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The Sun King: Louis XIV at Versailles (Folio Society)

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  855 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
Often criticised as a philandering egomaniac who squandered fortunes on grand follies and people’s lives in aggressive expansionist wars, Louis XIV nevertheless presided over a golden age of French power and influence. His wars and alliances brought him valuable prizes, from the Spanish throne to colonial possessions, while Versailles, for all its profligacy, also had a cr ...more
Hardcover, 246 pages
Published June 2011 by The Folio Society (first published January 1st 1966)
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After reading two of Nancy Mitford’s historical biographies, I can say that I have at the very least learned exactly who Nancy likes to invite to her parties. Ladies should be elegant, witty, memorable, beautiful if at all possible, and at the very least aware that one must dress if not. They should be wise in the ways of men, conform to religious standards only as much as necessary to not end up on the front page, and above all be disinclined to fall into the vapors. Men are required to be eleg ...more
Luís C.
The splendid fortunes - as the fierce winds - causing major wrecks.

Fluffy & ‘pretty’ history. Meh.
Jamie Collins
This is a fun book, a rather chaotic collection of anecdotes and gossip about Louis XIV and his women, centered around their lives at Versailles. The author's narrative is sarcastic and amusing with little attempt at objectivity. This edition is a softcover but it's the size of a textbook with enough illustrations to make it a nice coffee table book.

The Sun King comes across as a disagreeable person, despite the author's admiration of his kind treatment of his exiled cousin James II. Louis was i
Aug 10, 2012 Sketchbook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nancy plays the Palace -- the greatest palace in the world.
An SRO headliner, she encores the mischief, treachery,
duplicity and debauchery in this blazing complex - surely
the first of its kind - which the Sun King called "home"
and where 15,000 residents bowed to His Majesty.

Hers isn't a bio. She focuses not on the King but on
Versailles -- his most famous creation. Topping a huge cast,
Louis 14th ambles through episodes of court life that interest
Mitford : masked balls, tournaments, garden parties,
Once again, Nancy Mitford is the gossipy friend who happens to know quite a lot about 17th century France. The Sun King is a biography of both the French monarch and his home, Versailles. From the building of the palace to Louis XIV's many relationships, Mitford takes her informed but light-hearted attitude towards the different aspects of the court of the Sun King.

Instead of a comprehensive biography, Mitford focuses on the goings on and relationships within Versailles. There are, of course, m
Adam Ford
This is not a history of France during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King. It is a history of the day-to-day life of the King and his court at Versailles. Which is interesting. But not really what I was looking for. It didn't feed my desire to understand history. If you are looking to understand all the intricate political maneuvering among the courtiers in France during the late 1600s and early 1700s--this is your book.

I will share with you the two best (most interesting to me) antidotes fro
quietism = a form of religious mysticism requiring withdrawal from all human effort and passive contemplation of God


256 pages here.

I so want an orange tree in a silver pot!


Bernini also gained royal commissions from outside Italy, for subjects such as Louis XIV, Cardinal Richelieu, Francesco I d'Este, Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria. The last two were produced in Italy from portraits made by Van Dyck (now in the royal collection), though Bernini preferred to produce portraits from
Sarah weber-gallo
This book is a little schizo - interesting history a bit blandly written for Nancy Mitford. And while the copious illustrations are beautiful and informative, they make the book feel too much like a coffee table book...meaning I will never complete the text.

Dense, old fashioned, and the author is heavily biased in favor of Versailles, but there is still some great descriptions of the fascinating court of the Sun King.
Lynn Silsby
Oct 04, 2013 Lynn Silsby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable! I liked the chatty, even gossipy style.

From the sections on Louis XIV's three primary/official mistresses (but he cheated all over the place until finally resigning himself to one as an older man), I learned the following tips and tricks on how to get and keep a great man:

1) Be good at parties. 2) Don't get too fat. 3) Well, actually, you can get fat but then you better damn not be a complaining harpy on top of it. Above all, stay pleasant and charming and don't inconvenience men
Mar 15, 2017 Hettie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although this book is littered with the author's own bias when it comes to characters, it is perhaps one of the most readable historical biographies I've ever read. It is fantastic. A lovely insight with a very readable, easy tone which just draws you in to the life of Louis XIV and his court
Beth Ann
Nov 02, 2016 Beth Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, paris
Limited information but copious illustrations and beautiful full color artwork.
The Sun King is surprisingly dense, for a book that wouldn't hold up in peer-review (I assume? history is not my field) - which is a terrible thing to say, I guess. I mean: it's not an academic book, but it's still quite accomplished. Which is also terrible. But Nancy Mitford wasn't an academic. She was an aristocrat, with a keen eye for social interactions and obligations, and those hadn't changed as much as we might think in the 200ish span of years that separated her and Louis XIV. (There are ...more
Dec 08, 2010 Tony rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
Mitford, Nancy. THE SUN KING. (1966). ***. French history is not one of my fortes, so that I turned to this biography by Mitford hoping to learn a little more. It didn’t work for me. I was soon overwhelmed by the details of Louis XIV and his court and his mistresses and his political allies. About a third of the way through the book, I began to skim the print and concentrate on the many illustrations provided for this book. If someone with a better basic background took up this book, they would ...more
Jul 19, 2012 Christopherseelie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nancy Mitford writes about the reign of Louis XIV through the lens of his great passion project: Versailles. She tells us about lovers and intrigues by way of stairways and gardens. Private habits and public crisis have equal billing, while she circles around her lead figure, the King, with adroit discernment, giving the reader a precise reflection of the Sun King rather than risk looking directly at him with bare eyes.

There are instances of the author's own private habits coloring her work. Exa
Oct 23, 2011 Grace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So far she has some interesting facts laced through the narrative, but a lot of antiquated assumptions (copyright 1966)that make my eyebrows go up. My biggest issue is the very non-linear structure of this book. Mitford is all over the place with the time line in chapters. It's nearly impossible to keep up with what events are taking place when with such a scattershot approach. If I wasn't already familiar with some of the history of Louis XIV and his morganatic wife, I'd be lost.

Updated - In th
Helena Heald
(3.5/5) This is an interesting and dense history, though my major faults are that it's not aged well. Being such a short and compact book, there was a lot of information (names and dates especially) that I felt hard to keep up with; a family tree would have been really helpful! As far as a snapshot into the life of Louis XIV (and his court) went, it was interesting and clearly well researched and I want to read more into the topic. However, the lack of citations to sources etc that I would expec ...more
My cover is different and just says "The Sun King" on it, thus I thought I was buying a total biography of Louis XIV. I was a little sad that it ONLY covered Versailles because I'm missing a giant chunk of his life, but the author made it interesting. She does go into details and stories about other people, like his mistresses, friends, children and grandchildren, etc, but this does not give you a total life biography. She loves Louis and tries to pass that love unto the reader, but sometimes Lo ...more
Jan 15, 2016 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Versailles as lunatic asylum. For one who didn't know anything about Louis XIV, this was a great intro to the man, his family and courtiers. Funny at times, it left me agog at many others -- the society of the ancien regime might has well have been on Mars, so alien to modernity does it seem in many respects.

Notes for Kindle Paperwhite readers:

In the absence of a dramatis personae or family tree, it's pretty easy to lose track of who's who. Recommend keeping a crib sheet as you go along, or resi
I liked this book, especially the set up! It's so smart: it starts with a brief biography of Louis XIV complete with all the dates you need to fall asleep, then the rest of the book fleshes out his life, the lives of the members of the Court and the French Royal Family without that “reading a text-book” feeling. More like a collections of anecdotes – right up my alley!

My problem was just that: “all the members of the Court and the French Royal Family” - there are just TOO MANY PEOPLE!!!

Kay Robart
The Sun King is an interesting biography of Louis XIV and a history of his court, although it occasionally assumes a level of knowledge about French history that I do not have. It is also not terribly revealing of the personality of Louis XIV, who was apparently a very guarded person. For example, the book contains no revealing quotes from personal letters or anything similar. Of course, the book is well written and witty. Although Mitford is best known for her humorous novels of sharp social co ...more
Lots of interesting stuff in here, and many memory joggers, but it was an unfortunately difficult book to pick up. It would have been much better to read in a hard copy instead of my Kindle, because I frequently wanted to flip back to remind myself who we were talking about, and the number of apparent typos exacerbated the sense that Mitford was not a very exciting writer, which surprised me. Definitely hoping the champion of this book will be at Book Club tomorrow. Can't remember the last time ...more
Sherwood Smith
Reading this graceful history in conjunction with others really illustrates (I think) the different view of one raised as an aristocrat, who sees no use in looking at the world from any other point of view.

Mitford gives wonderful insight into so many of Saint-Simon's precisely reported little scenes of etiquette warfare . . . but. She falls down completely (I think) in reviling against Madame de Maintenon who (it seems here) committed her greatest sin in being born bourgeois, and then being rais
Jan 22, 2013 Gina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Louis IV was one busy guy: fought wars every summer, built Versailles, kept an eye on everyone at Court, and kept several ladies busy: his Queen, who unfortunately for her was in love with him all her life; I stopped trying to keep track of how many other squeezes he had(at least 4 or 5, maybe more); and if he went to visit a mistress and she kept him waiting, he'd go off in a corner with one of her maids. He had at least two children each way: Queen, mistress, and lady-in-waiting. Then once the ...more
Jul 18, 2015 B rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Meh. Interesting factoids here and there. But it drives me nuts that the events written about in the book are not in chronological order.

It's all over the place.

And I'm not well versed in French history (pre or post French Revolution) although I do know some but the names and relations were a bit hard to follow at first. And I tried to take notes but then realized it doesn't make much of a difference in understanding how/why the events unfolded the way it did. Or maybe it does. I don't know.

Mitford's double portrait of Louis XIV and Versailles offers a fascinating look at the daily lives and loves of the King, his court, and his ministers, all in a brisk, conversational style and many, many delicious bons mots. Nevertheless, I have to agree with another reviewer that the multiple Monsieurs and Madames, Marquises and Ducs, become very hard to keep straight, and the confusion occasionally threatens to undermine the drama; a solid grounding in the period's history and personality woul ...more
Aug 09, 2013 Nonheagan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A gossipy, at times elliptical romp through the social circles and subcultures that filled Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV. Less than ideal for somebody who is not already savvy about the players--I would have benefited enormously from a family tree such as the one provided in Frances Mossiker's "The Affair of the Poisons" (1969). All told, a lovely warm bath to sink into for a short while.
Jun 15, 2014 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent, short biography of Louis XIV and his court at Versailles, told with a light touch by Nancy Mitford. The various family relations--cousins, parents, in-laws, aunts and uncles, grand-parents, etc.--add to the complexity, so that a second reading (for me, at least) would be needed to keep everybody and their titles straight. But the conspiracies, debaucheries, squabbles, and so forth make for non-stop busyness.
Brian Berrett
Jan 23, 2013 Brian Berrett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm no great historian but I do love history. I wasn't overly familiar with Louis XIV so I found this book fresh. I enjoyed reading about his life and the construction of Versailles.

Mitford did a nice job telling the story and mixing in her opinion. Sometimes her opinion is blatant and sometimes subtle. I found to best enjoy the book, I had to read it and concentrate or I'd miss some of the subtleties.

At any rate, a fun and interesting book about Louis XIV's life.
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NYRB Classics: The Sun King, by Nancy Mitford 1 5 Oct 30, 2013 07:45PM  
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  • The Secret Wife of Louis XIV: Françoise d'Aubigné, Madame de Maintenon
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  • Napoleon: His Wives and Women
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Nancy Mitford, CBE (28 November 1904, London – 30 June 1973, Versailles), styled The Hon. Nancy Mitford before her marriage and The Hon. Mrs Peter Rodd thereafter, was an English novelist and biographer, one of the Bright Young People on the London social scene in the inter-war years. She was born at 1 Graham Street (now Graham Place) in Belgravia, London, the eldest daughter of Lord Redesdale and ...more
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