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Louis Xiv--Palace Of Versailles

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At What Cost Should Splendid be Achieved?

Splendid is a term that Webster's Dictionary defines as 1. Magnificent and sumptuous. 2. Distinguished or glorious. Splendour means even more than that. It can be used to describe something so excellent in all ways that it leaves a person in awe. The Palace of Versailles is often associated with that term, but should it? The Palace is indeed magnificent, but what the king had done to his country and people was not. This palace cost the country of France a great amount of money, but that still did not make the king change his decision about building it. King Louis XIV had the ability to play the role of a great leader. This ability allowed him to have followers who agreed with what he was doing, no matter what the consequences. After a revolution in France during 1789, the Palace was left behind to stand and decay until 1837 when it was transformed into a museum. Today with more than eight million visitors per year, the Palace of Versailles is known to be the largest History museum in the world. ("The Palace of Versailles." 09 May. 2005 ).

Versailles is a city that is south-west from Paris, France. Versailles was lost among tall trees, with a few corn field and marshy grounds bursting with game of every kind. Here stood "an old ruined castle with five large rooms, two small towers over the entrance gate, two courtyards, a garden, a close, a dovecote, a sheep-fold, the whole comprising a little more than four acres." (Poirier, Rene. The Fifteen Wonders of the World. Page 111-112). King Henri IV often hunted here. He believed Versailles to be his escape from reality. Henri IV would often be accompanied by his son Louis XIII on his hunting voyages. After the death of Henri IV, a week never passed without Louis XIII escaping from the intrigues of the Louvres to return to the scenes of these childhood memories which he cherished most. Louis XIII remembered that his father wanted to build a hunting lodge for him and his son to sleep in when they went hunting. In order to honour that, Louis XIII built a lodge there in 1624. He would spend day and night there. This hunting lodge became Louis XIII country home. This country home was paid for out of the funds known as royal pocket money. In the year of 1627, he entrusted Jacques Lemercier with the plan of a chateau. In 1632 Louis XIII paid 66,000 livres to own the entire village and its land.

On May 14th, 1643, Louis XIII lay on his deathbed in the Louvre. Louis XIII confessed to Father Dinet " If God restores my health, as soon as the Dauphin comes of age I will put him in my place and I will retire to Versailles. I will think only of spiritual things and the salvation of my soul." (Poirier 113) A few days later, he died. After he died, his son Louis XIV took over. Louis XIV did not want to be the king of France. He believed it to be too much for him. Louis XIV did not want to even live in Paris and against the will of his advisors he chose to make the hunting lodge his new palace.

Louis XIV had the longest reign in European history. He was in power for a total of seventy-two years. The French writer Voltaire called the time of Louis' reign the "Age of Louis XIV" ( 09 May. 2005). As king, Louis XIV had only two main goals. First, he wanted to extend the French boundary to the Rhine River in the north. Second, to curb the power of the nobility. Louis XIV made France the most powerful nation in Europe.

Louis XIV was a powerful leader but believed appearances and material goods to be the most important aspect of royalty. He allowed people to watch him and follow him at all times, and he made the responsibilities of chamber maids into honours that certain nobles were allowed to perform. He was always well dressed and concerned with his appearance. Many thought of Louis XIV to be superficial, but he possessed a passion for the beauty of the material world that led him to become one of the greatest leaders France has ever seen.

Louis XIV was crowned himself the "Sun King" and coined the statement " I am the state." Louis XIV believed himself to be the best there ever was. Louis XIV was a powerful man when he wanted to be. He informed the people of France that this Palace was for them. He said that they should want their King to live in a place better than the Louvre. Louis XIV allowed the people of France to enter the Palace at almost any time during the day and night to watch him and to look at the Palace that they paid for. Throughout the years, there were many thieves. They would steal items such as lead ornaments, but they believed that they were not stealing for this palace was for them. Louis XIV made his home, the home of the nobility and insisted that they stay with him there, even if they resisted.

Louis XIV discovered a way to control the nobility. He never wanted to give them the opportunity to revolt or challenge his power in any way. He wanted them to be dependent and completely loyal to him. This is one of the reasons he established his court at Versailles. Louis XIV insisted that the nobles spend time at Versailles, he kept them from countering his efforts to centralize the French government in an absolute monarch.

Voltaire once stated "When you arrive at Versailles, from the courtyard side you see a wretched, top-heavy building with a facade seven windows long, surrounded with everything which the imagination could conceive in the way of bad taste. When you see it from the garden side, you see an immense palace whose defects are more than compensated by beauties." (Palace of Versailles. 24 May. 2005 ). Louis Le Vau was an architect who began the transformation of Versailles from a hunting lodge to a palace. La Vau's work formed the central block of Versailles, and his work became the inspiration for the changes and additions made by other architects. The architects that worked on the palace were Andre Le Notre, Louis Le Vau, Jules Hardouin-Mansart, Charles Le Brun, Robert de Cotte, and Ange-Janques Bagriel. All of the architects had to work with one another at one point in designing and building this palace. Jean Baptiste Colbert was the Superintendent of Finance and all of Louis XIV advisors attempted to discourage him from purchasing the Versailles. There were many factors that made all of these people unsure of Versailles. First of all the marshes, the lack of water, the lack of a view, but what is most important, it was not in Paris. However, Louis XIV was determined and construction began in 1661. The architects had their hands full because Louis XIV insisted that the hunting lodge stay untouched and the palace was to be built around it.


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