Thursday, 22 June 2017

Louis XIV: A Life from Beginning to End by Hourly History – Book Review

This is a biography of the French Monarch during much of the 17th Century and early 18th Century, Louis XIV. He is known for being the youngest ever ruler of France, ascending the throne at the age of four (was also in the news recently as to how Emmanuel Macron can’t beat that record).

The book started with the premature death of his father, which led to Louis XIV being made the King at the age of four with his mother acting as the regent. It then goes on to talk about the initial turmoil in the empire, owing to the influence of Cardinal Mazarin and then, moves on to the period where he officially attained the throne after coming of age. His reign was filled with wars, be it the war for gaining control over the Spanish Netherlands and his subsequent conquests during the Spanish war of succession. The book also talks about his abilities as a diplomat as to how he added more to his territory through negotiations and marriages than by conquest. It also talks about the impact his second wife had on his administration owing to her deep Catholic faith.

The book covered nearly all aspects of Louis XIV’s life; his personal life, his conquests, his role as a statesman, and the problems of hunger faced in his empire owing to the wars that he waged. Considering the fact that they had to cover a reign of nearly seven decades, it was concise and it fulfilled the objective of imparting history in an hour.

The negative aspect of the book is that it attempted to glorify him too much; he took a lot of controversial decisions, such as the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, thereby declaring non-Catholics as outlaws; the extent of turmoil it caused and how France lost some of its top generals and academics was not given sufficient attention. Moreover, some of his conquests were disastrous, such as his attempt to annex the Spanish Netherlands or his subsequent attempt to annex Spain and those wars caused more harm than good.

While I felt that the book was informative, I felt that it was highly one sided and there is always more than one side to history; considering that it is from a neutral source, there was no need to go overboard in glorifying every single act of his. I would award the book a rating of four.

Rating – 4/10

Have a nice day,


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