The Universe of Discourse

Mon, 02 Sep 2019

Louis XIV, Disco King

Some time ago I wrote:

I think a disco ball would not be out of place at Versailles.

This got me thinking about what if all of Versailles had been tricked out in awesome 1970's disco style? I could easily picture Louis XIV in a white leisure suit, open to the navel, with gold chains and bell-bottom trousers, his platform shoes glittering with real diamonds. (Surely you didn't think le Roi Soleil would wear rhinestones?)

I have been enjoying this mental picture for some time now, but part of it is wrong: the bell-bottoms. Louis didn't have a pretty face. But he had great legs, he knew it, and he never missed an opportunity to show them off:

Louis as a young man.  He is standing in three-quarter profile,
displaying his entire right leg.
He is wearing tight black leather trousers
with decorative metal studs, and tight-fitting brown leather boots. Louis,
age 29.  He is wearing his coronation robes, including a heavy blue satin robe with gold fleurs-de-lis. But the
robe is swept back to reveal his legs.  He puffy white
pantaloons only come down to mid-thigh.  Below that he wears
skin-tight white hose, with ruffled white garters at the knees, and
square-toed white high-heel shoes with enormous bows. Louis age
29 again.  He is seated, again wearing the coronation robes but his right leg is thrust out, resting on a pillow,
and is visible from the knee down.  Again he is wearing sheer white
hose and the square-toed white shoes. Louis around age 32. He wears a
steel breastplate and a skirt that comes past his knee, but it is slit
at the front and turned bake so that both his legs are visible from
the top of the thigh to the foot. His legs are clad in skin-tight
crimson hose with diamond garters, and his high-heeled shoes have
matching crimson bows. Perhaps the
best-known portrait of Louis, by Hyacinthe Rigaud, the King is 63
years old.  Again he is in three-quarter profile.  Although is upper
body is cloaked in heavy robes, both legs are clearly visible, clad in
tight white hose, prominently displayed from the thighs down.  Again he has white garters just below the knees,
this time without ruffles  His shoes are white with brown platform
heels and square diamond-studded buckles.

Notice the recurring theme: skin-tight trousers or tights. Fancy garters. When he's wearing heavy state robes, they're cut away or swept back to expose his legs, and he always stands sideways or sticks them out so that you can see them.

(In that last picture, the diamond studded platform shoes, just as I said. Nailed it!)

Here Louis is fancifully depicted as Alexander the Great. He surely did not dress up in costume for the portrait. But the unknown painter knew what Louis liked and made him bare-legged, with a diaphanous blue tunic:

This is not a man who is going to wear bell-bottoms.

[ Addendum 20190903: “Louis loved ballet and frequently danced in court ballets during the early half of his reign. In general, Louis was an eager dancer who performed 80 roles in 40 major ballets.” Thanks to Akiva Leffert from bringing this to my attention. ]

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