(For the Sun King)
The Fortress of Louisbourg was named for one of Queen Anne’s contemporaries, King Louis XIV of France, the longest reigning monarch in French history. The building of the massive stone fortress in what is now Cape Breton began in 1713, just two years before the end of the king’s record-breaking seventy-two-year reign from 1643 to 1715.
Louisbourg was one of the most extensive European fortifications constructed in North America. Built to provide a base for France’s lucrative North American fishery and to protect Quebec from British invasions, the cost of its construction was more than seven times its original budget. The escalating expense prompted Louis XIV’s successor, Louis XV, to jokingly remark that he expected to see its walls rising above the horizon when he looked out a window of his palace.
The Sun King, as he was called, was no stranger to big construction projects. Over the course of his reign, he transformed the royal residence at Versailles from a comparatively modest hunting lodge to one of the most spectacular palaces in Europe. His cultural impact was not restricted to architecture. The king popularized the ballet, even dancing onstage himself in court performances. He also commissioned more than twenty statues of himself, which stood throughout France to remind his subjects who was in charge.
Louis XIV took a strong interest in the development of New France. Concerned at the slow population growth of French Canada compared to the English colonies to the south, he sponsored hundreds of female emigrants in the 1660s, who became known as “the king’s daughters.”
The Fortress of Louisbourg did not last. The British systematically destroyed it after capturing it in 1758. However, a quarter of the site was rebuilt in the 1960s and 1970s, and the fort is now considered, appropriately enough, the “crown jewel” of Canada’s National Historic Site system. Louis XIV is also honoured in Quebec City, where the Place Royale is named for this famous king.