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The Rise and Fall of the House of Bourbon

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, September 8, 2021 - 6:30 p.m., to Friday, September 10, 2021 - 8:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2150
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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Portrait of Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud

The House of Bourbon remains one of the most historically important European royal houses. Originally a branch of the Capetian dynasty, the Bourbons came to prominence in the 16th century when they first became the rulers of Navarre, in Spain, and later of France proper.

Historian Alexander Mikaberidze explores their rise to power, starting with the life and career of Henry IV, the first Bourbon king of France and one of the most important French sovereigns. The Bourbon rulers who followed—Louis XIII and the famed Louis XIV, the “Sun King”— turned France into Europe’s leading power. He examines the establishment of the French absolutist monarchy and its growing influence in Europe as French became the language of the European elite and French art and culture were without equal on the Continent.

Things began to unravel in the 18th century as the Bourbon kings confronted new challenges and struggled with severe political and financial strains. Mikaberidze traces the successes and failures of Louis XV and Louis XVI and examines the root causes for revolution that brought down the French monarchy in 1792. In exile during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Era, the Bourbons returned to power for 15 years after 1815 but never fully re-established their authority.

Mikaberidze is a professor of history and Ruth Herring Noel Endowed Chair for the Curatorship of the James Smith Noel Collection at Louisiana State University, Shreveport.

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