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A Gold Mounted Sun King Snuff Box
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A Gold Mounted Sun King Snuff Box

Circa 1780

Measurements: Diameter: 7.1cm (2.75in)

£2700

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Gold mounted tortoiseshell snuff box, the lid applied with a portrait of King Louis XIV of France (reigned 1643-1715), in gilt-edged silver breastplate with white Venetian lace cravat, wearing long curling brown wig under glass. Small imperfection to lower edge.

Louis XIV (1638-1715), the Sun King, was king of France from 1643 to 1715 and was widely held to be the greatest monarch of his age. His early years were marked by a series of rebellions against his mother and the regent Cardinal Mazarin. These created a dislike of Paris, and led to the development of Versailles as the centre of power. In 1660, he married Maria Theresa, daughter of Philip IV of Spain. When Mazarin died in 1661, the 23-year-old Louis decided to rule as an absolute monarch, and began to cultivate his image, taking the sun as his emblem. In 1682 he moved the government from Paris to Versailles.

Louis's reign was marked by aggressive French foreign policies. After the death of his father-in-law, Louis claimed part of the Spanish Netherlands and launched the War of Dutch Devolution (1667-1668). In the Second Dutch War, he failed to crush the Dutch, led by William of Orange, but made significant territorial gains. In 1685, Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes which had allowed freedom of worship to French Protestants (Huguenots). Around 200,000 Huguenots, many of them skilled craftsmen, fled to Holland and England.

The last three decades of Louis's reign were marked by almost constant warfare, France being the dominant power on the continent. The War of the League of Augsburg (1688-1697), followed by the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) severely strained French resources. In the War of the Spanish Succession, for the first time in nearly a century France consistently lost battles, most notably at Blenheim in 1704 and Ramillies in 1706 to John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough.

 

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