Red High Heels
I just finished reading Antonia Fraser's Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King and I was discussing it with a friend: the intricate, layered degrees of formality in language, title and dress, the lavish expenditure of the monarchy and the juggling of relationships (particularly those of the Sun King) in lives lead on the public stage of French court. My friend said, "Why don't you write a review of the book on your blog, but in rap? You could call it L14: His Bitches & Ho's. "
Oh. The red high heels* of the title?
Louis XIV, 1701
by Hyacinthe Rigaud**
* Quoting directly from my copy of Philip Mansel's Dressed to Rule: Royal and Court Costume From Louis XIV to Elizabeth II:
"One aspect of French court dress survives today. Red heels had been introduced by Louis XIV by 1673, probably to confirm the elevation of his court above the rest of humanity. Red heels, which were restricted to nobles with the right genealogical qualifications to be presented at court, demonstrated that the nobles did not dirty their shoes." Another proposed purpose was the red heels of nobility showed "...they were always ready to crush the enemies of the state at their feet." Talons rouges eventually became a synonym for French courtiers' futile insolence.
"Red heels remained part of formal wear at the French court, for members of the royal family and the noblesse présentée. From Versailles, red heels spread across Europe. They were worn by Louis XIV's greatest enemy, William III, and they can be seen in the coronation portraits of English, German and Austrian royalty. Today, red heels are still worn every year, at the state opening of British parliament in Westminster and the Garter Ceremony at Windsor, by the pages of Elizabeth II."
** The portrait by Rigaud was commissioned by Louis as a gift to Philip V of Spain. Louis was so enthralled with himself, not only did he keep it, but he commissioned a second copy for Versailles. The painting currently hangs in The Louvre.