søndag den 29. marts 2015

Louis, the Grand Dauphin

Louis was born on 1 November 1661 as the son of Louis XIV and Marie Thérèse at Fontainebleau. His childhood was spent in the same way as every other royal child in France: until the age of 7 Louis was in the care of women.

When he was transferred to the care of men, the Duc de Montausier was made his governor. That proved to be a terrible mistake. The Duc de Montausier used very harsh methods of disciplining and teaching his young charge and the young Louis was simply not cut out for that sort of treatment. His tutor, Bossuet, thundered ahead and ended up instilling a lifelong resentment of books and learning in the young Dauphin.

Louis was not as intelligent as one might have wished and was terrified of his father whom he seldom saw privately. Louis XIV never really allowed his son to have any real influence, not even as the heir to the throne grew into his adolescence. Louis was given five siblings but they all died in their early years; the one he knew the longest died when Louis was 11 years old. To prevent Louis from being deprived of the company of children his own age, it was decided that Marie Louise d'Orlèans - the young daughter of Philippe and Louis' cousin - were raised together.

At the age of seven Louis was betrothed to Maria Anna Victoria of Bavaria whom he married by proxy in January 1680. The couple met for the first time in the early days of March that year.

As he grew into his twenties Louis engaged in his passion for the arts and amassed one of the greatest collection at Versailles. Over all, Louis was a leisurely man but he hardly had a choice in that. Louis XIV allowed his son to sit in on the council meetings but that was as far as his influence went. Instead, the Grand Dauphin was remarked to be quite lazy and it was noted that he could spent an entire day sitting in an armchair tapping his cane.

Despite being rather idle, Louis was interested in the military campaigns of his father. In 1688 he was sent to the Rhineland where he succeeded in taking several vital bridges. He became especially popular among the soldiers when he visited the wounded in person immediately after the battle. Two years later his wife died. The two had never been close but had still produced three sons.

Louis caused quite a scandal when he married his mistress in 1695 rather than waiting for his father to arrange a new marriage. She was never acknowledged as Dauphine though. For the remnant of his life he expanded his already extensive collections and added to the château de Meudon that his father had bought for him. In the spring of 1711 Louis caught smallpox which killed him on 11 April.

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