Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Etiquette of Louis XIV

All courtiers were enjoined to obey the rules of Louis XIV's etiquette for Versailles. Precedence was a matter of great importance.


"Louis XIV himself wrote a book concerning court ceremonial, and all courtiers were enjoined to obey the rules. Precedence was a matter of great importance. It found its way even into the streets, where it became a subject of frequent dispute. The narrowness of the Parisian streets made it impossible for large coaches to pass each other; when two met, therefore, that of the lesser dignitary was obliged to go back to the last crossroad. One can see how this occasioned arguments. Long pedigrees were recited, claims set forth, and strangers called in to settle the matter of precedence.


At Versailles the importance of etiquette reached such a point, that it was carried to almost incredible extremes. The catch phrase of the time was "Toute la femme est dans la reverence," which meant that the manner in which a woman curtsied—in other words, the manner in which she followed the etiquette of the times—revealed her true qualities.

As one might expect from the creator of the 700-room Palace of Versailles, Louis XIV knew a thing or two about luxury. One of his prized possessions was an immense diamond, then called the French Blue, which purportedly produced the dazzling illusion of a sun at its center when positioned against a gold background. Stolen during the French Revolution, well after Louis XIV’s death, it reemerged in Great Britain years later with a new cut and then bounced around from one owner to another. Now known as the Hope Diamond, this 45.52-carat stone, arguably the most famous jewel in the world, is housed at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. –From www.history.com
It is related of Louis XIII that, being on one occasion, obliged to visit Richelieu, who was ill at Tarascon, he lay down on the bed beside him. He was, after all, the sovereign; Richelieu a subject. Therefore it was impossible that Richelieu lie in bed, though ill, while Louis stood or sat beside him. Therefore, he took his place on the bed beside the sick man, and so preserved the royal dignity! Louis XIV visited Maréchal de Villars in the same manner when the Maréchal was lying wounded at Malplaquet." —From Lillian Eichler




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