Friday, June 27, 2014

Dinning with King Louis XIV

King Louis XIV dinning with Moliere
King Louis XIV was the ruler of France.  An egocentric King, he wanted to make his everyday life a show for every aristocrat to watch in his beautiful and magnificent palace of Versailles. From the time he wakes up in the morning, towards his every meal, and until the time of his sleep in the night, all of daily activities were ritualized to become small shows for the nobility. Even when it was time for his meals, all of it was turned into a show. Aristocrats gather around the King, waiting a chance to be notice and spoken to. Among of these ritualized meals was the Grand Couvert.

The Grand Couvert is the time when the King took his dinner or supper. It begins in 10 p.m. in the evening. The King, tired from his duties, goes to his antechamber and prepares for his meal. The King usually eats alone. But in special occasions, he invites someone to join him over the table. Meanwhile, his food comes from the kitchen of the palace. To protect King, the royal food is guarded on the way to prevent being poisoned. The procession of the King’s food starts with the meals placed in containers. The famous musketeers or royal guards of the King guarded the containers heavily. The food of the King is treated like it is the King itself. The passing of the food through the halls of Versailles was accommodated with the shouting of “Les viands du Roi” or the food of the king. As the food of the king passes, all those who were in its presence must stop and show their respect by bowing. When the food finally arrives, a taste checker would test the food for both taste or examine the food for poison. Another servant is in charge of placing the table napkin to the King. Another servant will oversee the service, and a gentleman-in-waiting will be standing in the side of the king, ready to follow the commands of Louis XIV. Around the king, while he is dinning, stand about 300 courtiers watching the King to eat and, perhaps, waiting for the King to talk to them and give a sign of favor. To entertain and for the King’s leisure, musicians play the best music in the room. The whole room was filled with sounds of instruments, sometimes songs, chatting, and sounds of utensils of the King.

The Grand Couvert although appeared a simple daily activity, it is a display of the sovereignty and the absolute power of the King over to his entire subjects. It shows that the aristocrats had no power above the King and all them revolve around the King. It also stands as the reminder of the grandeur of King Louis XIV during his reign. His opulence and extravagance that led eventually to the fall of the monarchy, decades after his death.

Civitello, L. Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons, 2011.

Forester, C. S. Louis XI:  King of France and Navarre. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1928.

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