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The House of Bourbon is one of the most historically important European royal houses. Bourbon kings first ruled Navarre and France in the sixteenth century and by the eighteenth century, members of the Bourbon dynasty also held thrones in Spain and southern Italy - in fact the current king of Spain is a Bourbon monarch. This new history of the Bourbons is notable for being both comprehensive yet concise as it charts the rise, fall and rise again of the great French dynasty.
Henry IV, king of Gascony, became king of France after the murder of the last Valois monarch in 1589. The Bourbon rulers who followed, including Louis XIV, the 'Sun King' and Louis XV reigned during a period when France was the leading military power in Europe and when its arts was dominant. Louis XIV's palace of Versailles epitomised classical French culture and celebrated the power of its creator. France's autocratic government, under which the nobility were largely exempt from taxation, led in the eighteenth century to increasingly severe political and financial strains. The French Revolution of 1789 brought about the fall of the Bourbon monarchy and resulted in the execution of Louis XVI and his wife, Marie-Antoinette. In exile under Napoleon, the Bourbons returned to power for fifteen years after 1815 but never fully re-established their authority. The Bourbons tells their fascinating story.