Louis XIV

Louis XIV

Louis XIV

Louis XIV

Excerpt

The author of a one-volume biography of Louis XIV must be prepared to give more attention to some aspects of the king's career than to others; the choice that he makes reflects his appraisal of the king's impact upon our civilization and his place in history. This probably accounts for the remark of a distinguished clinical psychologist who read the manuscript: "But John, you have given more attention to war than to sex!" I could excuse myself by saying that other writers have long since explored some aspects of Louis' life beyond the frontiers of credible evidence, but, in fact, my interpretation emerges from my conviction that his part in the development of the bureaucratic, military, police state and in the rise of the European balance cf power as the governing mechanism for European society was the most important contribution of his reign. Therefore I have, first of all, attempted to present the king as he appeared to his ministers, his soldiers, and his diplomats rather than the picture of him we might get from the gossips, place-seekers, and others who inhabited his court and produced so many of the mémoires that have served as sources for the story of his life. I have not ignored the part of his life that scandalized his contemporaries as well as his historians, but I have emphasized the story of the king whose career as king was the most dramatic representation of that role ever played on the European stage. Louis was king in his court, in his council chambers, with his armies; I have tried to follow his career as soldier-statesman, as administrator, and as ceremonial official. It has proved to be a difficult task, for, unhappily, many of the materials that we would like to use have not survived.

Obviously Louis XIV was not alone responsible for the impact of his reign on Europe's history; his collaborators, his friends and allies, his enemies, those indifferent to him, and a host of people whose lives and labors rarely find any recognition in the pages of history have all contributed to the era of Louis XIV. Indeed, in this story I have even suggested that the king may have been merely an accomplished actor who played out a role which may have been written by others. Nonetheless . . .

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