After Genoa and Siam, the embassy of Persia was the third and last to be received by Louis XIV in the Hall of Mirrors. The king used the occasion to give an ultimate demonstration of his royal pomp and glory. But this was a strange diplomatic mission…
On 19 February 1715 at 11 am, Mohammed Reza Beg, ambassador extraordinary, made his entry into the Château on horseback with his retinue, accompanied by the presenter of ambassadors and the lieutenant of the king’s armies. Crowds filled the avenue de Paris and the courtyards to attend the arrival of this exotic envoy. The courtiers crowded into the Hall of Mirrors, where four tiers of seats had been set up for them. Only the most sumptuously dressed could enter. The Hall of Mirrors was packed, with many foreigners present. At the back, the king on his throne was surrounded by the future Louis XV and his governess, Mme de Ventadour, the Duc d’Orléans and princes of the royal blood. The painter Coypel and Boze, Secretary of the Academy of Inscriptions, stood below the platform to record the event.
Concerned to make an impact, Louis XIV was dressed in a black and gold outfit covered with diamonds, worth a total of 12.5 million livres. An astronomic amount! The king had to change out of it after dinner because it weighed so much. His entourage was equally resplendent: the Dauphin was also covered with jewels. The Duc d’Orléans wore embroidered blue velvet studded with pearls and diamonds. As for the legitimate sons of the king, the Duc du Maine and the Comte de Toulouse, one wore a set of diamonds and pearls and the other a set of precious stones!
The ambassador entered the Hall of Mirrors, accompanied by an interpreter. Pretending to understand French, he said he was unhappy with the translation. After a long audience, he attended the dinner given in his honour. He left Versailles after visiting the young Louis XV whom he liked.
The purpose of this mission was uncertain. When he came to Paris on 7 February, according to Saint-Simon, Mohammed Reza Beg had no accreditation. The king, convinced of his ambassadorial status, received him. He lodged him in the city with his chief valet Bontemps. But his suite was unimpressive, as were his presents to the king. He was said to be only a provincial dignitary putting on a show for his own ends! The king received him for the last time on 13 August. It was his last diplomatic act. The embassy inspired the Lettres Persanes of Montesquieu, published in 1721.