On the recommendation of Gary McCollim (a name familiar to the followers of this blog), I invested in Louis XIV, Chronographie d’un règne by Christophe Levantal. (It was expensive: the freight alone cost more than most texts.)

I’m glad I did, however, for it gives me an invaluable tool. This remarkable two-volume work traces, in close detail, where Louis XIV was on any particular day.

This is a mammoth undertaking. These are large-format volumes with very small type. The index alone is 200 pages!

For a writer of historical fiction, this is a god-send (or possibly a curse). Immediately, it has become the one book always beside me as I write.


What first surprised me was how often the King and Queen were on the move. Gary pulled together some interesting figures, which will give you an idea:

In the King’s lifetime, he stayed in 508 different places, many for just one night.

He lived 7.2% of his days at the Palais Royal in Paris (all of these in his youth), 9.3% at the Louvre in Paris, and 17.6% at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 8.9% at Marly, 8.1% at Fontainebleau, and 32.1% at Versailles.

It’s hard to imagine such a movable court, frankly: they did not pack light. (They often traveled with their beds, after all.) Imagine the wagons and carriages required simply to carry their extensive households. Imagine the guard escort, the chaos of the dust on the rutted roads. The mind boggles.

Pity the courtiers, constantly on the move. Pity the Queen, his wife!

For that matter, pity the poor novelist, simply trying to move characters from one scene to another. Pity the readers? I hope not.

Sandra Gulland
Author of the Josephine B. Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun
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