Louis XIV: The Days of Elegance


The term ³splendid² is one that most English speaking people are 
familiar with. To most of those people it has a meaning related to the 
overall appearance or feeling of what ever is being described. 
Webster¹s dictionary defines the term as: 1. magnificent and 
sumptuous. 2. distinguished or glorious. Splendor is more that that. 
It is an adjective that could be used to describe something so great 
and breath taking that one is left awed.The word splendid is often 
associated with the palace of Versailles, which was built Louis XIV. 
In the production of this grand structure there was no cost spared. It 
became a symbol of France, and a model by which all other palaces 
would be judged. Louis XIV received a great deal of criticism from 
onlookers as he used the French equivalent to millions of dollars to 
built this outstanding structure. There is still some speculation as 
to whether or not this was a good investment. It has been argued that 
the money could have gone to the poor or needy. The palace of 
Versailles was controversial, but in high insight, it is clear that 
Louis XIV made a sound decision in its erection.
 As Louis XIV took the throne, he was faced with several problems. He 
knew that he did not want to reside and rule in Paris, so against the 
will of his advisors he chose a hunting chateau as the site of his new 
palace. He also knew from history that the nobles of his domain had in 
the past and would continue to cause trouble in the form of uprisings 
and other conflicts. Louis XIV sought absolute power, and he knew that 
he would not be able to obtain this if preoccupied by civil conflicts. 
His solution to this problem was building Versailles and inviting all 
of the nobles to reside there. This was a brilliant scheme to keep the 
nobles out of the politics of the country. He preoccupied them with 
tasked normally associated with chamber maids, thus allowing him to 
rule as an absolute monarch. The splendor of the palace was a key 
factor in this plan because with out it, the nobles would not have a 
willing to leave their homes and move to Versailles. 
 The historical account, The Splendid Century , written by W.H. Lewis 
is a very useful tool in understanding the life of Louis XIV. It tells 
of his life, his goals, his motives, and the means by which he 
achieved those goals. It is blatantly obvious that Louis XIV though 
a great monarch, cared little for the common people of his country. 
Regardless of this, it is almost a matter common knowledge that Louis 
XIV brought France to its peak in terms of its respect and social 
status in the world. During his reign France became the authority on 
all that was proper and elegant. All of this seems trivial, but the 
fact is, it was very important to the people of the upper class, and 
as always they were controlling the world. 
 There were several qualities that Louis XIV possessed that were found 
undesirable by his common subjects. His tax system weighed most 
heavily on the lower class, and they were often called to fight in all 
sorts of different wars for the extension of the empire. It 
understandable that he was popular among these people, but their 
opinion was really not significant on the grand scheme of his plans 
for France. There is no question that Louis XIV took France to an 
entire new level in the world view. During his reign, the French 
empire grew vastly, and was greatly respected. To this day, he 
remains a French hero, and is widely viewed as the greatest monarch 
that ever lived. It is not because of his accomplishments that these 
views are held, but rather his ability to play the part of a great 
leader. All of this was possibly because of his emphasis on 
materialistic splendor. He knew that by enticing his rivals with 
riches, he then could control Europe. 
 When it is said that Louis XIV had an ability to play the part of a 
great leader there is often misunderstanding. He was a powerful ruler, 
but more importantly that , he took his role as king very seriously. 
He was known to be a very handsome man with a well proportioned body. 
He believed appearances and material goods were an important aspect of 
royality. He allowed people to watch him and follow him at all times, 
and he made the responsibilities of chamber maids into honors that 
certain nobles were allowed to perform. He was always well dressed and 
concerned with his appearance. In a sense he was a very superficial 
person, but he felt that he was doing his regal duty. Louis XIV 
possessed a passion for the splendor of the material world that led 
him to become the greatest leader France has ever seen.


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