The Formation of a King
THE BIOGRAPHER of a king and his portrait painter share a number of problems: neither can be sure of the final shape or tone of any of the royal features until the whole picture—the background, the costume, and the paraphernalia of office—have been completed. Nor is that the end of the difficulty. It is probably true that a man’s personality and characteristics have achieved firm contours by the time he is twenty-five, but the historian trying to portray them finds that it is a formidable problem to sift the evidence that comes down to us from a seventeenth-century life and to separate the significant from the transitory. All personality studies seem to show that some experiences are enormously meaningful, others of little importance; and yet unless the man we study becomes articulate in his testimony, and his contemporaries record voluminously the things that happened to him, it is nearly impossible to assign weight to the important, and to dismiss the myriads of his ephemeral contacts with the world. This is particularly true in the case of Louis XIV since he has left us very little that can be called introspective evidence; even the remarkable Mémoires intended for the instruction of his son, allow us only to infer his experience. Just as he cautioned his son never to say today what can be put off until tomorrow, Louis was reticent about his feelings and his motivations.
KeywordsReligious Service Royal Family Portrait Painter Contemporary Record French King
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