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Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge

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3.7  ·  Rating details ·  5,784 Ratings  ·  710 Reviews
Throughout the centuries, royal mistresses have been worshiped, feared, envied, and reviled. They set the fashions, encouraged the arts, and, in some cases, ruled nations. Eleanor Herman's Sex with Kings takes us into the throne rooms and bedrooms of Europe's most powerful monarchs. Alive with flamboyant characters, outrageous humor, and stirring poignancy, this glittering ...more
Hardcover, 287 pages
Published June 29th 2004 by William Morrow (first published 2004)
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Homa
Sep 07, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 09, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
Aug 17, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
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
Chris
Apr 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-misc
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
Laura
Nov 15, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfic
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
Cher
Nov 07, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
3 stars - It was good.

Mistress Virginie di Castiglione once stated "The more I see of men, the more I love dogs." Reading about the history of men making befuddled fools of themselves in the name of lust makes it incredibly easy to agree with that statement.

This made for an entertaining, though also disheartening read about vacuous men and jealous wives throwing tantrums over their unworthy partners. It's amazing how 1000 years later, the more things change the more they stay the same.
--------
...more
kingshearte
Apr 16, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2010
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
Xysea
Oct 02, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Dec 31, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romantical, history, owned
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
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New York Times best-seller Eleanor Herman's new non-fiction book, The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul, is set to come out in June 2018. Think royal palaces were beautiful places to live? Think again!

Herman offers a rare combination of skills for a historian – her research is intensely scholarly, yet she writes the story in a colorful, wit
...more
More about Eleanor Herman...
“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
“Boring, religious, and intellectually limited, Marie Leczinska was called one of the two dullest queens in Europe by her own father, the other dull queen being his wife. Marie” 0 likes
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