The Sunset of the Splendid Century: The Life and Times of Louis Auguste de Bourbon, Duc Du Maine, 1670-1736

The Sunset of the Splendid Century: The Life and Times of Louis Auguste de Bourbon, Duc Du Maine, 1670-1736

The Sunset of the Splendid Century: The Life and Times of Louis Auguste de Bourbon, Duc Du Maine, 1670-1736

The Sunset of the Splendid Century: The Life and Times of Louis Auguste de Bourbon, Duc Du Maine, 1670-1736

Excerpt

In a very loose sense this book might be regarded as a sequel to The Splendid Century, published in 1953. But as it is a story complete in itself, I should prefer to say that it is the France of Louis XIV seen from a different angle. In The Splendid Century I dealt with classes rather than individuals, with problems of government and policy, rather than with private lives. Here, I have endeavoured to complete the picture by telling the life-story of the Duc du Maine, Bastard of France, against a lightly sketched background showing the rise, triumph, and decline of Louis XIV, and the repercussions which followed on his death.

Readers who know the period may perhaps be a little surprised at the choice of the Duc du Maine as the central figure, but there was a reason for his selection. We have enough, perhaps too much history as seen through the eyes of its makers, and we certainly know too little about most reigns as they appeared to the minor characters who lived through them. Now the Duc du Maine, in spite of his peculiar status, was a very ordinary man, and in writing his biography I have, I think, given a picture of the life of any typical rank and file member of Louis XIV's higher aristocracy. I selected Maine precisely for his ordinariness; a more prominent figure would not have served my purpose so well.

Anyone who writes about the past is at once faced with the baffling problem of money, and it may be confessed at once that the question of its conversion into any intelligible figures presents almost insuperable difficulties. To attempt any real comparison between the cost of living today and that in the seventeenth century would require a lifetime of research by a monetary expert, and I can offer the reader no better assistance than the very rough conversion table on which I worked myself:

1 livre (silver)=1 franc (17th cent.)=1 franc (1914)=10d. (1914) 6 ,, ,, =1 crown ,, =6 ,, ,, =5s. ,, 4 crowns ,, =1 louis (gold) ,, =24 ,, ,, =20s. , . . .

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