Monday 1 September 2014

The Death of the Sun King

Louis XIV (Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, 5th September 1638 - Versailles, France, 1st September 1715)

Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1701
Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1701

On this day, almost three hundred years ago, Louis XIV, the Sun King, died. His reign of seventy two years was the longest of any European monarch and he left behind a legacy of monarchical absolutism that was ended only by the French Revolution.

On 10th August, the king went hunting in Marly and on his return complained of a pain in his leg. His doctor, Guy-Crescent Fagon, was summoned and swiftly diagnoses sciatica, a diagnosis that he steadfastly refused to change even as black marks began to appear on the king's leg, a sure sign of encroaching gangrene. Louis attempted to carry on about his business but the pain worsened with each passing day and on 25th August, he was forced to retire to his bed at Versailles. He would not leave the room alive again.

With Fagon clinging to his initial diagnosis of sciatica, the king endured an agonising final week. He received and gave counsel to his successor, bade farewell to court and intimates and as his health failed, sank into near-unconsciousness. Louis XIV lingered on until 1st September 1715, passing away at just after eight o'clock in the morning.

After remaining on view for eight days, the remains of the king were transferred to the Saint-Denis Basilica, where they would remain until they were exhumed during the French Revolution.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
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Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)


sarah c said...

One of my most favorite monarchs. Thank you for the post-

Catherine Curzon said...

A pleasure!

Drayton Bird said...

I wonder what happened to the doctor? Nothing much has changed since then: I wouldn't say Louis was my favourite: he must have been responsible for more deaths than any other 18th century monarch.

Catherine Curzon said...

He left his role as physician but continued in charge of the Royal Gardens until his death. He had a reputation for bleeding patients and wasn't well liked.

Terry Tyler said...

Fascinating - I never knew how he died.

Catherine Curzon said...

A gruesome end!

Debra Brown said...

Sounds pretty stubborn with that diagnoses! Apparently he didn't know how to fix anything else, so had to resort to that.

Catherine Curzon said...

He treated everyone by bleeding, so I suppose the diagnosis was a formality. ;-)