Sex with Kings
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Sex with Kings

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  4,143 ratings  ·  535 reviews
What does Camilla see in Charles? Did the Duchess of Windsor REALLY think she was going to get the crown of England? Learn the scandalous truth about the illicit relationships of some of history's most powerful men-and the women who slept with them to get to the top.

SEX WITH KINGS is the perfect book for anyone who revels in the scandalous goings-on of royals through the...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 30th 2004 by HARPER COLLINS 7 WOR (first published 2004)
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Homa
For whatever reason, this is an excellent book to read aloud to a friend (or, i suppose, to yourself). What I learned was that, back in the day, the fundamental order of operations, in terms of position went a little something like this:

pope
king
mistress at her peak
...
bastard son of king
legit son of king
...
sack of shit
...
mistress at all other times
queen
sack of shit on fire

Ashley
Although the topic was very interesting, the organization of this book completely killed it. Herman jumps around from one royal mistress to the next, and it became very difficult to follow who was who - I found myself flipping back to earlier chapters to see who she was talking about. I really wanted to enjoy this book, but I couldn't even finish it. With a good editor and some chronological organization, it has potential to be really interesting stuff. As it is, it's only poorly written, unorga...more
Wendy
I had mixed feelings about this book. On the plus side, it's a fascinating read, giving a perspective on history that we don't often get. It's also laugh out loud funny in a lot of places.

On the minus side, the author has a couple of quirks that I found slightly irritating. One is that she's constantly beginning sections of the book with passages like, "We imagine that the life of a royal mistress must have been glamorous, full of ..." Maybe it's just that I've read enough history to know bette...more
Laura
I picked up this book a few years ago because of an article in the magazine Mental Floss , and enjoyed it as a light and somewhat fluff read. I just reread it and remember that there are some large problems with it. The organization is really awful, the chapters pretend to be about large categories but are conversational and don't seem to be held together much. The author skips from anecdotes about one mistress to anecdotes about a mistress from hundreds of years previously, in fact, all of the...more
Chris
New Review

Educational gossip!

Old Review

It is impossible not to like a book that has the line "many men were willing to lay down thier wives for their king".

Totally impossible.

At times funny, at times surprisingly sad, this is a good book. Herman writes about the mistresses withuot making them saints. She is sympathic to husband, wife, and the other woman and the other woman's husband. While the book focuses mostly on the French, there are some really funny and strange stories. Like the one about...more
Xysea
Nov 29, 2008 Xysea rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of romantic and historical fiction, fans of royalty, nobility and scandal
Okay, well this is a saucy book. It certainly details most aspects of the mistress/queen/king dynamic. And being a royal mistress was good while it was good, but it was hardly a life to envy.

Yes, it was considered an honor to be chosen. It came with riches, power and a shot at (occasionally) being queen. It also came with venereal disease, bastard children, crushing poverty and a pit of vipers known as the royal court.

Mistresses were not always beautiful, or thing. However, they generally offere...more
Kelly
The author of this book is much less like a historian than she is like a gossipy old grandma from a bygone stuck-in-its-ways-and-ideas generation, telling you tales by the fireside. She's judgmental, melodramatic, partial (she's got a huge crush on the French) and very silly... but also delightfully vicious, gleefully arch, and has some of the best stories ever. Approach the book with that image in mind, and you'll have a blast.

Full of as much sex, intrigue, backstabbing, catcalling, fabulous on...more
Camille
I could not finish this book; I read up to page 120 and then skipped to the last chapter (p. 237-255). The organization of the book did not work for me; my main issue were the author's point of view, founding assumptions, and 'values', which I found distasteful.

I thought the organization of this book was detrimental to its content. Each chapter was on a theme, one aspect of the king-mistress relationship; there were also subchapters for a more granular look at the theme. Because of this, Herman...more
Chrys
This book was a disappointment overall. Herman takes a fascinating topic and reduces it to a gossipy, disorganized read, largely judging the women discussed based on their looks and weight. Though I certainly learned a lot of historical information from this book, it seemed to exaggerate and scandalize many events of history, as if listening to a jealous woman at court discuss these subjects rather than an objective contemporary "historian". At times, the author seemed downright catty in discuss...more
Angela
SEX. Did that get your attention? Ha.

I don't know about you, but I consider sex to be very interesting. Combining sex and history sounded like an intriguing read so when I saw Sex with Kings at my local used book store I just had to have it! I was completely engrossed in this book (which hasn't happened for a long time) so I would definitely recommend this book to others. I've noticed that a lot of people dislike Eleanor Herman's organizaton of the book, but it didn't bother me. Rather than maki...more
Jennifer Johnson
With a detailed look into the lives of royal mistresses, Eleanor Herman’s book really opens your eyes to the scandalous position. Not all about the sex, the role of royal mistress was demanding physically, sexually and intellectually. Not only did a mistress bear SCADS of royal bastards and have to constantly be ready and willing to please the king, she helped guide his politics, kept the king in control, worked tirelessly, (and often to her own detriment), on her appearance all for the chance t...more
kingshearte
OK, so I have to start by addressing a common complaint that I've heard about this book, which is that it only deals with, like, half a dozen mistresses, which, if that were true, hardly supports the theory that almost all European monarchs had mistresses. This is simply not true. Out of sheer perversity, I kept count, and there were more than seventy mistresses specifically named in this book. Most of them were either in England or France, but there were also some from Russia, Saxony, Austria,...more
Brittany
This book was very lucky. I read it on the beach in Portugal on my honeymoon. I think under almost any other circumstances I would have lost patience with it much more quickly. As it was, I made it almost all the way through in good spirits, and only got impatient the last couple dozen pages.

I have shelved the book "history," but I'm not actually sure about that. It's really more "history lite" or some other nonsensical genre. She did do some research, but she focused on a handful of women, rath...more
Lize
This one was a lot of fun. "500 years of adultery, power, rivalry and revenge." From Henry VIII to Prince Charles, it's full of juicy tidbits about the Queens, Kings, their mistresses and life at court. The job of a royal mistress was about much more than beauty and sex--she was a confidant, advisor, and cheerleader. She made sure he was well-fed, comfortable and entertained, and gave him a respite from his responsibilities. From the 1400's to the late 1800's, being a royal mistress was a really...more
Rio (Lynne)
This is an interesting light read about some of the most infamous mistresses in history. From Madame de Montespan's witchery to Lady Castlemaine's historic control over Charles II. The author covers the how and why of how of these ladies came into the King's world, held their positions, fought for pensions, outwitted rivals and queens, birthed bastards and how after their meal tickets either moved on or passed away leaving these ladies to fight their enemies. She doesn't go deep, so if you aren'...more
Gina
Feb 24, 2013 Gina rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Gina by: Lisa
Shelves: 2013
This was a pretty indulgent read, kind of like if Perez Hilton was a woman and a European historian/academic, and had a dry, British sense of humor (how's that for a recommendation?)

Let me start off by saying it doesn't get to graphic with the details, most of the intrigue has to do with the court gossip, the jealous queens, the power plays and the extent to which the royal mistress could influence politics. There are just as many Great Love stories here as there are affairs of a lesser caliber,...more
Kelly
If you like history and nonfiction, this is an entertaining read. It's not as graphic as the title might suggest, instead it explores the influence that mistresses have had on kings for centuries. You can read about one mistress at a time, jump to different chapters in the book (it's done by mistress) and not worry about leaving it for long periods of time and returning, since each chapter could stand alone. I think it does a decent job of telling the other side of the story, discussing what a m...more
Kirsti
Mar 07, 2009 Kirsti rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kirsti by: Jen
Shelves: history, nonfiction
"The more I see of men, the more I love dogs." --Virginie di Castiglione, a mistress of Napoleon III

"Hark the herald angels sing / Mrs. Simpson stole our King!" --naughty British schoolchildren in 1936

Lively and well-researched account of the mistresses and wives of royalty. I thought this passage was especially interesting:

"It was generally accepted that bastards were more intelligent and better looking than legitimate children. The belief was that intercourse between a man and his mistress was...more
Emily
Sex with Kings was a book I got from the library on a lark and read only half of. It's meant to be a history of kings' mistresses in Western Europe focusing on the period from 1500 to 1850, but I'm not sure it deserves the appellation "history."

The author mentions the relationship of the mistress to the king (more diversion than confidante), the mistress's rivalry with the queen, and the threat of younger, prettier women to the mistress's status. The title is catchy, and there are some startling...more
Carrie Kellenberger
As my friend Jaclynn said when she loaned me this book, there's nothing quite like reading about ancient gossip. She was right. Sex with Kings takes the reader through five hundred years of Europe's most formidable and influential monarchs and their royal mistresses. These were the women that kings sought for themselves, rather than the foreign princesses they were forced to marry for the sake of their nation. In many cases, royal mistresses were treated better and received more money, clothing...more
Rachael Hewison
Definitely an interesting book, Sex with Kings had me captivated for quite some time. It is a well thought out book and is structured cohesively contrary to other opinions. Many people feel that she should have divided it into a time scale or concentrated on one mistress at a time, but I thought the structure was fantastic. She divided her chapters well and thought of interesting topics. She explored themes such as how the mistress’ husbands reacted to their wives sleeping with the king, the rel...more
Richard
I'm kind of amazed how listlessly I read this book, for Herman certainly found a wonderful angle of history to examine--the complicated relationships among the royal court and the king's mistress--but the approach in this book became rather unappealing at times. The chapters here are set up thematically, and so some names recur through a lot of these chapters, but I think I might have found more compelling an approach that took one or two telling examples to examine more linearly to then connect...more
April
Sex is interesting. Sex with great figures of history, Kings, is even more interesting. To me, this was a fascinating read. I enjoyed reading about the trials the mistresses went through, and even sympathized with them. I actually wish there had been more on Camilla, the mistress of Prince Charles, but oh well. I think the most intriguing mistresses were Louis XIV's mistresses. The book was informative on what the life of a mistress was like, the public's feelings towards mistresses, what happen...more
April
Dec 04, 2008 April rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: non-fiction readers, anyone interested in "real" royal life
This book was very interesting, very entertaining and even educational. I'm sure I won't remember half the names or facts in the book, but the theme (the influence mistresses and affairs had on royal life throughout the ages) will definitely stick with me. As someone who does not usually enjoy non-fiction, this was definitely one I'm glad I started.

As the author says, we all have this preconceived notion of royal mistresses; beautiful young women falling in love with kings and being hidden away...more
Kirsten
A fascinating subject - though the book was a little more light-weight than I was expecting. And the writing and organization were just *terrible*. She tries to link the stories thematically, but this means she keeps circling back to the same people and telling you other little scraps she'd failed to mention before - so eventually they all blur together into one big muddle. (Especially because they are all French, so most of the kings are named Louis and the mistresses all had names starting wit...more
Kathleen
This is a fun book. It's not entirely historically accurate-- there are small mistakes traceable to trust in earlier historians, which is probably due to insufficient scholarship, which I can't blame, by the way, because Herman is working with so many different eras and people that it's very difficult to trace the historical record oneself. One more or less has to rely on earlier scholars. I do wish for more footnotes though-- it would help to better trace apparent misconceptions.

At any rate, it...more
Kathy
The information is interesting and informative....but Herman's writing style SSSSTINKS! The book is full of random bits of information that are loosely connected to the theme. The entire book a classic example of "info-dumping". Herman changes subjects every paragraph.

With the exception of Madames de Pompadour and de Montespan, the reader can hardly keep anyone straight.

I spent the first half of the book flipping to the picture section in the middle of the book. As for the last half of the boo...more
Rachael
This is a pretty good book that details the lives and relationships of royal mistresses in history. I found the book informative and more entertaining than most biography. Herman organizes the book by aspects of mistresses’ lives, intermingling details about many different mistresses within each chapter (as opposed to having each notable mistress have her own chapter). I understand why other reviewers have found this jarring, but I liked it. It helped me focus on the overarching themes of life a...more
Fergie
If you like your history with a bit of a saucy twist, this book is for you! At times, I felt it impossible to put down. My only complaint would be that Herman chose to write in more of a "mish-mash" fashion instead of sticking to chronological timelines. Had she done this, I believe I would have liked the book even more. As it stood, Herman's research and writing led me to read her equally as compelling book, "Sex With The Queen". When we judge our current political figures for their sexual and...more
Jodi
I expected "Sex with Kings" to be more along the lines of books by Michael Farquhar and his "Treasury of..." series--fun and gossipy sketches of historical but colorful characters.

Unfortunately, the book is somewhat disjointed and in need of sharper editing. When she isn't jumping around, the author is often repeating cliched phrases. It's too bad that what could be such an interesting subject is rendered somewhat tedious. I had trouble finishing it.

I would recommend Farquhar's "A Treasury of R...more
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New York Times best-seller Eleanor Herman offers a rare combination of skills for a historian – her research is intensely scholarly, yet she writes the story in a colorful, witty manner.

“History is so fascinating that it never has to be presented in a boring way,” she explains. “These were flesh and blood people, just like you and me, facing war and plague, falling in love, living among splendid a...more
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“When the destiny of a nation is in a woman’s bedroom, the best place for the historian is in the antechamber. — CHARLES-AUGUSTIN SAINTE-BEUVE” 1 likes
“The more I see of men,” she grumbled in one, “the more I love dogs.”50” 0 likes
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