There are two examples I can think of when a monarchy was nearly turned into a democratic republic. The first example was when Simon de Montfort led England’s barons to overthrow King Henry III. This rebellion ultimately failed, but it gave rise to Parliament. The second example was during the English Civil War where King Charles I was overthrow and executed by his subjects. For a time, England was a democratic republic until King Charles II took back the crown, reestablished the monarchy, and executed all the rebels who were responsible for his father’s regicide even those who were already dead. In my third fantasy book, my main character will be spending three years undermining the authority and credibility of his regents. At the time, my character is in his minority and cannot legally rule under his own power. Despite that, he is able to weaken the power and influence of his regents. As a result, his regents decide to go to war with him by replacing the imperial monarchy with a democratic republic.
As I delve into my research on Louis XIV of France, I started to get a better understanding on his personal life, which includes his relationship with his family. His most complex relationship was with his kid brother, Philippe, Duke of Orleans. When they were children, Louis and Philippe’s mother took extreme measures to make sure Philippe was not a threat to Louis’s claim to the throne. She did this by having Philippe dress in women’s clothing from an early age. She did this to emasculate Philippe in order to augment Louis’s masculinity as king. She even called Philippe “My Little Girl.” This had a long term impact on Philippe all the way up to adulthood and he would frequently dress in women’s clothing. Also, even though he was married twice and had children, Philippe was homosexual and his true soul mate was Philip of Lourraine, who was a handsome, blond-haired noble of princely rank. Philippe’s relationship with his brother was understandably tense because it was no fun being the spare when you want to be the heir. Even though his big brother was the king, Philippe would surpass Louis in one particular area: war. While Louis was a politician and showman at court, Philippe was a warrior and military leader. During the Battle of Cassel, Philippe personally led the French army to victory against the Dutch and Spanish. His valor and courage was so immense that his men were inspired to perform miracles to achieve victory. Philippe’s victory was so great that he gained widespread praise from the French military, which made his brother fiercely jealous. Due to his jealousy of his kid brother, Louis banned Philippe from leading an army again. Over time, Philippe would found the House of Orleans, which is a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon that exists to this day. Through the children of his two marriages, Philippe’s descendants would marry into every monarchy in Europe. This earned Philippe the title, “The Grandfather of Europe.” Overall, if Louis XIV is the Sun King, then Philippe was the Moon Prince. They were two sides of a coin and a perfect double act when it came to brothers. Since I am drawing inspiration from Louis XIV’s life for my third fantasy book, I think I will include a character that is loosely based on Philippe.
Kings and noblemen always had their personal servants with them wherever they went. Easily one of the most famous royal servants would be Alexandre Bontemps, who was the personal valet of Louis XIV of France. Bontemps’s loyalty to his king was so absolute that he spent more time with the king than he did with his own family. As the king’s personal valet, Bontemps slept in the same room as the king, which was something even the queen consort was not allowed. Due to this, Bontemps was always available for the king’s needs at any time. Bontemps was not just Louis XIV’s personal valet, he was the king’s best friend and most trusted confidant. As the king’s personal valet, Bontemps’s duties involved overseeing all the day-to-day affairs of the royal household. I am planning on introducing a character who is the main protagonist’s personal valet and their relationship will mirror the relationship of Louis XIV and Bontemps.
Next month, a new film will be released on Netflix called The King, which depicts the life and reign of King Henry V of England. Henry V is most famous for defeating the French in the Battle of Agincourt during the Hundred Years War despite being outnumbered five to one. It looks like we will see the Battle of Agincourt in all its epic glory. Also, we will get to see a new version of Sir John Falstaff, who was Henry V’s famous companion in Shakespeare plays. Overall, I look forward to seeing this interpretation of this famous warrior king and I hope they do a modern version of the Saint Crispin’s Day speech, the best battlefield speech ever.
This morning, I discovered a new documentary that further described the history and inner workings of Versailles Palace. Versailles Palace was constructed by Louis XIV of France. He built this palace because he did not feel safe and powerful in Paris. In Paris, the visiting nobles were close to home and had plenty of opportunity to plot against him. In an attempt to regain his power and security, Louis developed a system of running a royal court that had not been beaten.
At this time, the French monarchy’s power was weakened and the various nobles had more authority in various regions of France. This caused Louis to enter a power struggle with the nobility to regain control over France. Louis learned from the mistakes of Charles I of England. If he went to war with his own people, he would gamble his throne and the future of his dynasty. Therefore, he planned to do battle with his vassals on his own terms and on a battlefield of his choosing. The battlefield was his family’s hunting lodge, which was located some distance from Paris. Its distance meant that his courtiers would be isolated from their allies in the capital and their ability to plot against Louis would be severely diminished. When Louis first moved his court to the lodge, it proved too small to accommodate everyone. With this in mind, Louis made the hunting lodge undergo an extreme makeover into the Versailles Palace.
Louis would conquer his enemies not with armies or weapons, but with fashion and refinement. Louis would set a series of strange yet strict house rules that even the most powerful duke had to obey. These rules even involved something as mundane as watching Louis wake up in the morning. Louis was called the Sun King and he compared his getting up in the morning to the rising of the sun. In exchange for following his strict house rules, Louis would grant favors to nobles who would visit him the most. Nobles who do not obey the house rules are denied any favors from the king. All the visiting nobles would fight with one another to gain an audience with the king, which greatly reduced their ability to scheme against Louis. It also gave Louis a cult of personality where he was almost worshipped as a god. This is something Louis absolutely believed because his mother drilled into him the belief in the divine right of kings.
Even if he did not grant nobles favors, Louis still smothered them with lavish hospitality. This legendary hospitality took the form of gambling, feasts, hunts, and elaborate parties. This constant sense of fun made Versailles Palace the ultimate playground for the French nobility. It constantly made them want to keep coming to Versailles. While the nobles were too busy having the time of their lives, Louis’s spies were gathering intelligence on them from the shadows. Even the mail was monitored in Versailles Palace. If there was any sign of treachery, Louis would be informed. Essentially, Versailles Palace became a gilded cage for the French nobility where all of their secrets were laid bare. Due to this system of surveillance, Louis was always a step ahead of his enemies and countered them accordingly.
Even fashion was strict at Versailles and it would constantly change depending on Louis’s decisions. If you wore the wrong type of clothes, they would be burned and you would be fined. Versailles also had its own version of a shopping mall for the nobility, which sold fashionable items such as shoes and jewelry. They were so expensive that the nobility lost a considerable chunk of the wealth just to please Louis’s constantly changing sense of fashion. With no money in their pockets, betraying the king became both unthinkable and unaffordable, which kept the nobility firmly under Louis’s thumb.
This system of courtly intrigue is what has allowed Louis XIV to become the longest reigning monarch in European history.
Medieval Europe had its fair share of mad kings such as Charles VI of France and Henry VI of England. Their madness was often due to the fact that the European monarchs practiced incest with one another for centuries, which resulted in mental defects in their descendants. The monarchs of Europe had interbred with one another so frequently over the years, that they all eventually became blood relatives, which made mad kings increasingly more common. However, what if a monarch becomes mad not through any biological or mental defect but as a side effect of using forbidden magic? I always say that magic ALWAYS comes with a price. I am thinking of keeping with the tradition of mad monarchs in my fantasy series and their madness will be caused by a form of magic that grants them immense power at the expense of their minds. In their madness, my characters will be mostly catatonic with their hands and necks contorted, but when they are roused they would degenerate into mindless beasts that would attack anything that moved. In addition to believing he was made of glass, Charles VI would sometimes think he was a wolf so I thought of incorporating that into some of my crazy characters.
I discovered a rather funny medieval figure known as Charles the Simple, who was a notoriously useless French king from the 9th to 10th century. His subjects overthrew him and locked him in a jail because he was such a bad general. “The Simple” is not a wise name for a king to earn. Three centuries later, Simon de Montfort said that Henry III should be locked up like Charles the Simple due to Henry’s own poor military record. Thinking about locking up your king is one thing, but saying it to his face like Simon did is flirting with treason.