Onlookers were said to have mocked and sneered as Louis XIV’s funeral carriage passed through the streets of Versailles on a journey to his final burial ground. He would pass away just a few days short of his 77th birthday. He had led a spectacularly long life in a time of still very limited medical knowledge. His strong body would eventually die after it was half eaten with gangrene. But no matter how unpopular he was at that time, this figure has undoubtedly come to symbolize the French monarchy at it’s very peak.
5. Louis XIV was not very tall
Louis XIV was small in stature. His true height was 5′ 4″. And as evidenced in pictures, he would often wear tall wigs and high heels to add to his height. In fact, with the added inches, he is said to have appeared at least 7 feet tall. Louis was slightly shorter than average and took measures to make himself look taller, sporting four inch heels, often decorated with elaborate battle scenes. Eventually, he switched to having red heels on all his shoes and decreed that only the upper echelons of society could have matching red heels. It became a matter of looking at the color of a man’s heels to see if he was in the king’s inner circle.
4. Palace at Versailles
Louis XIV developed a distaste for Paris after being forced out of his palace during The Fronde. And he would eventually turn his childhood play place, a royal hunting lodge situated just outside of Paris, into a lavish monument of opulence. Not only did the King and his court reside in this 700 room palace, but so did the nobility and thousands of staff that he needed for upkeep. This structure helped to further establish the king’s dominance as it was the center for all political activity and a symbol of power.
3. Long Reign
Much like his great grandson, Louis XIV was also very young when he became king after his father’s death. He would start his rule at 4 years old and continue for the next 72 years–making his reign the longest in both French and European nation history.
2. The Nun of Moret
According to almost 350 year-old gossip, Queen Maria Theresa of Spain, wife of King Louis XIV, gave birth to a child fathered by an African lover, a dwarf servant named Nabo. This child was supposedly Louise Marie Therese, the Black Nun of Moret. The story was that upon her birth the public was told the child had died at birth. But she was actually secretly carried away to live with a wet nurse in the country for several years before entering a convent in Moret. The Black Nun of Moret is mentioned in the memoirs of several members of the French royal court, including King Louis’ mistress Madame De Montespan, as well as his second wife Madame De Maintenon. Writer and philosopher Voltaire was allegedly of the opinion she was the king’s daughter, as he’d had at least one African mistress. Pulitzer Prize-Winning playwright Lynn Nottage also wrote a play about the Black Nun of Moret entitled Les Meninas.
1. Louis XIV’s successor was France’s 2nd longest reigning king
Plagued with family tragedy towards the end of his life, it seemed as if Louis XIV would have no heir to his thrown. His one and only son died of small pox. The very next year his grandson, great-grandson and granddaughter-in-law would die of the measles. Though he did have two grandsons left, one would be killed in a hunting accident and the other forced to renounce the French thrown so that he could remain ruler of Spain. As a result of this string of misfortunes, Louis XIV requested that one of his illegitimate sons be heir to his thrown should the last remaining member of his bloodline die out. However, this was not to be–his sickly great-grandson would live to become king at the tender age of 5 years old and would rule for 59 years as Louis XV.