The secrets of Louis XIV (Lucien Bély)

Lucien Bély, in his recent book “ The secrets of Louis XIV Is not confined to a list of secrets. With the help of a few specific examples, he gives us a good understanding of the concealment process, the king's resolution to complete a secret affair and the process of thought, because at all times, every prince or king has used concealment and the secret to preserving his kingdom ...

Louis XIV is a very good example. Young he is secret and knows how to hide. He learned his trade under the guidance of Mazarin, a great concealer, succeeding in alliances and peace treaties while keeping secrets from adversaries. The young Louis must behave, control himself, play his role, realizing that each of his looks, each of his words, each of his gestures is observed and analyzed.

He acts thus in the private sector when he conceals his illnesses like that of 1655, decreed by the doctor as an illness due to too much riding; he knows how to keep secret the secrets of others like the famous "prophet" from Salon de Provence who will never be worried, where many will speculate, but no one will ever know what he said to himself between the two men; he tries to get out of the embarrassment of people coming to ask him for help, even if it means leaving some officers who are unfriendly to their ladies a little longer to the war, without giving reasons; he places his trust in the valets of chambers, those people involved in the greatest state secrets, like Pierre de La Porte, who was nevertheless disgraced, having failed to keep the secret; he relies on the “black cabinet” where the “number” is used; he authorizes his secretary to sign private letters with his own hand; its Council is only composed of 17 ministers so that there is little gossip and disclosure; he places a trusted person in a foreign country in order to establish and maintain good relations like the Princess of the Ursins in Spain or he sends his sister-in-law to England to carry out secret negotiations; in times of conflict, he knows how to obtain information on armies, munitions and foreign fortifications thanks to his spies who act with cunning as in 1668 in Burgundy where 20,000 men left without any courtier being aware and could not understand anything!

But the king will silence any man who becomes embarrassing, having displeased him or having been a double agent in the pay of the foreigner: he will have him imprisoned in one of the prisons (Mont Saint Michel, the Château d'If, Pierre Encise in Lyon, Vincennes, the Bastille) as were the instigators of the attack on the viceroy of Naples in 1702 or even a canoness and her ladies imprisoned for a foiled attack against the king in 1703 ...

The king concealed his whole life, until shortly before his death when he established his will in 1714: Philippe d'Orléans would be director of the Council and not of the regency, without more authority, the Duke of Maine taking care of little Louis XV, while the king announces around him a few days before dying "follow the orders that my nephew will give you, he will govern the kingdom".

Lucien Bély, through these examples, using many extracts from Memoirs of the King's contemporaries, shows us to what extent the secret must be kept to carry out enterprises which would have failed if they had been discovered. He explains perfectly to us that concealment is a profession, an art, an instrument of power, a constant effort at all times ... but the more we advance in time, the more ideas change, we are more interested in the interests of collectivity, we no longer like secrecy, we want transparency ... until the symbol of tyrannical monarchy is destroyed by the storming of the Bastille in 1789!
It is ultimately a book, can be a little difficult, but really very interesting.

The secrets of Louis XIV, by Lucien Bély. Editions Tallandier, April 2013.

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