailles Palace

Celebrations and Events During the Reign of Louis XIV
Louis XIV went to war quite often during his early reign – specifically with Spain. However, that did not stop him from entertaining so lavishly that it was spoken of throughout Europe. His court also implemented a very strict royal protocol, even in the way the king would wake up in the morning. The court was known for operas and ballets, and most unusually, Louis XIV was a ballet dancer and often danced the lead roles in the ballets composed by Moliere.

The events generally took place at the Hall of Mirrors and many thousands of courtiers attended. Some of these events would last several days, while others would stretch into a week of sumptuous entertainment. Cooking for the guests at court banquets required some 2000 cooks!

Fashion, dress, and carrying out the etiquette that Louix XIV designed took enormous amount of time. There was a lot of gossip, and with the king openly having love affairs with his mistresses - Mademoiselle de La Vallière, Madame de Montespan, and Mademoiselle de Fontanges – it was the norm for many at court to indulge in numerous affairs of the heart.

Louis XIV, the Sun King: The Monarch who Changed France

While Louis XIV focused on ensuring that his court was the epitome of glamour, entertainment, and focus, his real objective was to make France a great nation. He was responsible for making himself the absolute authority in France (ancient regime), increasing the territory of France, for winning the war against Spain, and subsequently putting a French man (his son) on the Spanish throne. He also revoked the Edict of Nantes which resulted in the French Huguenots (Protestants) leaving France for South Africa. The sun king was aware that his policies were not of the best and always said, “After me, the deluge.”

hall of mirrors
hall of mirrors
Part of the Small Bed Chamber of Louis XIV
Part of the Small Bed Chamber of Loui...
The Ceiling of One of the Rooms at the Court of Versailles
The Ceiling of One of the Rooms at the Court of Versailles
A Baroque Style Bed at Versailles
A Baroque Style Bed at Versailles
Chapel at Palace of versailles
Chapel at Palace of versailles
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fil...

Fashion and Dress at court at Versailles

Dress was opulent for both men and women as can be seen in pictures below. Color was intense - reds, violet, and silver abounded. Gold was reserved for the king and for those he favored and, therefore, permitted to wear. Silks, brocades, lace, velvet, and linens were often painted on and muslins, while muslims, imported from India, were embroidered upon. These fabrics, expensive though they were, were in high demand. Dress for both men and women were highly decorative and very opulent. They were hats and wigs, and women waved fans to match dresses. The women wore a dress known as the 'Frondeuse' in the early part of the Sun King's reign and the "justacorps" in the later part of his rule.

Madame de Montespan was a mistress of Louis XIV. Dressed in a stunning blue dress with soft gold cloth. The fact that she was permitted to wear gold showed that she was a favorite of the king and had the king's permission to do so.
Portrait of Madame de Montespan (1640-1707), Mistress of the Sun King
Portrait of Madame de Montespan (1640...
Portrait of Maria Theresa of Austria as Queen of France. Dress indicated opulence with embroidery on silk and flowing fabric with off the shoulder style was standard.
Queen of France : Maria Teresa
Queen of France : Maria Teresa
Event at Versailles in 1667
Event at Versailles in 1667

Louis XIV - the Sun King: Louis XIV - the Sun King
Louis XIV of France ranks as one of the most remarkable monarchs in history. He reigned for 72 years, 54 of them he personally controlled French government. The 17th century is labeled as the age of Louis XIV. Since then his rule has been hailed as t

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Explore times of France's 'Sun King,' Louis XIV, who expanded the Palace at Versailles into one of the largest palaces in the world, on Biography.com.

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Death and Succession of Louis XIV, the Sun King, King of France.
Louis XIV died of gangrene in Versailles at the age of 76. He had come to the throne at the age of four, and had never known anything of a normal life. As he had always worked hard to ensure that there were no threats to his power, he had, in a way caused issues with his successors. His sons died either before him, or shortly after him. The sons of his sons also didn’t live to succeed Louis XIV. The only heir left was the five year old Duke of Anjou who was Louis XIV’s great grandson.

The sun king knew that there would be many troubles after him and said, "After me, the deluge."

Louis XIV is remembered for many things, but it is the Palace at Versailles, the grand entertainment, and his many mistresses that live on in the public imagination. Alexander Dumas, author of the Three Musketeers, wrote about Louis XIV in his book, The Man in the Iron Mask. Anne Golan set her famous historical novel, Angelique, in the time of Louis XIV.

Updated: 01/16/2013, TessaSchlesinger
 
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