05 September 2011

5 September - Birth of Louis XIV

Anonymous, Anne of Austria and her son the Dauphin, c.1640
Today in 1638, the future Sun King was born, and called Louis, the Gift of God, which he certainly seemed to be.  His parents, Louis XIII of France and Anne of Austria, had been estranged and living apart for years, and the previous year, when Anne was implicated in treasonous activities against France, looked to be the last of their 22-year marriage.

For the King's weak-willed and irresponsible brother, Gaston d'Orleans, and his court faction, such an end meant the crown would be his when Louis died (and poor brother Louis was never in good health these days).  For Anne, this meant divorce and the remainder of her life spent in a convent, and for the King's Minister, Richelieu, this meant exile (if not worse), as Gaston was an implacable enemy to both.  Things didn't look good.

However, as the story goes, one dark and stormy night, after a day in the country visiting a friend, Louis elected to spend part of the night with the Queen at her apartments in the Louvre, rather than ride further on to his own apartments at the castle of Blois.  That little intervention did the trick, and soon the King and Queen were congratulating each other.

Anne, who would celebrate her 37th birthday on the 22nd of September, removed to the Chateau Neuf at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, where the air was considered more wholesome than that of Paris.  The Princesses and ladies nominated to be present at the birth joined her on the 1st of September, as did the Princes of the Blood and other interested parties.  At about two o'clock in the morning of the 5th, Anne felt her first labor pangs, but kept it a secret from all except her chief tire-woman and the mid-wife.  A couple of hours later, she sent for the Bishop of Lisieux and asked that a Mass be celebrated in her room.  That ended, word was taken to the King of the approaching event, who commanded that his medical staff take their places in an adjoining salon.

At six o'clock, the eight ladies whose birth or position gave them the right to be present in the Queen's chamber, entered and took their seats.  Another thirteen personages of rank and position moved into the adjoining apartment.  Here they waited for the next five hours, while messages went back and forth, and Masses for the queen's safe and speedy delivery were said.

Engraving by Abraham Bosse, 1638.
 Hardly had the King, at the entreaty of his wife, sat down to his usual mid-morning collation, than the news was brought that the Queen was near her time.  As Louis entered the chamber, one of the Queen's women met him at the door and placed his new-born son, already vigorously crying, in his arms.  Everyone gave thanks on their knees to God, and the Queen fainted. She revived enough to offer her congratulations to her husband and to receive his in return.

The baby was immediately and privately baptized by the Bishop of Meux and given the name of Louis (as was customary, his public baptism would be celebrated later).  The King and court proceeded to the chapel of the castle to hear a Te Deum and a Pontifical Mass.  Afterward, the King returned to his wife's chamber, while M. le Dauphin was escorted to his own apartments in the arms of his nurse.  While Paris and the provinces went wild with rejoicing, missives announcing the birth were dispatched to the crowned heads of Europe.  Among them was the King's announcement to the Pope, Urban VIII:

"Very Holy Father - as it has pleased Almighty God always to give us grace to overcome tribulations contrary to the peace of our realm, we ever maintained a good hope that He would at length confer upon our royal consort and ourself, the one remaining blessing so ardently desired by our subjects.  God has at length granted us a son, which the Queen has brought forth safely.  As this child has been given to us many years after our marriage, we regard his birth as a special benediction from God, bestowed upon us and upon the Queen; and whilst we return thanks, and while our subjects throng the churches for the same object, we have thought good thus to address your Holiness.
Your devoted son,

Upon the death of Louis XIII in May of 1643, the four-year old Dauphin became the Most Christian King, Louis XIV of France and Navarre.  You know the rest of the story, and if not go here and here. This site has lots of great images.

The proper toast for so auspicious an occasion should be with Louis XIII Cognac (Remy-Martin).  However, as $500 will get you enough for a shot-glassful, any good cognac will do.

Vive le Dauphin!