ÉMILE DESMAISONS Portrait of Louis XV (1710-1774) ca. 1860 [R/V] - x +
DesE1860lo15


CN: DesE1860lo15

MT: albumen print on paper mounted on card (9x6 / C:10x6)

TX: embossed at lower right of picture <ED>, printed at lower left of margin in French <Collection E. DESMAISONS>, inscribed with fountain pen at lower center of margin <Louis XV>, inscribed with pencil at rear upper left <Louis XV>, printed at center <E. DESMAISONS / 5, Rue des Grands Augustins / PARIS / Copyright Secured for England>, stamped below <MAISON / ALPH. GIROUX>

PR: Maison Alphonse Giroux, Paris

DN: Mr. Megakles Rogakos - 2009

CM: Louis XV (Versailles, 15 February 1710 - Versailles, 10 May 1774) ruled as King of France and of Navarre from 1 September 1715 until his death on 10 May 1774. Coming to the throne at the age of five, Louis reigned until 15 February 1723, the date of his thirteenth birthday, with the aid of the Régent, Philippe, duc d'Orléans, his great-uncle, thereafter taking formal personal control of government. Unexpectedly surviving the death of most of the royal family, he enjoyed a favourable reputation at the beginning of his reign and earned the epithet "le Bien-Aimé" ("the Beloved"). However, in time, his lack of morals, general inability to effectively reform France and the Monarchy, and the perceived failings of his foreign policy lost him the affection of his people, and he ended his life amongst the most unpopular kings of France. While historians have traditionally treated Louis XV harshly, more recent research has suggested that he was in fact very intelligent and dedicated to the task of ruling the largest state in Europe, bar Russia. His nagging indecision, fueled by his awareness of the complexity of problems ahead, as well as his profound timidity, hidden behind the mask of an imperious king, may account for the poor results achieved during his reign. In many ways, Louis XV prefigures the "bourgeois rulers" of the romantic 19 th century. While dutifully playing the role of the mighty king carved out by his predecessor and great-grandfather, Louis XIV, Louis XV in fact cherished nothing more than his private life far away from the pomp and ceremony of Court. Having lost his mother while still little more than an infant, he longed for a reassuring and motherly presence, which he tried to find in the intimate company of women, something for which he was much criticized both during and after his life. § Louis XIV had left France with serious financial difficulties. Ultimately, Louis XV failed to overcome these fiscal problems, mainly because he was incapable of putting together conflicting parties and interests in his entourage. At Versailles, the king and the nobility surrounding him showed signs of boredom, signalling a monarchy in steady decline. Worse, Louis seemed to be aware of the forces of anti-monarchism threatening his family's rule and yet failed to do anything to stop them. Popular legend holds that Louis predicted, "After me, the flood" ("Après moi, le déluge"). In fact this quotation is more precisely attributed to Madame de Pompadour, although it is not certain that even she ever said it. At first, he was known popularly as Le Bien-aimé (the well-beloved) after a near-death illness in Metz in 1744 when many of his subjects prayed for his recovery. However, his weak and ineffective rule was a contributing factor to the general decline that culminated in the French Revolution. In addition, the king was a notorious womaniser, although this was expected in a king; the monarch's virility was supposed to be another way in which his power was manifested. However, popular faith in the monarchy was shaken by the scandals of Louis's private life and in the shadows of the scandalous court at Versailles, and by the end of his life he had become the well-loved. [Megakles Rogakos 12/2009]

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