A Day in the Life of the Sun King, Louis XIV
We explore the eccentric and exciting musical day of King Louis XIV, the Sun King and inspiration of our upcoming programme full of rarely performed French Baroque
The palace of Versailles in the time of Louis XIV was a place of splendours. It contained hundreds of richly furnished apartments, galleries and corridors, including the famous Hall of Mirrors, staircases, courtyards, libraries, and even laboratories. Louis used these rooms to display his vast collections of paintings and sculptures. The grounds of the palace stretched over 2000 acres, bordered by the Grand Canal, contained 50 fountains, and were lavishly planted with trees and flowers.
It is here we find our Sun King, among the finery, performing his daily tasks with meticulous precision.
Louis XIV was a creature of habit. The strict order of life at court that irritated and tired his heirs served his peculiarities well. Each part of Louis’ day was planned in such detail that “With an almanack and a watch, one could, from 300 leagues away, say with accuracy what he was doing” (Duke of Saint-Simon).
He was awoken at 8 o’clock by the First Valet de Chambre.
Only a select few enjoyed the privilege of attending the King in his bedchamber. These courtiers were admitted a few at a time in “entrées” as Louis dressed and shaved; it was an opportunity to have a private council with the king.
At around 10 am a procession formed in the Hall of Mirrors, outside the Louis’ chamber. The whole court was permitted to watch the King pass through the State Apartments on his way to the tribune in the Royal Chapel, where he sat for for Mass.
Mass featured Music of the Royal Chapel, one the three divisions of the 200 musicians employed in Louis’ court. The choir was famous throughout Europe, and performed a new piece, composed by Lully, de Lalande and others, every day.
Upon returning to his apartment, the King held various counsels on religious and financial affairs in his chambers, until around 1 pm, when he retired to eat in his chamber.
Afternoons were often for leisure. This could range from a walk in the gardens on foot, to a drive in a Barouche with the ladies, to hunting in the park or in the surrounding forests.
Hunting sessions often featured open-air music, from the division of Music of the Great Stable.
Evening entertainments were presided over by Louis’ son, the dauphin, whilst Louis tended to letters prepared by his secretary and studied important paperwork in the apartments of his confidant, and later wife, Mme de Maintenon.
Louis XIV used his patronage of the arts to validate his power, as a way to create and project the royal image. Evening gatherings in Versailles were therefore lavish, and featured an abundance of artistic pleasures, including performances from the Court Ballet, musical-dramatic works with several acts of staged costume and scenery, and Music of the Chamber.
At around 10 pm those courtiers who had been invited to supper filled the ante-chambers of the king’s suite, to join Louis and his family at the royal table. When the meal was over, Louis attended the salon to greet the ladies of the court, and then retired to his cabinet to converse with his family and a few close friends.
At the end of the day, the Sun King prepared to rest: the ceremony of couchee was an exact reversal of the morning’s ceremony of levee.
Join Sestina as they explore the life of King Louis XIV through a sumptuous programme of French Baroque music from the Court and Chapel of the Sun King.
Belfast: Clonard Monastery - 26th April 2019, 7.30pm
Dublin: Christ Church Cathedral - 27th April 2019, 8 pm
Cork: Saints Peter and Paul's Church - 28th April 2019, 3 pm
Listen to our Music for the Sun King playlist for a taste of the musical day of the Sun King: https://open.spotify.com/track/0B0ls40POu1FM4nDGtag38?si=lDsBkZDyQJyK04HRyxxdTQ