Louis XV (1710 – 1774) – King of France and Navarre
Louis XV or “Louis the Well Beloved” was a great-grandson of Louis XIV known as The Sun King. The House of Bourbon to which they both belonged had ruled France for two hundred and three years.
Louis succeeded the throne when he was five years old.
He was raised according to the French royal tradition. Being very curious, he adored reading and had received an excellent education.
“He was a pretty child, who became a striking figure of man. … His 85 kilos of well-toned muscle, little of each had turned to fat”. He always was a perfect rider and hunter and “kept his physique by these sporting activities and the reasonable diet”.
When Louis was a child, France was ruled by the Regent Philippe II, Duke of Orleans.
On February 15, 1723 the Parliament of Paris declared the maturity of the young King. So the era of Louis XV has begun.
In 1726 Louis dismissed the unpopular minister Duke of Bourbon and replaced him by Cardinal Fleury.
The wisdom of Fleury balanced Louis’ lacking experience and made the period from 1726 to 1743 the most successful in all fifty nine years of Louis’ reign.
In January 1743 (after Fleury’s death) Louis made a dramatic decision – to rule without the first minister.
The triumphant victories of France in 1745 and 1747, especially against the British, became a very serious reason and an inspirational factor for Louis to concentrate his political focus on the affairs of other European nations and their problems. Such one-sided position where the internal issues of the kingdom were ignored was not understood neither by Louis’ generals and his court nor by his own people. The unpopularity of a monarch started to grow. Moreover it was strengthened by the degrading moral image of the king. The endless list of his mistresses disturbed not only the church and ordinary people, but even the nobles.
The name of Louis XV always was and always will be associated with the name of Madame de Pompadour. Why did that “porcelain Marquise” possess such a great power over the king? It had to be something more than just a personal attachment or an extraordinary female charm. Behind this remarkable woman there had to be something or someone. Of course, Pompadour was a protegee of the Paris family of financiers ( the richest bourgeois). This powerful financial group desperately needed royal patronage to establish itself as the new French elite.
Madame de Pompadour played her role of the mediator perfectly well. She successfully used her brilliant knowledge of the King’s character, habits and weaknesses.
Many things happened during his reign from victories and triumphs, to failures and defeats, attempts at reform and even an assassination attempt. By the end of 1756 “… he was depressed, fed up of life, suffered from growing personal unpopularity.” “He always recognized his own faults, but was unable to do anything about them.” He did not want to make any changes neither to his personality nor to his surroundings Keeping things easy, for himself of course, not for France.
Enormous economic problems; unreasonably high taxes; growing inequality and antagonism between different social classes; the loss of the territories in North America (Louisiana had been ceded to Spain and New France was no more) brought France – the great European state and monarchy to the doorstep of revolution . Those were the bitter fruits of Louis XV reign.
Created: September, 2008
Height: 30 cm
Material: artificial clay (air-hardening sculpting material), wire, fabric
Costume: two layers of clothing
© Text and visuals created by IRINA GORELKINA