Abstract

From 1691 until 1712 Louis XIV corresponded directly with the generals in command of his armies. This correspondence, conserved in the army archives at Vincennes, is almost entirely unpublished. A critical edition is underway, and we already have the transcription of the letters written by the king in 1696. Reading these missives brings to light a very different sun-king from the one we know from official propaganda or from historical memory: a cautious and scrupulous prince, slow to action, more a leader of the general staff than a war leader. What we take away from the study of the monarch's military correspondence is, in fact, nothing less than a fresh understanding of the ‘stratégie de cabinet’—the direction of the French armies from Versailles.

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