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Dr. Philip Mansel – Louis XIV

Dr. Philip Mansel ( ) has written 13 books on France and the Ottoman Empire, including Constantinople: City of the World’s desire (1995) and, on Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut, Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean (2010).

His latest books are Aleppo ; the Rise and Fall of Syria’s Great Merchant City (rev.ed. I B Tauris 2018)  and King of the World: the Life of Louis XIV (Penguin 2019), which Tim Blanning in the Wall street Journal called ‘one of the most stimulating and enjoyable works on European history to have been published for many a long year’.

Seven of his books have been translated into French. He is a founding committee member of the Society  for Court Studies, encouraging research on dynasties and courts, ( and the Levantine Heritage Foundation, which collects documents, and organises seminars and conferences, on the region (

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Episode #1

Q: Your background & how you became interested in Louis XIV?


  • Fascinated by French History & its impact

  • Studied at Oxford & in France

  • Magnificent French Court

  • Quality of records, primary sources

Episode #2

Q: What did Europe look like when Louis XIV began his reign?


  • France was one third smaller than today

  • Surrounded by kingdoms of the Hapsburg Dynasty

  • France felt threatened

  • English – rich & powerful

  • Ottoman Empire covers one fourth of Europe

Episode #3

Q: Why did Louis XIV identify with Apollo?


  • Commissioned tapestries of Alexander the Great

  • Saw himself as a world monarch – from Mississippi to the Mekong

  • Sun King – sun is everywhere, reaches everyone

Episode #4

Q: What were Louis XIV’s main accomplishments?


  • Foreign realm – disastrous wars

  • But kept France intact – Flanders, Alsace, Switzerland

  • Positioned son, Philip 5th,as king of Spain

  • Started more egalitarian approach for taxes and legal code

Episode #5

Q: Was Louis XIV a decisive and the sole decision maker?


  • In theory he made all of the decisions

  • But later ministers were extremely powerful

  • After death of Colbert nothing really gets done

Episode #6

Q: What was the royal court like under Louis XIV?


  • Louis XIV – greatest patron of the arts in history

  • Splendor of Versailles

  • Best music in Europe

  • French ballet sweeps across Europe

  • Art, Sculpture, Architecture, Gardens

Episode #7

Q: How did he treat the minority Protestant Huguenots?


  • Initially Protestants were treated well

  • Gradually he tightened the screws

  • 1685 – all religious services banned

  • Unheard of persecution

Episode #8

Q: Did he treat the Jews in France similarly or was there a difference?


  • Early years were tolerant

  • 1657 visits Metz synagogue with court on Succot

  • Occasionally Jews suffered

  • Was not threatened by them; found them useful to monarchy

Episode #9

Q: From the perspective of 2021, what was Louis’ legacy?


  • Lesson of global overreach

  • England takes over as world economic power

  • Importance of “soft” power

  • France – Versailles, Louvre – become center of European culture

  • Teaches role of leisure time

Full Interview - Dr. Philip Mansel

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