Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Marriage of the Sun King and the Spanish Princess

It was the wedding of the century. After decades of war that raged from Portugal to Germany, 17th-century Europe's two greatest powers had finally concluded a peace, a peace that was to be cemented with the marriage between the Louis XIV, the King of France, and Maria Teresa, the daughter of Spain's King Philip IV.

After the obligatory legal details (Montmédy to France, Maria Teresa gives up her claim to the Spanish Throne, Dunkirk to England, French renounce claim to Barcelona, etc.) the wedding site was chosen: a charming seaside town on the border between France and Spain. Courtiers and noblemen from all over Europe gathered in the cathedral of Saint-Jean-de-Luz to watch the marital union of Europe's two great royal families, the Hapsburgs and the Bourbons.

Last Friday, I stood in that very cathedral in Saint-Jean-de-Luz and let the sheer weight of that history smother me.