Louis XIV of France
This month marks the 300th anniversary of the death of French king Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King.
Louis XIV’s rule of France lasted for 72 years, 3 months and 18 days, making his reign longer than that of any other known European sovereign in history. During his many decades as king, Louis XIV transformed the French monarchy by successfully increasing the authority of crown over church and aristocracy, and augmenting the power of France on the world stage. Culturally, Louis XVI ushered in a new golden age of literature and art, supporting many writers and artists with his patronage. The spectacular Palace of Versailles, to which he had relocated his government in 1682, served as a dazzling back-drop for state affairs.
Over his lifetime, Louis XIV is said to have commissioned numerous artworks to portray himself, among them over 300 formal portraits. In most, the monarch is depicted in a very idealised style, avoiding any visual references to the smallpox scars he carried on his face since childhood. His personal life saw two marriages - a formal one to Maria Theresa, daughter of Philip IV of Spain, in 1660 and a secret one to Madame de Maintenon in the 1680s – as well as a string of mistresses and children from various affairs.
On his deathbed, Louis XIV is meant to have said: “Je m’en vais, mais l’État demeurera toujours” (“I depart, but the State shall always remain”). In this spirit, we examine the legacy created by one of Europe’s greatest monarchs with this series of pictures from the akg-images archive.