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Louis XIV

Louis XIV was born at the Royal chateau in Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1638. (Died 1715.) Ruled as king 1643-1715.

He was only five when he became king on the death of his father, Louis XIII. His mother, Anne of Austria, served as regent during his minority, but the real power was held by his godfather and prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin. Louis was raised in the Palais Royal.
In 1660, Louis XIV married Maria Theresa, Infanta of Spain. The following year, on the death of his godfather and prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, the 23-year-old monarch announced that he himself would govern.

The first twenty years of the king's personal reign were the most brilliant. With his minister, Colbert, he carried out the administrative and financial reorganization of the kingdom, as well as the development of trade and manufacturing. With the Marquis de Louvois, he reformed the army and racked up military victories. Finally, Louis encouraged an extraordinary blossoming of culture.

Louis XIV chose the sun as his emblem. The sun was associated with Apollo, god of peace and arts, and was also the heavenly body which gave life to all things, regulating everything as it rose and set.

Love affairs with Marie Mancini, Louise de la Valli鑢e, Madame de Montespan and several other yielded many offspring, whom Louis XIV later legitimized or betrothed to other members of the royal family.


In France, the Baroque found its greatest expression in the service of the monarchy rather than the church. Louis XIV realized the importance of the arts as a propaganda medium in promoting the idea of his regal glory, and his palace at Versailles -- with its grandiose combination of architecture, sculpture, painting, decoration, and (not least) the art of the gardener -- represents one of the supreme examples of the Baroque fusion of the arts to create an overwhelmingly impressive whole. (The German term Gesamtkunstwerk--"total work of art"--has been applied to this ideal.) In France, as in other countries, the Baroque style merged imperceptibly with the Rococo style that followed it.


In 1660, Louis XIV, coming to majority and taking on full royal powers, was casting about for a site near Paris but away from the tumults of the city. He had grown up in the disorders of the civil war between rival bands of aristocrats called the Fronde and wanted a site where he could organize and completely control a government of France centered upon his person. He settled on his father's hunting lodge at Versailles and decided to convert it into a palace.

It was expanded by Louis XIV beginning in 1669. He used it as a little lodge as a secret refuge for his amorous trysts with the lovely Louise de la Valliere and built a fairy tale park around it.  Jules Hardouin Mansart, the king's principal architect, drew the plans to enlarge it. The terrace that overlooked the gardens was removed to make way for the magnificent Hall of Mirrors, the Galarie de Glaces. It is here from which the king radiated his power and where the destiny of Europe was decided over a century. The architecture was complemented by extensive gardens.

The ch鈚eau was largely completed by 1688. The team of architect Louis Le Vau, decorator Charles Le Brun and garden designer Andr?Le N魌re had been assembled

On May 6, 1682 Louis XIV took up his residence in the ch鈚eau.

The Palace of Versailles was the official residence of the Kings of France from 1682 until 1790.

See also: Architecture and Furniture Outline: France, England and America


Photos and their arrangement ?2005 Chuck LaChiusa
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