Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dark Gift from Spain to France - Louis XIV and Chocolate

Louis XIV
Chocolate began during the 1500’s. But it didn’t began to be well-known in Europe until more than a hundred years later. One of the royals of Europe that took notice chocolate was the French monarchy. From the arrival of two Spanish wives in France, chocolate began to receive the limelight from the aristocracy and the well off.

During the 16th century, Spain continued the exploration and conquest of the New World. Many explorers gain fame through this expedition. Names like Nunez de Balboa, Francisco Pizarro, and Hernan Cortes became names of legend. Cortes, in particular, with few soldiers managed to take down the Aztec empire. But from the Aztecs Cortes introduced to Europe one of the greatest dark food ever eaten by man – chocolate – from the cacao beans. The Spaniards showed a lot of interest on the cacao. Their interest was so strong that they tried to keep a monopoly out of it. So it was then that the Spaniards were the once who could move to expand the horizons of the cacao beans and chocolate to Europe.

Two Spanish princesses, Anne of Austria and Maria Theresa of Spain, brought chocolate to the royal courts of France. To create a powerful alliance, the Spanish royals decided to marry off princesses to the much powerful monarchy of neighboring France. And because in marriage, what mine is yours, Spain shared the dark food to the French. Anne of Austria married King Louis XIII in 1615, and she brought with her samples of chocolate, which she gave to some powerful men in the court, including the influential Cardinal Mazarin.

But the one who truly pushed chocolate to the lives of many courtiers of France, was another Spanish princess, Maria Theresa of Spain.  Maria Theresa She married the powerful and extravagant Sun King, Louis XIV. She was said to have only two passions, one being the king and the other being chocolates.  Immediately, even before their wedding, Maria Theresa gave a beautifully decorated chest containing chocolate to Louis XIV as an engagement gift. The King liked and then favored chocolate. The king even remarked that Chocolate tricks hunger but it didn’t fill the stomach. The King liked it so much that he made chocolate to be served in the Palace of Versailles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. He also appointed Sieur David Illou to improve, manufacture and sell chocolate. Chocolate began to be enjoyed by people who could afford it when Illou started to sell his products. 

Chocolate had a huge impact on the taste of the French. Even after the death of Maria Theresa, Madame Maintenon, the second wife of Louis XIV, also developed a taste for chocolate. Madame Maintenon made chocolate to be served in every feasts in Versailles. Also chocolate began to become so significant, that foreign leaders sent gifts that relates to chocolate. One such gift came from the Siamese King Narai. From the advice of his Greek adviser Constantin Phaulkon, Narai sent a delegation that hand over two special silver chocolatiers.

Louis XIV court gave chocolate a huge attention in Europe. With his flamboyant lifestyle, an active sexual life, and a beautiful home in the Palace of Versailles, chocolate indeed fits King Louis XIV. Like Louis, chocolate can be made luxurious, it makes someone to fall in love or become sexually active, and finally, it can be made into something beautiful. 
Grivetti, L. E. Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage. New Jersey: Wiley, 2009. 

Mercier, J. Temptation of Chocolate. Lanoo, 2008. 


“Chocolate History Timeline.” The Gourmet Chocolate of the Month Club. Accessed November 24, 2013. http://www.chocolatemonthclub.com.

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