LE ROI EST MORT, VIVE LE ROI !
To mark the occasion of the death, 300 years ago, of one of France’s greatest Kings, Louis XIV, a.k.a. The Sun King, the Palace of Versailles is dedicating an exhibition to him that is simply called The King is dead! Or rather, Le Roi est mort !
Below is the dazzling Hall of Mirrors. And below that the Orangerie, one of the grand gardens of Europe. The last time I visited the Chateau of Versailles was with my mother and a family friend, Alan Birch, in the early 1990s. I think it’s time for a renewed visit.
The exhibition – the first on the subject – will look back on the details of the death, autopsy and funeral of Louis XIV and situate them in the funeral context of European sovereigns from the Renaissance period to the Enlightenment.
The exhibition will also bring together works of art and historical documents of major importance from the largest French and foreign collections, including ceremonial portraits, funeral statues and effigies, gravestones, the manuscript for the account of the autopsy of the king, coins from the Saint-Denis Treasury, gold medals, emblems and ornaments, and furniture of funeral liturgy. Some of the pieces on display have never been exhibited in public.
Louis XIV (1638-1715), the son of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, was one of France’s most important monarchs. He ruled from 1643 to 1715 and was known as the Sun King. His childhood was marked by the political troubles of the Fronde, so throughout his reign he sought to maintain the unity of the kingdom at all cost, crushing any moves the aristocracy made to obtain extra power. In 1660 he married Maria Theresa of Austria. In 1661, after the death of Cardinal Mazarin, finally free of his influence, Louis XIV wielded absolute power, but was shrewd enough to surround himself with devoted and talented ministers such as Colbert, Louvois, and Vauban.
The King is dead!
From 27th October 2015 to 21st February 2016
For those who like to read historical royal biographies….this book, written by the superb historian and biographer Antonia Fraser, author of Marie Antoinette, “sheds welcome light on the galaxy of influential women who orbited the dazzling Sun King.” (Publishers Weekly) This is the sort of book I’d like to read on a long plane trip.
“All the scandal and brilliance and bling of Louis and his ladies is shown in context – social, dynastic, political, religious – but depicted so deftly and vividly that you’re there. This is an intriguing insight into the shifting roles of aristocratic women in 17th-century France.” (Ian Ramsey,Tatler)