When I Die, On My Grave You Can Write Whatever You Like


His thirst, his heartburn brought about the rivalry of Champaign and Burgundy, his gout was responsible for a new national cuisine. His typhoid fever, his dysentery, his rheumatism and liver pain, his anthrax, finally gangrene and septic shock made history in the early science. Louis XIV’s doctors took exhaustive daily notes about his dreams, his appetite and his excretions. We know which day he had a headache and which day a stomach ache, what kind of rash, where and for how long. 

They gave us all the symptoms, all the details of the medical procedures, the purgatives, the bleedings; the dental work: how the left side of his mouth was butchered, the palate all busted and the straw-feeding done with the liquid diet coming out of his nose… yet he continued the routine of the publicly viewed meals, and how in spite of a freshly cauterised wound the man would still be in court, still in council, still in the saddle.

We may read about his agitated nights and how he thrushed around, then sat up to cry, to scream, to mumble. We have some stunning descriptions of the Sun King’s agonizing death: for sure, he was dying as theatrically as he was living. Everyone has gathered around his bed with tears in their eyes, mostly because of the putrid smell. His famous last words, “Gentlemen, I am leaving you, but I am leaving you the state.”

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