LOUIS XIV: A Profile by John B.--Ed. Wolf

LOUIS XIV: A Profile

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Sun King and his satellites at Versailles -- 13 essays edited by Prof. Wolf whose previous published work includes an outstanding biography of Louis XIV. Selections here are mainly by veteran historians including G. P. Gooch, Pierre Goubert, Louis Bertrand, and Ernest Lavisse. The internal development of the monarchy including the financial reforms of Colbert, the proliferation of the intendents, and the tightening of royal control over the provincial parlements and nobility are stressed over foreign and dynastic affairs although Wolf does provide a piece on Louis' gloire which argues that war was an imperative of 17th century kingship (not ""should I make war"" but ""against whom should I make war""). Historians with tender republican sympathies (e.g., Lavisse) decry the frustration of the ""new deal"" which inaugurated Louis' personal rule in 1661, blaming the escalating military campaigns for the financial straights and popular misery which characterized the last years of the reign. Excerpts from the writing of Louis' most wily detractor, the nobler-than-thou Duke of Saint-Simon, provide a good barometer to the resentments and grudges of the aristocracy which Louis ""tamed""; and the Duke de la Force offers an hour-by-hour description of a typical day in the life of the king including the etiquette of le petit lever (the awakening, rising, and dressing), the rationale for who sat where during the sumptuous meals, and a glimpse of some less formal royal diversions. Bertrand, who deals with the intellectual and cultural life of the period, unabashedly sees Louis' reign as ""a most fortunate event"" synonymous with the progress of enlightenment and art. By and large a balanced and historiographically sound presentation for serious students of the period.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1972
Publisher: Hill & Wang