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Athenais: The Life of Louis XIV's Mistress, the Real Queen of France
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Athenais: The Life of Louis XIV's Mistress, the Real Queen of France

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  433 ratings  ·  46 reviews
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."
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Published October 15th 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.
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
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
Rebecca Huston
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:
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.
oddly biased for a non-fiction historical book that was clearly researched
Lena Tumasyan
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Alicia Terrill
Interesting, but the author was incredibly biased. She clearly loved Athenais, and tried to justify everything she did to put her in the best possible light. She was a fascinating woman, but she did many things that were less than admirable. Interesting read though!
By chapter three, I'd lost any interest. Not a badly written book, I just don't care for French monarchy history as much as I thought I did.
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
Sep 04, 2009 Holly rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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.
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.
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!
Mary Ann
Hilton's lack of neutrality, particularly her loathing of Louis XIV's morganatic wife, Marquise de Maintenon, was most troubling. In addition, Hilton seemed to excuse or rationalize any sort of bad behavior on the part of Athenais. This was a disappointing book which I would not recommend.
Comicfairy (Leanne)
A lushly beautiful book filled with the best and worst of a noble life in France. This book has it all: intrigue, sex, scandal, highly detailed and filled with historical data including footnotes and charts. Read for a college European History class and it will always be one of my favorites.
first time reading anything historical in quite awhile, and i thoroughly enjoyed it. learning about court life under louis xiv was interesting, and the "history" part of this was easy to understand and not too long-winded.

plus, that mistress gave herself a really pretty name...
I renewed my interest in European royalty this past year and I really delved into reading about the French royals this summer; needless to say, I was thrilled to find this excellent bio on one of the most important mistresses in history. Fascinating!
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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
More about Lisa Hilton...
Queens Consort: England's Medieval Queens The Horror of Love: Nancy Mitford and Gaston Palewski in Paris and London Wolves in Winter The House with Blue Shutters Elizabeth: Renaissance Prince

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