Friday, December 10, 2010

What We Can Learn From History

King Louis XIV, also known as
"Le Roi Soliel"

In the court of Louis XIV, nobles and ministers would spend days and nights debating issues of state. They would confer, argue, make and break alliances, and argue again, until finally the critical moment arrived: Two of them would be chosen to represent the different sides to Louis himself, who would decide what should be done. After these persons were chosen, everyone would argue some more: How should the issues be phrased? What would appeal to Louis, what would annoy him? At what time of day should the representatives approach him, and in what part of the Versailles palace? What expression should they have on their faces? Finally, after all this was settled, the fateful moment would finally arrive. The two men would approach Louis – always a delicate matter – and when they finally had his ear, they would talk about the issue at hand, spelling out the options in detail. Louis would listen in silence, a most enigmatic look on his face. finally, when each had finished his presentation and had asked for the king's opinion, he would look at them both and say, "I shall see." Then he would walk away. The ministers and courtiers would never hear another word on this subject from the king-they would simply see the result, weeks later, when come to a decision and act. He would never bother to consult them on the matter again. Interpretation: Louis XIV was a man of very few words. His most famous remark is "L'etat, C'est moi" ("I am the state"); nothing could be more pithy yet more eloquent. His infamous "I shall see" was one of several extremely short phrases that he would apply to all manner of requests. Louis was not always this way; as a young man he was known for talking at length, delighting in his own eloquence. His later taciturnity was self-imposed, an act, a mask he used to keep everybody below him off balance. No one knew exactly where he stood, or could predict his reactions. No one could try to deceive him by saying what they thought he wanted to hear, because no one knew what he wanted to hear. As they talked on and on to the silent Louis, they revealed more and more about themselves, information he would later use against them to great effect. In the end, Louis's silence kept those around him terrified and under his thumb. It was one of the foundations of his power. As Saint-Simon wrote, "No one knew as well as he how to sell his words, his smile, even his glances. Everything in him was valuable because he created differences, and his majesty was enhanced by the sparseness of his words." It is more damaging for a minister to say foolish things than to do them. Cardinal de Retz, 1613-1679

From the book: The 48 Laws of Power


  1. If u like the wierdness of Louis XIV, read "The Essence of Style" by Joan DeJean. it kind of has to do with what u wrote. His ways and how he always got things his way. its interesting. learnt a lot from it

    the book basically talks about the various french invention of food, fashion, cafes, etc. Most of it was introduced by this man.

  2. Thanks Boudoir... I'm looking for a good book to read for my vacation. The book sounds interesting. Inshallah I'll check it out ;)