Louis Xiv--Palace Of VersaillesThis print version free essay Louis Xiv--Palace Of Versailles.
Category: History Other
Autor: reviewessays 28 November 2010
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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." http://www.a-castle-for-rent.com. 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" (http://splendors-versailles.org. 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. http://www.greatbuildings.com. 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. In the Palace, there are more than seven hundred rooms, but the most important and the most famous place in the palace is the Hall of Mirrors. This masterpiece of a room was created by Mansart and Le Brun between 1678-1686. It was in this room on January 18th, 1871, that the German Empire was officially proclaimed, and Wihelm was proclaimed emperor of a united Germany. Also, on June 28th, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, ending World War One. This room is generally the major attraction of the palace and is currently undergoing restoration.
The Palace consists of 2143 windows, 1252 fireplaces, sixty-seven staircases and 1400 fountains. The length of the garden front is 670 metres. Because of this Palace's extensive size, Louis XIV actually took up his residence before it was even done being built on May 6th, 1682. The palace was completed in 1701.
While the Palace was grand and luxurious, it was also extremely expensive to maintain. It has been estimated that maintaining the Palace consumed as much as twenty-five percent of the entire government income of France. (Chateau de Versailles. 26 May. 2005 http://www.nationmaster.com.). France's Minister of Finance, Jean-Baptiste Colbert realized that if France were to become a world power, it would need to have economic power. In order to raise the money needed, Colbert reorganized the tax system and ensured that the nobles complied with tax laws. He also created a tariff to protect French industry. Colbert believed in a system in which the government controls all aspects of the economy. He even made it illegal for people to purchase anything outside of France that could be made in France.
Colbert increased French expansion overseas. He was extremely interested in making Canada a French colony. In 1608, Quebec had been settled by peasants rounded up by Colbert in western France. Colbert's financial reform and policies gave the king the resources he needed not only to increase France's power, but also to build the palace he dreamed of.
The people of France suffered because of the tax increase. Many people could not afford the taxes that arose such as head tax. Head tax is a type of tax that is imposed on individuals for no specific reason, other than the fact that the government needed money (in this case only, otherwise used to discriminate). Despite what Louis XIV was doing for his country (other than building the palace) his efforts did not bring prosperity to the common people of France. The several wars and his extravagant palaces effectively bankrupted France, forcing him to assess high taxes on the peasants. As the nobility and clergy had exemption from paying these taxes, the peasants resented them. These peasants could not do much though. They tried to rebel, but they could not because it would just have an end result which was much worse than the state that they were already in. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer. Louis XIV did not care because he was a part of the rich.
The costs were continually mounting up and the King became alarmed. He ordered Colbert to reduce the expenses. While Louis XIV was aging, he began to realize what he was doing to the people of his country. This is another reason why he ordered Colbert to reduce the costs.
Over the years, Louis XIV began to slow down. Not only as a man, but as a leader. He did not have the drive that had lasted him so many years in power. He could no longer act as strong as the people believed him to be. To many of his country, he was known as the greatest leader of all time. One of the men who worked on the Palace, describes Louis XIV in his old age, going round the gardens in a wheel chair accompanies by Andre Le Notre (the head gardener and landscaper). Louis XIV notices that Le Notre could not keep up with him because he was just as old as he was, if not older. Louis XIV then placed him in a wheel chair just like him. Le Notre said after he took Louis XIV though the entire gardens that:
"If my poor father were alive and could see a poor gardener
like his son going about in a chair beside the greatest King in
the world, my happiness would be complete."
(Poirier: Page 140)
Many people believed Louis XIV to be the best king of all time, especially the people who worked on the Palace. Yes, Louis XIV did make the palace splendid but his country was not. The poor got poorer and the rich got richer. The poor went through devastation, and all to make the King pleased. There was nothing they could do, so they had to follow. The King could have lived at the Louvre, where all of the other kings of France lived before but he believed himself to be the state. His country should have wanted the best for him, no matter the cost. He also wanted to remember his father and honour his wishes to honour his father. His family meant a great deal to him, and the people of the country, even the poor, began to see that once he began to slow down. Because of louis XIV and the people of France, Versailles is the home of the world's largest History museum as of 2005. This museum is magnificent in all ways. Its gardens are still flawless, yet the trees have all been replaced over the years because they could no longer be acceptable for people to remember the best King of France as. This Palace is beautiful to the eye, inside and out. That is what mattered most to Louis XIV. Louis XIV wishes and dreams were made a reality at the cost of the people of France.
Haberman, Arthur, and Adrian Shubert. The West and the World. Toronto: Gage Learning Corporation, 2002.
Poirier, Rene. The Fifteen Wonders of the World.
Ryo, Christian , ed. Your Visit to Versailles. 4th ed. Versailles: Editions Art Lys, 2002.
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