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Lunchtime Lecture: Louis XIV, King of the World

Past event archive
1 August 2019, 13:15

Ondaatje Wing Theatre

Tickets: £4 (£3 concessions and Gallery Supporters) Book online, or visit the Gallery in person.

Louis XIV ('The Sun King'), King of France
published by John Smith
circa 1683-1729
NPG D11965

Immerse yourself in history, art and culture at our popular Lunchtime Lectures. Doors open at 12.45. Lectures begin at 13.15 and last approximately one hour.

Dr Philip Mansel, author of the latest biography of Louis XIV, discusses the contradictions in his personality and policies and the reasons for continued public fascination with Versailles and the Sun King and his grandiose style of monarchy that has influenced subsequent French rulers, including President Macron.

Louis XIV was a global monarch: he sent expeditions to America, Africa, India and Siam, missionaries to China, made his grandson King of Spain and conquered Alsace and much of Flanders and Burgundy. For a time he dominated England through Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth and d’Aubigny, Charles II’s principal mistress and the only woman to be created duchess in her own right in two countries, whose portrait by de Troy hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. His use of women as political agents, and concern for their education was one of his most original policies. He was also one of the greatest art patrons in history, commissioning new palaces, pictures, gardens, ballets, plays and operas. His grandiose style of monarchy has influenced subsequent French rulers, including President Macron.  Yet his persecution of French Protestants and devastation of France’s neighbours united Europe against him and brought France to the edge of collapse: there were more popular risings in France in 1709, near the end of his reign, than in any year before 1789. The contradictions in his personality and policies, and the reasons for continued public fascination with Versailles and the Sun King, will be discussed by Dr Philip Mansel, author of the latest biography of Louis XIV.

Philip Mansel is author of thirteen books on French or Ottoman history. In 1995 he helped found the Society for Court Studies (www.courtstudies.org) with David Starkey and Simon Thurley and in 2012 received the London Library life in Literature award. His most recent book was Aleppo: the Rise and Fall of Syria’s Great Merchant City (2016). His latest, King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV is published by Allen Lane. Philip will be signing copies following his lecture in the Gallery's Bookshop.