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1715 The death of Louis XIV



1 September 1715

After a week of slow agony, Louis XIV passed away in Versailles on 1 September 1715 at 8.15 in the morning, just before his 77th birthday. A reign of 72 years ended, the longest in the history of France. Another reign almost as long began: that of Louis XV (1715-1774).

Worthy of a tragedy of Racine, the death of Louis XIV began on 10 August 1715. On his return from hunting in Marly, the king felt a sharp pain in his leg. His doctor Fagon diagnosed sciatica and never budged from this position. But black spots soon began to appear: the sign of senile gangrene. Despite the atrocious pain, the king continued with his usual occupations without flinching. He intended to carry out his functions until the end. The old oak seemed ineradicable and won the admiration of all. But on 25 August, his feast day, he had to take to his bed. He was not to leave his bedchamber.

The gangrene then affected his bones the next day. The doctors felt helpless. The king received on the same day his great-grandson, aged 5, the future Louis XV, to give him advice. He recommended him to relieve his people’s suffering and avoid war as far as possible: “it is the ruin of peoples!” Aware of having failed on this point, he asked him to remain a “peace-loving prince”.

But his death took longer than expected. The king made his adieux to Mme de Maintenon three times and twice to the Court. A Provençal named Brun was allowed to approach the royal bed on 29 August: he claimed to have a miraculous cure. In fact, the king did feel better. But the disease was still there and making progress. Louis XIV finally went into a semi-coma lasting the next two days. He died on 1 September in the morning. His body was on view for eight days in the Mercury salon. He was transported to Saint-Denis on 9 September.

The Duc d’Orléans, nephew of Louis XIV, became Regent of the kingdom until the majority of the future Louis XV. The family quarrels began: on 2 September, the Regent persuaded the Parliament of Paris to annul the testament of the king which confiscated some of the assembly’s prerogatives. He governed from his residence in the Palais-Royal and installed the future king in the Tuileries palace on 9 September. The Court left Versailles. Philippe V of Spain, however, had not totally abandoned his claims to the throne of France in spite of the Treaty of Ryswick in 1713. A new war was on the way and with it a new combination of alliances in Europe…

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