Traditionally, the French monarchy was required to be accessible to its subjects. This custom resulted in situations that were surprising to foreigners. Italian courtier Primi Visconti, who was at the French court from 1673 to 1681, described in his Memoirs that “in Spain the princes can be approached only by the jesters, but in France they can be approached by anyone.” This tradition persisted into the 18th century, and Louis XV, then Louis XVI (to a lesser extent) continued this practice of a life lived in public. It was thus hard to imagine the monarch having a private life.
This private life occurred mainly during his heures rompues (free time) afforded by “holes” in a very ritualized schedule that had been maintained to varying degrees of consistency since Louis XIV. Because of its “private” nature, it is hard to imagine the lives of the monarchs beyond their public performances. This is why it is important to consider both their public and private lives to understand the complex dialectic represented by “the king’s two bodies”, to borrow Ernst Kantorowicz’s expression.
Mathieu da Vinha, Scientific Director of the Centre de Recherche du Château de Versailles
Public life, private life?
During the reign of Louis XIV
Louis XV: the birth of intimacy
During the time of Louis XVI
Co-published by Château de Versailles/Soteca
Number of pages: 100
Publication date: 30 November 2018
Dimensions: 19 x 26 cm