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Introduction: The Court of Louis XIV—How To Get Ahead (03:01)


Ritual and affectation permeated the royal court. In France, one must capture the notice of the Sun King. Louis XIV chose the sun to demonstrate omnipotence; his 72-year reign combined absolute authority with showmanship.

Rule 1: Build the World's Biggest Palace (04:27)

Louis XIV wanted to transform Versailles into a power base and royal city. The king poached Charles Le Brun from his finance minister after throwing him in jail. Venetian craftsmen made the chandeliers, candelabras, and mirrors in the Hall of Mirrors.

Rule 2: French Is Best (02:09)

Louis XIV felt that Gian Lorenzo Bernini's designs were too flowery. The artist returned to Rome and worked on an equestrian statue of the king. When it arrived, the Sun King relegated it to the far corner of the gardens.

Rule 3: Cultivate Your Garden (02:36)

The gardens contained fountains, groves, spectacular vistas, and manicured lawns. Louis XIV offered Andre Le Notre his coat of arms. Orange trees flowered every month and adorned the royal apartments.

Rule 4: Irrigate to Ingratiate (03:15)

Louis XIV ordered the creation of a vast canal with scale model warships. Engineers diverted streams, drained lakes, and built dams until creating the pumping station on the Seine River; 120 miles of pipes sent five million gallons of water daily to Versailles.

Rule 5: Find Your Niche (02:41)

Nobles rebelled against Louis XIV when he was a child. Rich aristocrats who preferred not to walk were carried across the Long Gallery. A duchess who was abandoned by her husband became a maid of honor.

Rule 6: Penetrate the Inner Sanctum (03:02)

Louis XIV promised free access to the monarchy, but guards had clear instructions to keep the unwanted out of Versailles. To gain entrance to the king's bedchamber, one must scratch the door with one's left pinky finger. Etiquette demanded that one not sit before social betters.

Rule 7: Keep Your Hair On (03:42)

Georges Binet specialized in making the king's wigs. Syphilis caused men's hair to fall out; Louis XIV suffered from hereditary baldness. Hackles made of wood helped divide the hair before wig application.

Rule 8: Dress to Impress (04:57)

Louis XIV wanted courtiers to wear the latest couture and expected the nobles to pay expenses. Wardrobe choices included stockings, pantaloons, waistcoat, lace, and coats. Bathing was unpopular.

Rule 9: Hide Your Vulnerabilities (01:57)

Courtiers fell out of favor for asking to use the restroom. Versailles did not have many facilities. Louis XIV showed intolerance toward illness and pregnancy.

Rule 10: Groveling Is Good (02:24)

In his memoirs, the Duke of Saint-Simon recalls the court of Louis XIV. The king most sought the adulation of his ministers.

Rule 11: Practice the Right Moves (04:01)

Louis XIV starred as Apollo in a ballet. Courtiers were expected to attend balls. The French taught dance in the military to strengthen the legs.

Rule 12: Let the King Call the Tune (02:01)

Louis XIV had musicians follow him wherever he went. Jean-Baptiste Lully composed new music daily for Versailles. Musicians included Marin Marais, Francois Couperin, and Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

Rule 13: Titillate the Royal Tastebuds (02:10)

An army of cooks created banquets fit for the king. Francois Vatel committed suicide after becoming distraught over the lateness of a seafood delivery.

Rule 14: Faire L' amour Avec Le Roi (02:59)

The king's mistresses included Louise de la Valliere, Athenais de Montespan, Marie de Fontanges, and Francoise de Maintenon. Courtiers dreaded crossing the Marble Court. Louis XIV's favorite painting depicted King David playing the harp.

Rule 15: Seduce by Sorcery (06:41)

In 1666, Montespan consulted Madame La Voisin to create a love potion for the king. Courtiers purchased a concoction of arsenic and lead to remove a court rival. La Voisin was tortured, tried, and hung after the "Affaire des Poisons."

Rule 16: Probe Gently (03:28)

Most courtiers were banned from sitting in the king's presence. Louis XIV developed an anal fistula and demanded the barber remove it. Charles Francois Felix designed a retractor and scalpel to perform the surgery.

Rule 17: Deify the King (02:00)

Hyacinthe Rigaud was challenged to paint the aging Louis XIV without reducing his power. Propriety dictated courtiers never turn their back to the painting.

Rule 18: Don't Stop the Music (01:18)

Louis XIV reigned for 72 years and 110 days. His court had endless entertainments, fireworks, and parties. Kings lived at Versailles until the French Revolution.

Credits: The Court of Louis XIV—How To Get Ahead (00:35)

Credits: The Court of Louis XIV—How To Get Ahead

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The Court of Louis XIV—How To Get Ahead

Part of the Series : How To Get Ahead
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This program explores the flamboyant Baroque court of the Sun King, Louis XIV. Louis created the Palace of Versailles so that he could surround himself with aristocrats, artists, interior designers, gardeners, wigmakers, chefs, and musicians. Hordes of ambitious courtiers scrambled to get close to the king, but it was the unseemly activities in the royal bedchamber that reflected the quickest path to power.

Length: 60 minutes

Item#: BVL186725

Copyright date: ©2013

Closed Captioned

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