Why did the Beatles make so many references within their work to famous doubles and doppelgangers? Next in the “Doubles and Doppelgangers” series we have a pretty obvious reference to King Louis XIV within the song “Here Come the Sun King” from the Beatles infamous Abbey Road album.
Louis XIV was known as the Sun King. He was a monarch of the House of Bourbon who ruled as King of France from 1643 until his death. His reign of 72 years and 110 days is the longest of any monarch of a major country in European history.
Over his lifetime, Louis commissioned numerous works of art to portray himself, among them over 300 formal portraits. The earliest portrayals of Louis already followed the pictorial conventions of the day in depicting the child king as the majestically royal incarnation of France. This idealization of the monarch continued in later works, which avoided depictions of the effect of the smallpox that Louis contracted in 1647. In the 1660s, Louis began to be shown as a Roman emperor, the god Apollo, Alexander the Great, or as Jupiter as in the painting above.
The Man in the Iron Mask
The most popular of all the legends regarding this prisoner pertains to his lineage. It has been said that The Man in the Iron Mask, was the son of Anne of Austria and Cardinal Mazarin, and therefore an illegitimate half-brother of King Louis XIV, an idea transformed into a book by Alexandre Dumas called “The Vicomte de Bragelonne”. However, the book introduced a substantial change: he made the prisoner an identical twin of Louis XIV. The story goes on to say that the man was kept hidden because of his rights to the throne. Twins were a threat to orderly succession, but no one could kill a prince of royal blood, so the second twin was masked and imprisoned. The novel, written in 1847 portrays Dumas’s famous characters- the 3 Musketeers- D’Artagnan, Aramis, Porthos, and Athos. In this sequel, their lives are tracked many years after the moment when D’Artagnan receives a commission to be a lieutenant in the Musketeers. We find in The Man in the Iron Mask that things have changed quite a bit from the seeming happy days of swashbuckling adventures.
The story opens at a French prison known as the Bastille. A priest named Aramis – a former Musketeer – is sitting in a cell with the prisoner. Aramis is at the prison to hear the man’s confession. However his confession is lacking due to his only crime being the King of France’s twin brother. Aramis happens to be one of the few people in France who knows this secret. Aramis wastes no time in putting together a plan to free this prisoner and swap him for the legitimate king.
Later in the story, the King is replaced by the freed prisoner, Philippe, the twin brother of Louis XIV- The Sun King. The real King gets thrown into the Bastille, and Philippe morphs into his new royal role.
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