Monday, 18 March 2013

Louis XV

Louis XV succeeded his great-grandfather, Louis XIV, when he was only four years old. But this Bourbon King was very different from his famous predecessor. Louis XV did not enjoy the endless public ceremonies and is often described as being a melancholic man and was in some ways an unhappy man. This unhappiness was most likely caused by the loneliness of his early childhood when he lost four close family members within weeks and found it too difficult to find someone to take their places. He took control of his kingdom when his chief minister Cardinal de Fleury died.

He moved the court and government back to Versailles which had been largely abandoned ever since the death of the Sun King. During the first half of his reign Louis was known as the "Beloved" and was generally popular among  the people - something that would change later in life. He often preferred the small retreats of Marly, Choisy and Trianon where he could escape some of the strict court etiquette. He even served small dishes for very favoured friends on rare occasions.

France grew during the reign of this melancholic king. After the victory at Fontenoy, the Austrian Netherlands were returned to France - later on Lorraine and Corsica was added too. However during the Seven Years War, France lost almost all of her colonies to Britain for which Louis became very unpopular by. In 1757 Louis survived an assassination attempt. He married Marie Leszczynska with whom he had ten children. As a ruler he was heavily influenced by his mistresses especially by Madame de Pompadour.

At the end of Louis' reign, the Duc de Choiseul took over government and tried to bring back stability to France. But this was hindered by the many expensive wars, the huge expenses from court and a failed attempt to reform. Louis XV died of smallpox (the same illness that had killed his four relatives) on May 10, 1774. Due to fear of infections, Louis XV's body was hastily driven away from Versailles and buried in a specially sealed coffin.

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