Louis XIV‘s reign was long, 72 years. He continued the transition from feudalism started by his father Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu, and took advantage of the urgent need for law and order at that period to create a very centralized state. He had considerable success controlling the aristocracy who had participated in the Fronde rebellions some years earlier. He achieved this basically by making Versailles the center of political power and moving his whole court there.
The king required all nobles of certain rank and position to spend part of the year at Versailles, which inevitably prevented them from developing their regional power. He established a strict court etiquette at Versailles in which everything revolved around the king. His famously ceremonial Levers are a manifestation of these rituals that tired and irritated everyone involved.
Louis XIV wore high heels and made it fashionable for both men and women to wear heels around the palace. No one could wear heels higher than those of the king, however, and only his immediate family was allowed to wear red heels. Christian Louboutin‘s red soles can be traced back to Louis’ Versailles. Catholic Popes also use red in their shoes, but this can probably be traced further back in time, though, all the way to the Bizantine emperors.
At the beginning of Louis XIV’s reign, his treasury was almost bankrupt and he had to urgently address this issue. This meant getting of rid of Nicolas Fouquet, the Surintendant des Finances. Not necessarily lavisher than his predecessors, he however miscalculated terribly when he organized an opulent inauguration for his spectacular new château at Vaux-le-Vicomte. This party at Vaux-le-Vicomte was attended by the king and the rest of the court. Fouquet’s ambition became all too apparent, so Louis, sensing a threat, had him arrested a few days later -by a captain of the royal musketeers named d’Artagnan– and he was accused of embezzlement and misappropiation of public funds. After a long trial he was finally sentenced to life-imprisonment at the fortress of Pignerol. There, he enjoyed the company of another very famous inmate, a man called Eustache Dauger, better known as the The Man in the Iron Mask.
Louis XIV had a younger brother who, despite being second in line to the throne of France, was never groomed to be king. The story of Phillip I, Duke of Orléans is fascinating, for he was raised as a girl, a uniquely unorthodox way to prevent him from having any ambitions to be king. This didn’t stop him from getting married, however, or having mistresses, many children, and even becoming a brave general in battle. Phillip’s progeny survived the French Revolution, unlike Louis XIV’s, and today many royal houses in Europe are populated by descendants.
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