La Prise de pouvoir par Louis XIV (The Rise of Louis XIV) (1966)





Director:   Roberto Rossellini 

Starring:  Jean-Marie Patte (King Louis XIV), Raymond Jourdan (Jean Baptiste Colbert), Silvagni (Cardinal Mazarin), Katharina Renn (Anne d'Autriche), Dominique Vincent (Madame Du Plessis), Pierre Barrat (Nicolas Fouquet), Fernand Fabre (Michel Le Tellier), Françoise Ponty (Louise de la ValliPre), Joëlle Laugeois ( Marie-ThérPse), Maurice Barrier (D'Artagnan), André Dumas (Le PPre Joly), François Mirante (M. de Brienne), Pierre Spadoni ( Noni), Roger Guillo (L'apothicaire), Louis Raymond (Le premier médecin).

Made for TV

Story of King Louis XIV of France, who ruled France for 72 years. He increased the power of France in three major wars—the Franco-Dutch War, the War of the League of Augsburg and the War of the Spanish Succession.  He became an absolute monarch.  


A wife tells her husband about their daughter.  She won't be coming home for awhile.  "The king won't leave Vincennes (in the eastern suburbs of Paris) as long as Mazarin is sick."  The palace is sending their son-in-law, a cellarman in favor at court, to buy wine in Bordeaux.  He almost always accompanies the king.  Some co-workers of the father say that the French king is not very powerful because he doesn't even have control over his own life.  As they talk, two more doctors on horseback make their way to Mazarin at Vincennes. 

The doctors are taken to the bedroom of Mazarin, who tells the doctors that he has difficulty breathing and endures shooting pains.  After an extremely cursory examination, the doctors say that he is virtually a dead man.  He has gout and kidney stones, as well as dropsy of the lungs.  They conclude Mazarin must be bled. That process is started and Mazarin shouts out in pain as his foot is cut. 

A priest goes in to see Mazarin, who tells him the fact that he has no fear of death is what disturbs him for he should be trembling before God.  Mazarin tells the priest that he wants to leave his accumulated wealth to his poor family.   But was the wealth all gotten fairly?  No.  So Mazarin just asks the priest how can he settle accounts with God?  The answer is that he must return to His Majesty all the things he acquired from the king. 

The priest tells Mr. Colbert that His Eminence wants to see him.  Mazarin says that he must be happy he will die.  Colbert says he has never aspired to higher posts than the one he currently enjoys.  Mazarin tells Colbert that he should reconcile with Mr. Fouquet (who Colbert accuses of scandalous management).  Colbert complains that Fouquet wants to take over Mazarin's spot and he has the support of the queen mother.  Fouquet has been at the heart of all the intrigues swirling around at court.   Mazarin now wants to speak with the king.

The king and his bride are young adults.  A whole crowd of servants march into the bedroom of the couple to get them up and dressed, as well as fed.  After this, the king comes to see Mazarin.  Mazarin tells Louis XIV that he leaves all his wealth and fortune to the king.  The king refuses to take the fortune, but Mazarin reminds him of how much more powerful and influential the king will be with a fortune behind his position. 

As the king leaves the sick bed of Mazarin, he runs into Fouquet and tells him that the cardinal is suffering greatly. Louis now goes to greet his mother.  The king is sad about the loss of Mazarin for without him, the civil war would have succeeded.  His mother reminds him that he detested Mazarin, calling him "the great Turk".  The king says that was because he was young then and didn't know any better.  The queen mother, however, says she hates Mazarin's ingratitude; he has kept her away from government; and he made himself wealthy at a startling pace.  The king says without Mazarin the horrors of the Fronde could happen again. He talks about the humiliations suffered in January of 1649.  He doesn't really trust anybody at court.  The king says that Conde is even asking the Spanish to help him.  Furthermore, the nobility need money and they are not loyal to the Crown.  He insists that the power of the state must be strengthened to keep the other power sectors in France in line.  The king leaves.

The queen mother wonders if her son is still bothered by the memory of Mlle. Mancini.  Mr. Tellier says that the king told him he wants actively to govern and be involved in everything.  The queen mother asks the question:  "Have you ever seen a king of France govern?"  She tells Tellier not to worry because her son loves to be involved in all his various pastimes.

Mazarin passes away during the night.  Important people along with servants start to file in.  The king is informed, but it is not customary for a king to come to the death bed.  He calls a meeting of the council.  There he admits that he earlier had left the governance of his affairs to the late cardinal.  He goes on to say that his advisers will not do a thing without informing him.  Colbert shall take the place of Mazarin.  The archbishop will also have to keep the king himself informed. 

The king speaks with Colbert in private and says he will work with the king every night before his bedtime.  And he demands that all that is said there be considered top secret, not to be told to anyone. Colbert agrees.  He then shows the king a report on the hundreds of frauds committed by Fouquet.  And the man has fortified Belle-Ile and Nantes. He adds:  "Mr. Fouquet's heart is with the Fronde."  The king says for now Fouquet will remain on the council, because the queen mother is very tied to the man. 

Queen mother scolds her son on openly flaunting his mistress.  And she says her son is pushing her, his mother,  away from him.  The king starts crying and asks his mother to forgive him.  He leaves.  He sees Tellier and tells him firmly that neither his brother or his mother will even attend the council. 

A deer hunt is being held.  The king is at the head of the column.  A deer swims across a lake to get away from the hounddogs.  At a break the king takes a woman into the forest for privacy.  Fouquet says to a pretty woman named Made du Plessis that he will soon be the prime minister.  The woman tells him that if this is what he's after, he better get rid of that dangerous man Colbert.  Fouquet answers that it is this new woman, Mlle. de la Valliere, who is going to be important.  The woman says she's the daughter of a poor gentleman.  Fouquet responds that they will easily win this woman over to their side. 

The court is busy sitting at table and playing games.  The king asks if mistress Louise is playing?  No.  Fouquet's female agent comes over to tell Louise that Fouquet likes her beauty and modesty and that Louise can always count on his support.  The agent also, in Fouquet's name, offers Louise 20,000 pistoles.  This upsets Louise and she takes the king away from the games.  She tells him that Madame du Plessis has just offered her money.  This news is upsetting, but the king remains calm.  He talls Madame du Plessis that the next council meeting will be in Nantes (the home of Fouquet) and that he wants the court to leave here three days from now. Fouquet tells Madame du Plessis that if the king is coming to his home, it is only to pay homage to him and his service to the crown.   

The king arrives in Nantes followed by the queen mother.  Louis tells his mother that Mr. Fouquet will be arrested on his orders.  Mother, of course, defends Fouquet and warns her son that he is courting the danger of another Fronde.  The king responds that at least he will know who his enemies are. 

The king wants to speak with musketeer d'Artagnan.  Louis tells the musketeer that he wants him to arrest Fouquet when he comes out of the council.  Colbert provides the details of the plan to the musketeer.  He tells him that Fouquet is to be taken to Angers via Oudon and Ingrandes.  Then he is to get a signed statement from Fouquet that the commander at Belle-Ile is to return the site to the king. 

The king informs the council that their next meeting will be in Vincennes.  Fouquet is arrested after he leaves the building.  He is put in a carriage and has an escort to accompany the carriage.  Then the king explains to Colbert that all the major sectors of power in France must derive their own powers from the king.  And all will be answerable to the king.  Colbert and the king have some great plans to accomplish a great many good things for France and its people. 

The king calls in the royal tailor.  He is designing a new uniform of sorts for himself and for the council.  And he will keep the council far away from the parliament, so these two groups will not combine forces as they did in the first Fronde.  He himself will move to Versailles.  And the government at its own expense will see to the housing and feeding of the council members.  And he will see to it that the nobles will no longer be indebted to the merchants for their sources of money.  Instead, he will have the nobles indebted to him rather than to the bourgeoisie. 

Louis now sets out to make Versailles a magnificent palace.  He says:  "After me, Versailles will remain the palace of my dynasty."  Colbert says the palace will take 13,000 people in.  But the king now demands that it house 15,000 people. 

The palace is finished .  The king comes dressed in bright red and accented with pink and white.  He really stands out in a crowd. 

The king's kitchen is buzzing with activity.  Louis doesn't like using forks, so he uses his hands.  This time the king wears white accented with black.  Again he stands out amongst the others.   A servants walks around telling everyone:  "The king has begun the 14th setting."     The 15th setting is "meat for the king".  After the lunch the king goes for a walk.  He is followed by a long train of people, men and women.  Later he goes to a room where he can be alone.  There he takes off the frills of the fancy black and white "uniform" and puts on a jacket.  He then reads quotes from a small book out loud to himself.   


The film is slowly paced, which is not a bad thing, but a good thing here.  Jean-Marie Patte (as King Louis XIV) portrayed the king as slowly and deliberately going about doing the things he needed to do to secure his present and future status.  I don't think the king ever got mad.  He kept his voice low.  Beneath that calm exterior, however, the king was thinking of what it's going to take to really be both a good and a strong king.  He waited for his moment to strike at his enemies.  He had Mr. Fouquet arrested after one of the council meetings.  The king was a hands-on ruler and wanted to be a part of any and virtually all activities going on in the court and in his kingdom.  Under this king, by the early 1680s, France reached the height of its power and influence in Europe.

One other feature that was interesting was that the king was very short.  Most of the men at court towered over him.  And he never seemed to really look at people in their eyes when talking to them.  He also seemed to be a bit too rigid and formal in his actions and behavior.  Interesting portrayal.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



Historical Background:


1618-1648  --  the Thirty Years' War between Catholics and Protestants.  (France sided with the Protestants.)

1635  -- beginning of Franco-Spanish War.    

1638  --  birth of the future King Louis XIV of France.  His father was King Louis XIII and his mother was Anne of Austria. 

1643  --  at age 5, the son ascended to the throne as King Louis XIV.  As sole regent, Queen Anne entrusted power to her chief minister, the Italian -born Cardinal Mazarin. 

1648  -- end of the Thirty Years' War.  In France, this was followed by a French civil war, known as the Fronde (a civil war with support from parlements, the former council to the king, and the French nobles)..  Cardinal Mazarin issued a tax on members of Parliament and many of the nobles revolted.  Rioting broke out in Paris.  Queen Anne and her son fled Paris. 

The Peace of Westphalia released the French army to come to the aid of Louis XIV and of his royal court.

1649 (January)  --  the Prince de Condé started besieging rebellious Paris; the Peace of Rueil temporarily ended the conflict.

1650  --  the Second Fronde.  The king was left with a deep distrust of the nobles and the mob.  

1658  --  an alliance between Louis XIV and Oliver Cromwell in England led to a victory over the Spanish at the Battle of the Dunes.

1659  --  the Treaty of the Pyrenees set the boundary between France and Spain at the Pyrenees Mountains.  This began the decline of the Spanish and the rise of French power and influence. 

1660  --  Louis XIV married the daughter of  Philip IV of Spain (1621–65), Maria Theresa.

1661  --  death of Mazarin.  Louis XIV assumed personal control of the  government.

1665  --   Louis XIV appointed Jean-Baptiste Colbert as Contrôleur-Général des Finances. Colbert reduced the national debt through more efficient taxation.

Louis XIV became a patron of the arts. 

1665  -- death of Philip IV of Spain.  Louix XIV claims that through his wife France now controls part of the Netherlands, the Brabant.

1667   --  start of the War of Devolution.  France conquered both Flanders and Franche-Comté. 

1668  -- the Netherlands, afraid of the French advances, allied themselves with England and Sweden in the Triple Alliance.  The French King made peace.  France retained Flanders, but  returned Franche-Comté to Spain.

1670  --  Charles II of England allied his country to France.

1672  --  England and France declared war on the United Provinces. William III, Prince of Orange, seized power.

1674  --  England withdraws from the Netherlands.

William III married Mary, the niece of the English Charles II. 

1678  --  Louis XIV returned all captured Dutch territory.  He did, however, gain lands in the Spanish Netherlands.

by the early 1680s  --  France was at the height of its power and influence in Europe.

1683  --  Queen Marie-Thérèse died.

1685  --  Louis XIV married Madame de Maintenon.

1715  -- death of Louix XIV.   His five-year-old great-grandson Louis, Duc d'Anjou, succeeded to the throne as King Louis XV.  He ruled to 1774. 

1774-1792  --  rule of King Louix XVI.   

1789  --  the French Revolution. 



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