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The superb historian and biographer Antonia Fraser, author of Marie Antoinette, casts new light on the splendor and the scandals of the reign of Louis XIV in this dramatic, illuminating look at the women in his life. The self-proclaimed Sun King, Louis XIV ruled over the most glorious and extravagant court in seventeenth-century Europe. Now, Antonia Fraser goes behind the well-known tales of Louis’s accomplishments and follies, exploring in riveting detail his intimate relationships with women. The king’s mother, Anne of Austria, had been in a childless marriage for twenty-two years before she gave birth to Louis XIV. A devout Catholic, she instilled in her son a strong sense of piety and fought successfully for his right to absolute power. In 1660, Louis married his first cousin, Marie-Thérèse, in a political arrangement. While unfailingly kind to the official Queen of Versailles, Louis sought others to satisfy his romantic and sexual desires. After a flirtation with his sister-in-law, his first important mistress was Louise de La Vallière, who bore him several children before being replaced by the tempestuous and brilliant Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan. Later, when Athénaïs’s reputation was tarnished, the King continued to support her publicly as Athénaïs left court for a life of repentance. Meanwhile her children’s governess, the intelligent and seemingly puritanical Françoise de Maintenon, had already won the King’s affections; in a relationship in complete contrast to his physical obsession with Athénaïs, Louis XIV lived happily with Madame de Maintenon for the rest of his life, very probably marrying her in secret. When his grandson’s child bride, the enchanting Adelaide of Savoy, came to Versaille she lightened the King’s last years – until tragedy struck. With consummate skill, Antonia Fraser weaves insights into the nature of women’s religious lives – as well as such practical matters as contraception – into her magnificent, sweeping portrait of the king, his court, and his ladies. From the Hardcover edition.
The Sun King is a dazzling double portrait of Louis XIV and Versailles, the opulent court from which he ruled. With characteristic élan, Nancy Mitford reconstructs the daily life of king and courtiers during France’s golden age, offering vivid sketches of the architects, artists, and gardeners responsible for the creation of the most magnificent palace Europe had yet seen. Mitford lays bare the complex and deadly intrigues in the stateroom and the no less high-stakes power struggles in the bedroom. At the center of it all is Louis XIV himself, the demanding, mercurial, but remarkably resilient sovereign who guided France through nearly three quarters of the Grand Siècle. Brimming with sumptuous detail and delicious bons mots, and written in a witty, conversational style, The Sun King restores a distant glittering century to vibrant life.
In her superb new biography, Hilton chronicles the life of this extraordinary woman, known as "the real Queen of France," who reigned as official mistress to Louis XIV during the most glorious period of "the splendid century."
On 16 November 1671, Liselotte von der Pfalz, the nineteen-year-old daughter of the Elector of Palatine, was married to Philippe d'Orleans, "Monsieur, " the only brother of Louis XIV. The marriage was not to be a happy one. Liselotte (known in France as Elisabeth Charlotte, Duchesse d'Orleans, or "Madame") was full of intellectual energy and moral rigor. Homesick for her native Germany, she felt temperamentally ill-suited to life at the French court. The homosexual Monsieur, deeply immersed in the pleasures and intrigues of the court, shared few of his wife's interests. Yet, for the next fifty years, Liselotte remained in France, never far from the center of one of the most glorious courts of Europe. And throughout this period, she wrote letters - sometimes as many as forty a week - to her friends and relatives in Germany. It is from this extraordinary body of correspondence that A Woman's Life in the Court of the Sun King has been fashioned. As introduced and translated by Elborg Forster, the letters have become the remarkable personal narrative of Liselotte's transformation from an innocent, yet outspoken, girl into a formidable observer of great events and human folly.
The alignment of the stars at Marie Mancini's birth warned that although she would be gifted at divination, she was destined to disgrace her family. Nonetheless, Cardinal Mazarin brings his niece to the opulent French court, where the forbidden occult arts thrive in secret. In France, Marie discovers that her powerful uncle rules, using Marie's sister Olympia to hold the Sun King, Louis XIV, in thrall. Desperate to avoid her mother's dying wish that she spend her life in a convent, Marie burns her grimoire, trading Italian superstitions for polite sophistication. As her star rises, King Louis becomes enchanted by Marie's charm. Sensing a chance to grab even greater power, Cardinal Mazarin pits the sisters against each other, showering Marie with diamonds and silks in exchange for bending King Louis to his will. Disgusted by Mazarin's ruthlessness, Marie rebels. She sacrifices everything, but exposing Mazarin's darkest secret threatens to tear France apart. When even King Louis' love fails to protect Marie, she must summon her powers of divination. Fraught with conspiracy and passion, Enchantress of Paris is a captivating historical novel about a woman whose love was more powerful than magic.
“The Splendid Century,” penned by the brother of famous author C. S. Lewis (“Alice in Wonderland”), is a depiction of various aspects of life in France during the reign of Louis XIV, gleaned through the author’s thorough research of records, correspondence, and journals of the time. Using anecdotal evidence, the book probes in detail various facets of life in France during this time, including the lives of nobles (particularly those at court) as well as commoners, religious institutions and conflicts, the organization of the French army and its restructuring, rural life and city life, what life was like on galley ships and passenger sailing ships, how doctors were trained, and the state of women’s education. The author also discusses the background behind Louis XIV’s policies, illustrating their impact on French civilization, both during this time and for generations to come. A must-read for anyone interested in French history.
Françoise d'Aubigné, marquise de Maintenon and secret wife of the Sun King, Louis XIV, was born in a bleak French prison in 1635, her father a condemned traitor and murderer, her mother the warden's seduced daughter. A timely pardon and a hopeful Caribbean colonial venture failed to mend the family's fortunes, and Françoise was reduced to begging in the streets. Yet, armed with beauty, intellect, and shrewd judgment, she was to make her way to the center of power at Versailles, the most opulent and ambitious court in all Europe. At fifteen, she was married off to the forty-two-year-old satirical poet Paul Scarron, a former roué now grievously deformed by rheumatism—"a sort of human Z," as he described himself. Despite his ailments, Scarron presided over the liveliest and most scandalous literary salon in Paris, and Françoise quickly became its most prized ornament. After Scarron's death, she enjoyed a merry widowhood in the fashionable Marais district, in the company of the courtesan Ninon de Lenclos and the King's splendid mistress, Athénaïs de Montespan, who made the young widow governess to her brood of illegitimate children. The appointment transformed Françoise's life, but was fatal to the temperamental Athénaïs herself, with the King soon turning his attentions to the graceful governess. Françoise was raised to the nobility as Madame de Maintenon—and, unofficially, "Madame de Maintenant," the lady of the moment. The acclaimed biographer Veronica Buckley traces the extraordinary story of Françoise's progress from pauper child to salonnière to the compromised position of Louis's secret wife and uncrowned Queen. An absolute ruler, Louis turned away his many other mistresses to live with Françoise only, trusting her as his closest confidante and remaining in love with her for forty years. Sparkling with the irresistible wit of contemporary chroniclers such as Madame de Sévigné, this exactingly researched biography is a pinnacle of the form. In vibrant colors, The Secret Wife of Louis XIV paints a portrait of Europe in an age of violent change, and the Sun King's France in the process of becoming its modern self.
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