Philip Mansel

Louis XIV after Charles Le Brun,17th century © Bridgeman Images

An alliance between Louis XIV and a Transylvanian prince was just one aspect of the Sun King’s ambition to dominate Europe.

With his own elaborate imperial court, with his family ensconced on thrones across the continent, and with his overthrow of several historic republics, Napoleon brought Europe to a pinnacle of monarchism.

In recent years historians have shown a renewed interest in court history. Hardly surprising, says Philip Mansel, as courts play a central role in understanding the past and maintain a critical importance in contemporary politics.

In 1871 Parisians watched the burning of one of their most ancient palaces; and, Philip Mansel writes, twelve years later, its ruins were sold and demolished.

Once the classical world’s dominant port, by the early 19th century the city founded by Alexander the Great was seemingly in terminal decline. But the energy and vision of the Ottoman governor Muhammad Ali restored its fortunes and, ultimately, set Egypt on the path to independence, as Philip Mansel explains.

Episode of the Belgian Revolution of 1830, Egide Charles Gustave Wappers (1834), in the Musée d'Art Ancien, Brussels.

Philip Mansel recalls the creation of the kingdom of Belgium in 1831, in a successful act of co-operation between London, Paris and Brussels.

Philip Mansel explores the City of the Sultans from 1453 onwards, and finds it characterised by a vibrant multi-culturalism until the Ottoman demise of 1922.

Philip Mansel looks at interchange and intrigue in the cross-currents of 18th-century culture between East and West.

Philip Mansel pays tribute to the Musée Napoleon Premier.