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Athénaïs: The Real Queen Of France

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  566 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
The reign of Athenais de Montespan as principal mistress of Louis XIV corresponds with the most glorious period of the Grand Siecle. Athenais was the true Queen of France, symbol of a dazzling French culture in the 17th century. As a lover, she risked the disgrace of double adultery to conduct an affair which scandalized Europe; as a patron she supported many of the leader ...more
Published 2007 by Little Brown and Company (first published 2002)
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Engagingly written, but shallow popular biography, which doesn't even attempt neutrality or scholarly distance—Hilton makes no bones about the fact that she's firmly on the side of Madame de Montespan. This makes for an unbalanced book, and while the reader might be able to enjoy the book, one can never shake the scepticism which such partisanship creates in the reader.
Aug 12, 2011 M A rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I've read "Athenais" a few times, hoping to have a better sense of how to best evaluate it. I'm fascinated by the life and times of Louis XIV France. The Sun King's long-term mistress, notorious for her adulterous affair with the married king and for her alleged involvement in the Affairs of the Poisons, is a fascinating and mysterious figure. She is probably the most important of Louis's mistresses and she had the nerve, style, and influence to see her children advance to the highest possible e ...more
Mar 03, 2015 Vivian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm giving Lisa Hilton two stars for the actual information in this book, but was not at all impressed with her talent as a historian. I understand it's close to impossible to be completely neutral and unbiased when writing about events and people of the past, but the opinions of Hilton came through loud and clear, and to her, Athenais de Montespan practically walked on water. No other woman besides Athenais was worthy of the King, and when other women of the court were able to attract the atten ...more
Jan 15, 2012 Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
oddly biased for a non-fiction historical book that was clearly researched
Jan 05, 2015 Meg rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, hated, femauthors
Well, this is one of most disappointing and horribly written pieces of pop history I've read yet. The cover is pretty, the inside is ugly. Do not read this. Do not waste your time. Seek anyone or anything BUT this book.

While this author has something approaching a thesis, she doesn't tend to stick with it. Indeed there are times when she's so set on describing the material and cultural minutiae that she loses the plot entirely. More to the point, what organizational prowess she does have doesn't
Rebecca Huston
Aug 05, 2010 Rebecca Huston rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: keepers, royals, france
I found this to be a lot of fun to read, and well-constructed. I hadn't known a great deal about this mistress of Louis XIV before I read this, and it helped me to understand why Louis XIV went through such a change after the Affair of the Poisons.

For the complete review, please go here:
Mar 27, 2010 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another fascinating look at the life of Louis XIV and his women. I appreciated the genealogical information included. It even had a chart explaining who of what ranks was allowed to sit on what in whomever else's presence. That was fascinating! The author's footnotes were very well-done and informative.

This is one of those non-fiction books that reads like fiction.
Lena Tumasyan
Aug 06, 2011 Lena Tumasyan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heads up: this is NOT a porn or an erotic novel. This is a well documented, academically thorough research novel of the famous, Marquise de Montespan, aka Athenais the Real Queen of France.

The author, Lisa Hilton, does a really GREAT job of presenting us with information about Athenais. It's easy to follow and not at ALL boring to read. We really get to see the EVERYDAY life of Athenias as she grew up, competed to get into court, won Louis XIV's affection and became his official mistress. Hilton

This is an excellent biography of Athenais de Montespan, considered to be the most successful of Louis XIV's mistresses.

The biography starts not with her birth, but a few years before that, covering the background of Louis’s early reign when he was minor and his mother had her hands full keeping a not exactly unified France in one piece as various factions tried to gain power. This is the background that lead to Louis’s agenda of an extremely centralized government that would have a huge impact
Feb 04, 2012 kingshearte rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, 2012
Although the premise sounded intriguing, and Athénaïs sounded like a fascinating person, frankly, I found this book kind of dull, and it was a bit of a slog to get through. I think, if I had to characterize the problem, it's that it read more like slightly single-focused history rather than like a biography. I get that it's hard to write a really personal, in-depth biography of someone who's been long dead if that person has not left any significant personal record (like extensive correspondence ...more
Apr 25, 2015 Belinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book review I have done in awhile due to a long and sad few months during which I lost my beloved uncle and I just have not felt like doing much but grieving. He was a book lover and always inspired me to read and continue to learn my whole life so I know he would want me to get back on the proverbial book horse.
I have always found Madame de Montespan an interesting subject, but this is the first book I have come across that was specifically about her. When I started the book
Carrie White
What an absolutely wonderful book--and what a woman Athenais must have been. I adore nonfiction, but I often find it difficult to get through what can become just a list of facts. This book took a step to the side by treating nonfiction a bit differently, and I have to say that I enjoyed it immensely. Hilton gave Athenais a personality, motivations, and character that a reader would almost never see from a subject who lived so long ago--and left very little written material of her own. Further, ...more
Jul 16, 2015 Tina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book on a rather obscure person. A lot of the criticisms I saw from other readers was that Hilton failed to add "anything new" to what we already knew of Athenais, but I honestly don't think there is that much more to be added. She did after all, live 300 years ago.

What I did like, was the way Hilton gave Athenais personality and charm. This was the woman who seduced the King of France and managed to hold on to him for several decades. It's clear that Hilton favors her subject,
Oct 23, 2011 Maria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love it, love it,love it! It+s one of my favourite books of all times. Love the descriptions of Versailles, the court of Louis XIV, which is one of my favourite rullers of all time.

Athenais de Montespan in fact rulled the court of France on the 20 some years the she was mistress to the King. she was more Queen that the Queen itself, Marie-Thérese, that kept herself quiet, in her chaber surrounded by her spanish entourage. Athenais rulled a time of glamour, love, lust, inteligence, brithness, shi
Aug 10, 2016 Lacey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
One word: Biography. I wouldn't have picked this book up if I had know that fact to begin with. Oh well, I bought it so I did manage to get through it. Unfortunately, when I think of biographies I think of homework. Lots of facts, footnotes and unnecessary details. All of which this book had plenty, but for all of that is was fairly easy to read. The subject was interesting enough to keep my interest. There were a lot of details of life in general in King Louis XIV's court and I'm sure that were ...more
A very well-written & completely engrossing look at the Great Century in France through the lens of the Sun King's longest-lasting mistress, the infamous Athenais, Marquise de Montespan. Louis XIV was France's longest-reigning king, as well as one of the most committed to sumptuousness & spectacle, more or less creating the French monarchy as it is remembered for the rest of its existence, & Hilton illustrates just how much a part of that spectacle Athenais was. History has tradition ...more
May 18, 2011 Xenia0201 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This interrested me as I have never read about Athenais before. I have read a few of Lisa Hilton's books before so I am familiar with her style; she writes beautifully and descriptively so I was excited. This is much juicier than your average historical biography and will hold your attention. Lots of other interesting tidbits and facts crammed in here such as glimpses into the ettiquette system established at Versailles. The seating hierarchy in itself is a real gem demonstrating the importance ...more
Jul 26, 2012 Liza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
An inside look into Athenais de Montespan's life with Louis XIV and her declined into obscurity in her later years.
Athenais was the "It" girl of the 17th century. She had beauty, wit, charm and a great fashion sense. With her infinite ambition, she reached the highest position a female courtier was able to obtain - mistress to the king. She became Louis's right hand and confidant for many years until her friend, Madame the Maintenon, influenced the king, brushed her aside, forced her to retire
Started out interesting enough, but when I got to the end I thought, "FINALLY!"... which is not a reaction one wants to have to a book.

I wish to make two accusations against the author of this book:
1) that she had not enough information to write a book of this length, and instead of writing a shorter, snappier book, she... still wrote a book of this length, and it dragged.
2) that she is so whoa clearly Team Athenais. I mean, I get that if you're writing a whole book about someone, you're probabl
I loved this book, with its many tidbits of court life and amazing realism in painting the portrait of Madame de Montespan. As a longtime history buff, with a penchant for the court of Louis XIV, this brought out so much detail and intrigue, I was instantly hooked.

Hilton not only draws the biography of Montespan, but she outlines her impact on Louis XIV's court, from her manner of speech and dress, to her patronage of Racine and Moliere, and her development of architectural styles implemented a
Oct 11, 2013 Whitney rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I had hoped when I got this book it would be an intriguing tale of Louis xiv's mistress. Unfortunately, this book was not what I was looking for.

The organization of the book was poor, which made it difficult to get into the story. I thought that the quotes and facts the author used were not presented in a way that helped with the flow or understanding of the book.

It was also very biased. I don't mind an author having a viewpoint, but focusing only on the good things Athenais did, or portraying e
Samantha Bee
Jan 14, 2016 Samantha Bee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely nice to read a book that doesn't immediately vilify Athenais for once. A more sympathetic view is always appreciated. I do wish there was more focus on Athenais herself, however, and less on Louis XIV. While he very obviously played an important role in her rise to fame, I think Hilton spent more time focusing on him than was necessary. It was a fairly easy read, though, and while I know some people aren't fond more biased accounts of history, I've read so much condemning Athenais tha ...more
Aug 14, 2011 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very "chewy" book. Highly detailed, the book appears to have been well researched (I am not a scholar on this topic). The style of the writing is a bit on the dry side, but otherwise, it is a worthwhile book for those interested in history, famous (Royal) mistresses, a look at how the other 1% lived, and those who might be intersted in a look into a long-lost era of France.

For those with limited knowledge of social customs prior to the modern age, this book would be especially worthwh
Sep 04, 2009 Holly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in historical scandal
Lisa Hilton goes into the dark depths of 17th century to show us the life of the Royal Court of France through the biography of King Louis XIV's mistress, Athenais. Her research is indepth and what you'll find here is unpredictable.

For anyone who gets kicks out of reading today's gossip columns, this biography is packed full of power, longing, lust, deceit, scandal, passion and more.

A dense read, I found myself confusing the many names of the members of court, but the life of Athenais, though
Feb 24, 2013 Melodee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This chronicle of the life of one of Louis IV's official mistresses is full of insight and rich detail. The lives of the royals are always awe-inspiring, and this is no exception. I never cease to be amazed at the luxuriousness of the lifestyle. For example, the sheer size of the palace at Versailles is astounding- Athenais, Louis' mistress, had a suite of 20 rooms to herself. In all the court was composed of up to 5,000 people at a time. Amazing! I enjoyed it immensely.
Jul 24, 2007 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this one because it stayed on topic, and didn't try to dramatize her life anymore than it already was. Maybe I've read too many historical fictions that I appreciated how factual this one was. It was fun to see what she could get away with as the King's mistress, which turns out to be a much better role than the queen. I guess looks actually can get you somewhere, except when you lose them you have a lot less to rely on.
Aug 28, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was AWESOME!! I had never heard of this women and she is now one of my favorite history people..This book was very well written.The author had all of her facts togther,she had it put togther in a manner in was easy to follow.She didn't just throw facts in your face,she really set up the character of Athenais. I would recommend this book for anyone and everyone!
Oct 20, 2015 Kendall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Extremely well-written, anecdotal, absorbing. Historical accounts can be notoriously difficult to read - "Athenais" was not. In fact, it is one of those books that makes you want to reach out for more books and learn more about the topics and the time period (but in itself it is extremely informative). Gives a wonderful portrayal of the time period.
Mar 28, 2007 Kristiana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lush description of not only Athenais’ exploits, but also of palace life, gossip, fabrics, furniture, food and gambling. Worth the read if your interested in powerful women or if you want an elongated “People”- esque-historical novel.
Oct 16, 2011 Pyxipyro rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book surprised me on how much I liked it. I liked the descriptions of the characters, the surroundings and the era for which it was written. King Louis XIV always seemed like and interesting King with an extravagent life.
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 Oct 08, 2015 07:38PM  
  • The Affair of the Poisons: Murder, Infanticide, and Satanism at the Court of Louis XIV
  • The Secret Wife of Louis XIV: Françoise d'Aubigné, Madame de Maintenon
  • Madame de Pompadour: A Life
  • Madame de Pompadour: Mistress of France
  • Napoleon: His Wives and Women
  • A Royal Passion: The Turbulent Marriage of King Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria of France
  • The Kings' Mistresses: The Liberated Lives of Marie Mancini, Princess Colonna, and Her Sister Hortense, Duchess Mazarin
  • The Lost King of France: How DNA Solved the Mystery of the Murdered Son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette
  • Royal Affairs: A Lusty Romp Through the Extramarital Adventures That Rocked the British Monarchy
  • Katherine Swynford: The History of a Medieval Mistress
  • Nell Gwyn: Mistress to a King
  • Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King
  • Marie-Thérèse, Child of Terror: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's Daughter
  • In Triumph's Wake: Royal Mothers, Tragic Daughters, and the Price They Paid for Glory
  • Privilege and Scandal: The Remarkable Life of Harriet Spencer, Sister of Georgiana
  • A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby
  • Versailles: A Biography of a Palace
  • The Rose of Martinique: A Life of Napoleon's Josephine
Lisa Hilton is an author and biographer. She grew up in the north of England and read English at New College, Oxford, after which she studied History of Art in Florence and Paris. After eight years in New York, Paris and Milan she has recently returned to England and now lives in London with her husband and their daughter. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Elle, the Evening Standard and the Telegrap ...more
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