The Fabrication of Louis XIV

Peter Burke looks at how images and the image-makers made the Sun King appear as the larger-than-life 'top ruler' of 17th-century Europe.

In the seventeenth century, European governments devoted more attention to the public image of the ruler than at any time since the later Roman empire. Among these governments, it was the French who were the most concerned with the ways in which the king was represented (despite considerable competition from the Habsburgs, especially Philip IV). The most elaborate and self-conscious attempts at projecting a favourable image of the ruler were those made by a group of officials, artists and men of letters (or women of letters, notably Mademoiselle de Scudery) in the reign of Louis XIV, especially in the period of his personal rule, which lasted for more than half a century (1661-1715), allowing historians to observe changes over the long term.

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