LOUIS XIV: A Royal Life by Olivier Bernier

LOUIS XIV: A Royal Life

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A new biography of the ""Sun King""--whose 72-year reign was the longest in modern European history--by Bernier (Secrets of Marie Antoinette, 1985; Lafayette, 1983; etc.). It is fashionable to criticize Louis' reign and style. He has been blamed for everything from his philandering to depleting the French treasury for his wars to his gaudy taste in architecture and decor (which reached its epitome in the costly Palace of Versailles) to laying the groundwork for the French Revolution. But Bernier offers a more apologetic approach, fairly gushing over Louis' accomplishments. He criticizes Louis' detractors, stating that they have attacked him on the wrong grounds (although he never quite makes clear what he might consider the right grounds). The Revolution, for instance, found its roots, in conventional lore, in Louis' isolation of himself and the nobles at Versailles, creating the situation of absentee landlordism. Bernier soft-soaps this belief with the weak argument that the blame lay squarely on his two successors for continuing Louis' style of rule. Similarly, Bernier disclaims the theory that Louis' wars bled the treasury, pointing to France's prosperity after his death. Louis' wars, states the author, ""left France a stronger, larger, and richer country."" He slips quietly past the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, too, which bled the country not of money, but of brains. "". . .On balance, his was not only the most splendid reign in the history of France, it was also one of the most positive and most successful."" Monarchists will love this portrait, but others will demure--despite Bernier's engaging style.

Pub Date: Nov. 6th, 1987
Publisher: Doubleday