L’État, c’est moi

Louis XIV was born on September 5, 1638. I feel about him much the way I do about Napoleon – equivocally. Both men marked the history of France more than virtually anyone else, and both men waged war on a devastating scale. Without the excesses of Louis XIV, there would probably have been no Revolution and no Napoleon. In honor of his birthday, and consistent with the concept of “one quality the finest,” I decided to focus on Louis XIV’s positive contributions.  Much of this information comes from a fascinating book, The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafés, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour, by Joan DeJean.

  • along with his finance minister, Colbert, he instituted a “made in France” policy, and developed French artisanship in silk manufacturing, tapestry weaving, blowing glass for mirrors, iron work, and ship building
  • he created the Code Louis that unified the highly fractured civil procedure
  • he was an effective patron of the arts, supporting writers, artists, and musicians so that they could focus on their craft instead of trying to make a living
  • he also supported the Académie Française, and thus a unified language that became the tongue of all European aristocrats
  • he established a disciplined police force, street lighting, paved the roads of Paris, and added broad boulevards lined with trees, transforming it from a dirty medieval city into the City of Light
  • he created Les Invalides, a complex dedicated to a hospital and retirement home for soldiers
  • he gave the Louvre over to the arts and substantially improved and enlarged it
  • he ended internal strife within France by reducing the power of the nobles, turning it into the modern nation that dominated Europe
  • he created the glittering palace of Versailles
  • and finally, he created a sense of French style that is still the hallmark of France today: Haute couture was born under his reign, including elegant hairstyles, luxurious footwear, perfumes and cosmetics, as well as the birth of boutiques in which to pursue all of these delights

Historians dispute whether or not he ever said “l’État, c’est moi” (laytah seh mwah) or “I am the State” but he could certainly have declared “le Style, c’est moi.”

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About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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9 Responses to L’État, c’est moi

  1. I want to thank you for inspiring at least half of my future reading list! I adore your posts.

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