… you outlive all your friends; perhaps more satisfyingly, you even outlive all your enemies, but you may at least now wonder what the conflict was all about.
Sylvie Faiveley is the director of this documentary which focused on the last days of “the Sun King,” Louis XIV, the European monarch who reigned the longest of any monarch. He was on the throne for 72 years, plus. Queen Elizabeth II, by contrast, still has a ways to go to catch him. On February 06, 2020, she will have been on the throne 68 years.
The documentary commences more than three quarters of a century after Louis XIV’s death, which was in 1715. In 1793, during the height of the French revolution, the royal tombs of all the monarchs of France, which were at the basilica of St. Denis (outside Paris), were desecrated. The remains were removed and tossed in a common grave. When this occurred, the blackened corpse of Louis XIV was found. It was the revolutionaries’ way of saying there is no going back, which would ultimately prove to be not true. Louis XVIII would rule from 1814 to 1824, and would lie in the necropolis which was restored 25 years after its desecration.
The focus of the documentary, as the title implies, was on the last days of the King, and a bit beyond. The background to those days was provided. He would become king, in 1643, at the age of five, under a regency. During his reign, there would be famine and disease, a million deaths, 5% of the entire population, due to a mini-Ice Age. His reign was also marked by seemingly endless wars; the War of the Spanish Succession lasted 15 years. Of course, there was the building of his palace at Versailles. Very small privileges would establish rank among the many courtiers at the Court; Louis XIV would use these privileges to divide and rule. His heirs would die before him, his son in 1711, his grandson, the year thereafter.
Louis XIV would die of gangrene. His doctor, Fagon, misdiagnosed the problem for too long. Eventually, amputation was considered a possibility, but it was too late. Louis XIV was determined to demonstrate a “good death,” with sang-froid, as the French would say. He had previously demonstrated his composure in 1685, during an operation for an anal fistula, which was conducted, naturally for the times, without anesthetic or antibiotics for infection. Ouch! His entire life had been conducted in public. The King literally stank of death from the gangrene before he finally died. After his death, his body would be separated into three parts, for burial in various parts of France. It would be his great-grandson who would assume the throne, ironically at the same age Louis XIV had, at the age of five.
There was some good historical reenactment. The documentary informed me of much that I had been previously unaware, always a good measure for providing a 5-star rating.