Louis XV (that's fifteen for anyone brought up on Hollywood blockbusters) was King of France from 1715 to 1774. He became absolute monarch aged five, taking firmly control of his country from his senile Great Grand Pappy King Louis XIV. Louis liked furniture which is why his also known as 'Louis Quinze' for his chairs and sofas, and is the inventor of the king sized mattress.
His usually classed as one of France's worst kings, managing to lose a succession of wars against Great Britain, Prussia and even the raddled Habsburg empire of Austria. The country fell into debt, though not something Louis noticed as he was too busy chasing petticoats around the Palace of Versailles.
Why did it go wrong?Edit
Strangely, Louis became King of his country at the same age as Louis XIV had back in 1643. Both toddled to the throne and employed cardinals to keep them in check (Cardinals Marizpan and Flunky for all those reading this and taking notes). But when Louis XIV took personal power in 1661 and become the Sun King, Louis XV said he was taking control...and then promptly gave it to the woman with the tallest wig in the palace, Madame Pompadour. She was also known as 'Little Richard'.
Louis liked to dabble in politics now and again, dismissing a minister here or there. He sometimes checked on the army and navy but more than anything else, this needy little boy just wanted to be loved. His entire family had been swept away by smallpox like a bunch of worthless aboriginals, so he placed their cremated remains inside the cushions of his furniture so they could always be close to him. Luckily for him, his governess (Charlotte de La Motte Houdancourt, Duchess of Ventadour, and yes this will be on the test) didn't believe in the cutting edge science of blood letting, and unlike his older brother he survived. Louis was treated like the little sun around all whom may orbit him and change the diapers of he and his seven year old wife, Maria Anna Victoria of Spain. Alas, thing's didn't work out for the celebrity couples politically arranged preteen romance, and a diplomatic rift developed between Spain and France due to histories biggest elementary school breakup.
The first regent was his cousin Philippe Duke of Orleans. He entertained hopes that Louis would choke to death on his frosties and that he would become king. But Louis survived and it was Philippe who conked out. Then his other uncle Philippe (the Bourbon family were limited with name choices) who had been King of Spain since 1700 as Felipe VI resigned his throne there and planned to visit Versailles to see if he could somehow contrive for his great nephew to drown in an ornamental pond. But then Felipe got the call back from Madrid as he own successor had suddenly died. The little bugger survived again.
Thinking he had enough of uncles and cousins, Louis gave power to man in a skirt:Cardinal Fleury. A bit of a flusterer at the best of times, at least Fleury advised the young king to avoid war unless he was absolutely sure of winning. He also contrived for Louis to marry the daughter of the ex-King of Poland (a man called Stan or 'Stanislaus'). This was more of a poke (pole?) in the eye aimed at the Habsburgs and the Holy Roman Empire in general. This lead to a war in 1733 with Austria which (compared to later conflicts) ended well for Louis. Stan lost Poland (again) but got Lorriane as compensation. Louis would get that when his father-in-law died, though it would be a 30 year wait for the belated territorial success to come France's way.
War of the Austrian SuccessionEdit
Barely had the war over Poland had ended, than Austria had a new monarch. The Bourbons and Habsburgs had long hated each other and now the latter had finally run out of male heirs. This meant the title of Holy Roman Emperor was up for grabs. Fleury objected to war so Louis had him sacked for senility (he was already nearly 90) and brought in his lover, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson (aka 'Fish face') as his new First Mistress - in effect Prime Minister. History knows her as Madame 'Fifi' de Pompadour. Fifi was sexy, purred when she talked and smoked six packets of gauloises a day; and started the first hair salon at Étiolles.
The war with Austria brought in the British whose fleets routinely got the better of the French tubs. On the battlefield it was different so after eight years of warring - a peace was declared. France had spent a fortune and got precisely..err..nothing. Not so much as a city or an island. France's ally Prussia kept Silesia they had nabbed off Austria whilst the British were closing in and around French North Canada (i.e. Quebec).
Battle for Pompadour's BedEdit
Louis didn't seem to be too bothered, the war had been fun and France had won military victories against the British and Austrians. But his greatest loss was in the bedroom, Madame Pompadour discharged Louis from her bed and changed the locks. She was angry with French failure and blamed the Prussian king Frederick the Great for his hoodwinking of his ally. She wanted France to change her policy and suggested a new grand alliance. Maria Theresa (now Holy Roman Empress thanks to her husband, the Francis Quiche of Lorriane) and Empress Elizabeth of Russia.
Louis wasn't so sure. His family had been at war for nearly 300 years with the Habsburgs over the control of Europe and now 'Fishy' had this wheeze up her corset? It took some convincing but eventually a deal was done. France and Austria (and Russia) became allies, and his critics in the aristocracy and clergy forgot about raising their taxes with the promise of greater spoils of war.
The Seven Years
On paper, it looked simple. Prussia had no allies except Britain and they only cared for Hanover because King George II had been born there. What followed was another failure but one of epic size. The French army suffered defeats against Prussia and the British sent Louis's fleet to the bottom of the sea. This war France lost Canada for good, the French Canucks left to fend for themselves. Russia defected and then sat out the war and the Austrians proved to be useless. Even Spain joining in made no difference. Louis's country had suffered a major defeat. Madame Pompadour took this as a personal rebuff and turned up her toes.
Louis had rotten fruit thrown at his coach when the terms of the defeat were learnt but he persisted with the Austrian alliance and invited Maria Theresa's youngest daughter Marie Antoinette to finish her French lessons in Paris. The old lecher considered exercising his 'first pawing' rights to the young Austrian princess but eventually agreed she could marry his heir (his own wretched son Louis the Dauphin had already shuffled off his mortal coil) and gave her to his grandson, Louis - later Louis XVI.
By the time Louis died in 1774, France had lost much of her once vast overseas colonies, had a bad balance of trade and was no longer considered the mighty military power it once was. When he died in 1774 (in the bed of his last mistress Madame Du Barry), an absurd equestrian statue was put of in honour of Louis in Paris. It was later pulled down in the French Revolution. Many of Louis's old friends, girlfriends and family lost their heads in that event but he was already gone. Dead, buried and ridiculed. The Sin King.