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The Kings' Mistresses: The Liberated Lives of Marie Mancini, Princess Colonna, and Her Sister Hortense, Duchess Mazarin
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The Kings' Mistresses: The Liberated Lives of Marie Mancini, Princess Colonna, and Her Sister Hortense, Duchess Mazarin

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  211 ratings  ·  49 reviews
The Mancini Sisters, Marie and Hortense, were born in Rome, brought to the court of Louis XIV of France, and strategically married off by their uncle, Cardinal Mazarin, to secure his political power base. Such was the life of many young women of the age: they had no independent status under the law and were entirely a part of their husband’s property once married.

Marie an
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Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 3rd 2012 by PublicAffairs (first published April 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

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Orsolya
Admittedly, I didn’t know much about the Mancini sisters aside from Hortense having been a perspective wife to Charles II and later being his mistress. This is because of my love for Nell Gwynne and therefore, Hortense was “competition”. What better way to infuse my knowledge about this “forward” lady and her sister Marie than with Elizabeth C. Goldsmith’s, “The Kings’ Mistresses”?

Although dual biographies can pose problems (bias towards one of the figures, not enough information, or a lack of
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Christy B
The Kings' Mistresses is a fabulous account of Marie and Hortense Mancini, two of the most scandalous and free-thinking women of their time.

Marie and Hortense were the nieces of Cardinal Mazarin. The two, along with their siblings were born in Rome and brought to Paris: Marie was 13 and Hortense, 9. Their uncle arranged marriages for both of them – Marie first, because she was a little too cozy with King Louis XIV.

However, both Marie and Hortense's marriages didn't go well. After producing seve
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Dorothy
This was a very well done and unembellished biography of two fascinating sisters in Louis XIV's court and milieu. Their story is a stark reminder of how far the civil rights of women have come (at least in Western civilization) since those days when they were nothing more than property belonging to fathers and husbands. The extent to which their husbands forced their estranged wives into penury and confinement with the approval of the courts and society at large is utterly chilling. The price, l ...more
Melissa
I knew nothing of the Mancini sisters going into this book, but right from the start I knew their story was unique. The Kings Mistresses is well written and engaging, which is not always something that can be said for non-fiction. The two sisters caused sensations throughout Europe after fleeing from their husbands and while reading you really get a sense of just how much media coverage there was even in the 17th century. It seemed the sisters could hardly travel anywhere without being known. Af ...more
Tom Williams
I got a pre-publication review copy of the UK edition. It was an interesting read. Elizabeth Goldsmith has done good service in drawing attention to these women. She argues that their influence on the arts (they were great patrons of the theatre), on social mores and even on the legal position of women, makes them important, as well as fascinating, figures. Not being an expert on the late 17th century, I am not qualified to say if she is right, but she makes a convincing case. The 17th century m ...more
Rimma
I won the book, so looking forward to it.
I received the book for free through Goodreads First Read.

I love really history books. And this one is not a romance type novel, but more of a well written history. It is fascinating to learn about real people and their unusual lives. Hortense and Marie aristocrat by birth, were raised by all mean in in rich house and were Cardinal Mazarin's nieces. It is not only shows the life style on 16 th century, but how out of ordinary the characters in the book w
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Joy
I won this book through goodreads.

I enjoyed this non-fiction book. However, I feel it could have been done better. The research that went into the book appears to be excellent, the author seems to have a complete understanding of the times and events. But, I would have liked to see it put together a little more like a novel. Sometimes the time-line jumps forwad and backwards a few years. Some events or back story is just thrown in for justification. I feel that the sisters liberal efforts could
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Meghan
I won this book through GoodReads!

I'm halfway through. Since this is a history book rather than a historical novel, it can stray to being a recitation of events rather than a narrative at times. The exerts of the sister's letters and journals keep it from getting too dry though. I have only one minor complaint about the writing. The author could have called out their ages a little more often as the story progresses. The sisters had such tumultuous lives it was hard to keep track of how old they
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Megan
Lively and well-written, with generous use of equally engaging primary sources. It's not a deep or particularly analytical biography, but I enjoyed its positivity and its intense commitment to understanding these two interesting sisters on their own terms.

I came into this book already a fan of Hortense (because "the mistresses of Charles II" is one of my areas of interest in British history, alongside the following: Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Plantagenets, definitely not the Tudors ugh, sometimes
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Jaylia3
The Kings’ Mistresses is a very entertaining account of sisters Marie and Hortense Mancini who caroused their way across Louis XIV’s Europe at a time when that was just not done. Their uncle, a powerful cardinal in France, tried to insure his legacy by arranging prestigious matches for his nieces before he died, but he made his decisions too hastily because both men soon became controlling and abusive. Defying the standards of the time Marie and Hortense escaped, fleeing their husbands and setti ...more
Allison  Macias
Marie and Hortense Mancini, two of five nieces of Cardinal Mazarin are gorgeous and affluent. Fresh from Rome, the girls amaze the French Court of the Sun King. Marie, the elder sister, catches the eye of the King. Their love is forbidden by her uncle and the Queen Mother. To help Louis forget Marie, she is sent to Rome to marry the Prince Colonna. Though the marriage is a happy one at first, it decays into a relationship fraught with distrust and tension. The dying Cardinal bestows the title of ...more
Carolyn
This book is a biography of two famous sisters of the mid 17th century and their extradinary lives. They, Marie Mancini who became Princess Colonna and her younger sister Hortense who became the Duchess of Mazarin,were born into privelege as the nieces of Cardinal Mazarin of Italy. Cardinal Mazarin became an exceedingly wealthy and influential leader in European affairs. He was an intimate advisor to Louis XIII and ultimately became the French Prime Minister unedr the reign of Louis XIV. Cardina ...more
Faith Justice
This is an excerpt from a more comprehensive review available on my blog:

I love a good story about women pushing the boundaries in times past, especially when they are based on real people. The Kings' Mistresses is the true tale of two sisters: Marie Mancini and her younger sister Hortense, the nieces of one of the most powerful men in seventeenth century France, Cardinal Mazarin (a protégé of Richelieu.) In 1653 Marie, "a dark-haired and intelligent-looking adolescent of thirteen" and Hortense,
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Julie Barrett
I enjoyed this biography of the Mancini sisters. Biographies of historical figures can be iffy, especially a biography that is following more than one person. The author does a good job, though, of telling both sisters stories in a lively and engaging manner. I really wish someone would write a novel based on them - well, on Hortense more than Marie.Marie had an amazing life but personally I was drawn more to Hortense.

Hortense was married to a LUNATIC. Seriously. I could not get over how crazy
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Louise
"... but one cannot always choose the life one would like to lead" (p. 125) This quote is from the memoirs of Hortense Mancini, Duchess of Mazarin. At the time it was written, even the King of France, Louis XIV, could not choose his marriage partner. A life determined by others fell most heavily on women. This book tells the story Hortense and her sister Marie who had the course of their lives determined by their influential uncle. By advising the young King Louis XIV and his mother, Cardinal M ...more
Lorraine
I did not read the write-up for this book very carefully and was expected historical fiction. Instead, it is a biography of two women who were "the first media celebrities...the first to print [their] life stor[ies] under [their] own name[s]...the first divorce case to be aired in teh media...the first women to travel for pleasure, adventure, and escape" (ARC page 225). There is certainly a lot of material for a whole series of historical fiction novels here (Philippa Gregory or Hollywood should ...more
Amanda
Finally started this one over and finished it. Because its history/ non-fiction, I tend to read much slower than fiction. Plus work & school & life have all been super busy, so my reading is on the back burner in general right now.

Nonetheless, I finished this book and really enjoyed it. Goldsmith is a professor at Boston University and I got to hear her lecture about this book and her research last year - she was a very dynamic speaker, and I was instantly intrigued by the story of these
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Siria
Both the title and some of the cover blurbs do a disservice to this serviceable biography: The Kings' Mistresses: The Liberated Lives of Marie Mancini, Princess Colonna, and Her Sister Hortense, Duchess Mazarin, the front cover states, while the back cover tells us that this is the "story of the 17th-century version of the Kardashian sisters." While Hortense Mancini was briefly a mistress of Charles II of England, Marie never had more than a teenage romance with Louis XIV, making the title somew ...more
Samita
I only read this because once a gazillion of years ago Marie Mancini showed up in Vicomte de Bragelonne and back then wikipedia didn't exist and well I was curious. The most interesting part would be how both Marie and Hortense separated themselves from their husbands and survived, in a way, in a time where divorce was not an option. Yet, it's hard to sympathize with Hortenese when every passage is about "seeking pleasure" I was not surprised at all by the manner of her death. Marie's separati ...more
Billie
This book was recieved free as part of the Goodreads Free Reader Program.

Well this is as much a history lesson as it is about a pair of sisters who seem to be out of their timeline.

As part of the story narrative we peek in on life in England, France, Italy, and Spain during the mid to late 1600's. Which means that while you have the story about the adventures of the two sisters you are also learning, very devious on the part of the author; but welcome.

Hortense and Marie just don't seem to want t
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Julie H. Ferguson
Goldsmith tells the stories of two mistresses of Louis XIV early in his reign. The title is misleading as their time as the Sun King's mistresses was short. This book is about Marie and Hortense's battles to overcome unhappy marriages and to gain some independence in a time when wives were possessions of their husbands.

They were nieces of Cardinal Mazarin who brought them to Louis XIV's court as young girls, then married them off to remove them from the king. History has been unkind to them, por
...more
Jen
Sometimes, I get a book, and I'm sure I will love it. I stalk it and I know that this book and I will walk on beaches, will share bottles of wine, and have cute book babies. This book should have been my one true love.

Instead, it was an awkward blind date where the convo lagged, the food was blah, and the evening was just long.

The information was good. The story was compelling. The writing was fine.

Yet, I never went "oh dear god, I must get back to that book." Instead, I was reading it and think
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Chantal E. R. H.
I had never heard of these sisters, or if I had, I didn't remember them. They are very interesting women and I wish I had paid more attention if I had indeed heard of them before. The book is short and an extremely easy and quick read. I wish it had gone a bit more in depth, but it did a good job getting the two women's personalities and motives across. It was the perfect book to bring on vacation. Again, it was a bit of a lighter read than I wished it to be since the subjects were so fascinatin ...more
Kara
Biography of two sisters, Marie Mancini and Hortense Mancini. Marie was the first love of eighteen year old Louis VIX of France and Hortense became one of Charles II of England's mistresses. Both women left their husbands in the late 17th century at a time when wives were considered property of their husbands. Both women left behind children and substantial wealth. They traveled through Europe evading their husbands who continuously tried to capture or imprison them. The husbands used government ...more
Are
The biography of two sisters, Marie Mancini, Princess Colona, and her sister Hortence, Duchess Mazarin. Both were unhappy in arranged marriages in the time of Louis XIV (also known as the Sun King). Both fled thier husbands and spent the rest of thier lives fleeing from one countries court to another in an attempt to keep thier liberty. Both womens lives were well documented not only by themselves but as some of the first celebreties in the emerging journalism of the day. Also an interesting loo ...more
Angeline
I have an intrest in royal history. This was a biography of the lives of two sisters, Marie and Hotense Mancini, that were favorites of King Louis XIV of France and Charles II of England. The focus of the story is on the difficulties the two women faced in trying to free themselve from loveless and sometime abusive marriages. In seventeenth-century Europe, women didn't have rights we enjoy today. These two fought the system and lived a life that made them well known from France and England to Ro ...more
Diana
This is historical non-fiction. Marie and Hortense are sisters. They were both married off abusive husbaands. Each of them leaves their husbands, which is unheard of in the 1600's.
The husbands do everything they can to get them back, including appealing to Louis XIV. They were the talk of Europe -- some supported them and gave them shelter, while others were spies for their husbands.

The Kirkus review summed it up best: "The story of the seventeenth-century version of the Kardashian sisters, but
...more
Shannon Lovejoy
I received this book for free through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. I am not a fan of this genre but this book is not a difficult read. Many names are mentioned but Goldsmith writes in a manner that helps you keep everyone straight. Detail is given to the characters' actions with less focus on scenery. This book isn't written like a dry historical textbook. It is written like a tale of two sisters who refuse to be controlled...with some historical names and places mixed in.
Leslie
Goldsmith's dual biography of Marie Mancini and her sister, Hortense, is well researched and entertaining; however, repetition of her key ideas does tend to slow the narrative pace. (For example, the reader is told multiple times that Hortense's memoirs were the first published by a woman as authored by herself, and Goldmsith continually stresses that this was novel and a major step for recognizing that women were their own persons.)

Pattie
Fascinating story about two adventurous, spirited women. Their uncle was the powerful Cardinal Mazarin, advisor to Louis XIV of France. One sister was Louis XIV's mistress before his marriage. Her sister was approached by the future Charles II of England for marriage. Both wound up in unhappy marriages. Their stories were legend and serve as discussion for marital separation and divorce and women's rights for many years after their deaths.
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Elizabeth C. Goldsmith is a professor of French and director of the study abroad curriculum at Boston University. She has written books on literature in the age of Louis XIV, focusing on letter correspondences and women's writing. She teaches courses on seventeenth-century theater and the novel, travel writing, and historical fiction.
More about Elizabeth C. Goldsmith...
Going Public: Women and Publishing in Early Modern France Exclusive Conversations: The Art Of Interaction In Seventeenth Century France Writing the Female Voice: Its Significance in American Law and Technology Publishing Women's Life Stories In France, 1647 1720: From Voice To Print La Verite Dans Son Jour

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