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Even a Sun King is not safe from being beaten up… by his brother. – Party like 1660

Even a Sun King is not safe from being beaten up… by his brother.

Boys will be boys, brothers will be brothers, and no matter how great the love for each other, they will play pranks on each other and they will quarrel. This was not different as Louis XIV and his brother Philippe were children, yet in their case every little quarrel could lead to the outcry of a Kingdom and could be considered a lèse-majesté.

Louis XIV and his brother Philippe

While Louis, at an early age already was fully aware that he was King, he was more of a silent and observing nature. His younger brother Philippe was quite the opposite. Philippe, back then known as le Petit Monsieur, loved to chatter, cavort and was known for occasional tantrums. Little Philippe had, for example, after tripping over his dance partner’s skirts during a ballet, slapped a lady who was laughing about the incident and not long after, a daughter of a lady-of-honour that quarrelled with his nurse. Being the King’s brother is not easy, especially if one is taught from birth on to obey whatever the King says and is kindly reminded every day that one is a subject before a brother, something that influenced Philippe’s thinking greatly and made him prone to occasional outbursts. Just Philippe, little Louis could throw quite a fit as well, he was King after all.

Monsieur La Porte, Louis XIV’s valet, reports of a incident where both pushed each other into shredding a complete room.

Having nothing more with which to piss or spit, they set about to tearing up the sheets and soon began to fight.” ~ La Porte

This episode took place while both were travelling with their mother, Anne d’Autriche, the brothers had to share a small room and upon being woken in the morning, the King, still half asleep and apparently without thinking, spat on his brother’s bed. This little unwariness thus lead to proper fistfight.

Upon realising his older brother just spat on his bed, Philippe sat up and repaid Louis likewise. This act alone was pretty close to a lèse-majesté already, even though it was acted out by the King’s brother. What followed set the court buzzing like a beehive. Louis, now quite infuriated, spat into Philippe’s face, which in turn outraged Monsieur. He leaped from his own bed on that of his brother, lifted his nightshirt… and urinated on his brother’s bed. We can only hope that Louis had a bit of a safety distance to his brother. The act was once more repaid in kind, by Louis leaping on Philippe’s bed and lifting his nightshirt to leave, like his brother just had done, a puddle on the sheets. That being not enough, Philippe began to take Louis’ bed apart, and thus Louis did the same with Philippe’s. Pieces of bed cloth flew through the room as both yelled at each other and, now having nothing to tear apart anymore, leaped at each other to wrestle. This episode came only to an end as the King’s governor entered the room and both were quickly separated, the nightshirts torn apart and out of breath.

Not too long after, the court witnessed another episode of brother versus brother triggered by adolescent bravado, this time with less body fluids.

It was Lent, the time for prayer and fasting, as during supper, probably with the intention of shocking mother and brother, Philippe helped himself to a large bowl of meat broth and with the large bowl in front of him declared his intention to eat it all. Louis quickly retorted with a “Bet you won’t.” and tried to take the bowl out of Philippe’s hands. Which thus lead to another quarrel.

Philippe, determined to remain in possession of the yummy meat broth, clung to the bowl as Louis tried to take it away, in the scuffle that followed, and had quite a few observers in contrary to the episode in the bedroom, some drops of broth landed in Philippe’s hair and on his clothing. Little Philippe already had a quite distinctive sense of fashion and fabrics and was beside himself with a fury he could not control, thus he sent the bowl flying at his brother’s face. Imagine the shocked faces…..

A probably dripping wet Louis, his vanity piqued by the outcries of the ladies, became angry in turn and declared loudly, if it weren’t for the present ladies, he would kick his brother bodily from the room. Disgraced, Petit Monsieur withdrew from the scene and hid himself in his bedroom for the rest of the day. It is unclear what the punishment for this act of lèse-majesté was, some speak of a beating for Philippe, others of a painful reconciliation the next day.

The moral of the story, one cannot win if one’s brother is King, even if he is just a child and one is second in line, is something that Philippe would be reminded of during his whole life, whenever he asked for something, or even worse, dared to excel his kingly brother.

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