Philippe II was born on this day in 1674

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ROUE (roo-AY)

A man devoted to a life of immorality
Common clues: Cad; Casanova; Profligate; Lecher; L
icentious sort; Pleasure seeker; Dissolute one; Womanizer; Rake; Libertine
Crossword puzzle frequency: 3 times a year
Casanova (2005) (BBC)

Philippe of Orleans

The word originally comes from the French rouer, which means to break on a wheel, referring to a form of torture deserved by such a person. The word was first used in its modern sense by Philippe, Duke of Orleans. He was known to associate with companions as licentious as himself – even boasting that there was not one of them who did not deserve to be broken on the wheel; therefore his friends were known as Orleans’ roués, or wheels.

The regent had great qualities, both brilliant and solid, which were spoilt by an excessive taste for pleasure. His dissolute manners found many imitators, and the regency was one of the most corrupt periods in French history.

Philippe was a professed atheist who boasted to read the satirical works of François Rabelais inside a Bible binding during mass, and liked to hold orgies even on religious high holidays. He acted in plays of Molière and Racine, composed an opera, and was a gifted painter and engraver. Despite his atheism, Philippe favoured the Jansenists against the decrees of the Pope.

He was a great collector of art, and his collection of paintings, mostly sold in London after the Revolution, was one of the finest ever assembled.

A liberal and imaginative man, he was however, often weak, inconsistent and vacillating. Nonetheless, as Regent, he changed the manners of the ruler and his nobles from the hypocrisy of Louis XIV to complete candor. He was against censorship and ordered the reprinting of books banned under the reign of his uncle. Reversing his uncle's policies again, Philippe formed an alliance with England, Austria, and the Netherlands, and fought a successful war against Spain that established the conditions of a European peace.

Philippe promoted education, making the Sorbonne tuition free and opening the Royal Library to the public (1720). He is however most remembered for the debauchery he brought to Versailles and for the John Law banking scandal.

The city of New Orleans, Louisiana is named after him.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Philippe II, Duke of Orléans".