LOUISBOURG

(For the Sun King)

Canada's History - - ROOTS -

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.

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