Latest news from the King

By Alexandre MARAL

The King spent the month of July at his country retreat in Marly, having travelled there on 12 June. He made the most of this break to go hunting on at least sixteen occasions, and attend numerous concerts and plays. He is still a big fan of Molière.

During his stay at Marly, the king inspected at least three military parades. He also attended regular Council meetings – one such meeting on 24 July lasted all day.

On Saturday 10 August Louis XIV left Marly and returned to Versailles. From that day forth he lost his appetite and began to feel unwell.

On the afternoon of August 11 the King managed to go for a walk in the Trianon gardens. That was the last time he left the Palace.

From August 12 onwards, Louis XIV began to complain of a pain in his leg.

The last time he went to the Chapel was August 14, on the eve of the celebration of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. On August 19 he paid a visit to Madame de Maintenon, as usual, but since then he has been confined to his bed.

On August 24 the royal doctors could no longer deny the facts: the King was suffering from gangrene. Louis XIV immediately asked to see his confessor, anxious to passed away before getting the chance to confess, as his son did in 1711.

The Royal Chaplain visited the King on August 25 to administer the last rites.

On August 26, the King decided to bid farewell to the Princes and Princesses of the royal family, to his household staff and to Madame de Maintenon, as well as his successor, the young Louis XV, just five years old. Before the assembled witnesses, he told the boy: “Dear child, you shall be a great king,” before bursting into tears.

The King made his final arrangements on August 27. The next day, a mysterious elixir was administered to the King by a so-called doctor from Provence named Brun. The royal doctors agreed to give him a few drops of this potion just before midday. The King appeared to be in better spirits for a short while, and a recovery even seemed possible, but at eight o’clock in the evening he relapsed into his former, grave condition.

By Alexandre Maral, Curator in chief at the Palace of Versailles, in charge of sculptures. Les derniers jours de Louis XIV, coedition Palace of Versailles - Perrin, 2014.