Wealhtheow's Reviews > Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King

Love and Louis XIV by Antonia Fraser
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Oct 13, 2008

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bookshelves: historical, non-fiction
Read in October, 2008

Lady Antonia Fraser is an accomplished historian; her Tudor books have enthralled me for years. I chose her to introduce me to the French court--sadly, a disappointment. This book is focused on King Louis XIV and the women he loved in his life.
It begins well, with a focus on Louis XIV's mother and regent Anne of Austria. Anne was a pious and effective ruler, and she left her son with a profound belief in the Catholic Church. Partly through her influence, Louis abandoned his love affair with Marie Mancini and married the Spanish Infanta Marie-Therese. After a short period of romance, their marriage was stable, if loveless. Louis was in love with Louise de La Valliere, a young woman as passionately in love with God as she was with Louis. They had several illegitimate children together before Louis's attention passed on to the far more glamorous Francoise-Athenais de Rochechouart de Mortemart. Athenais was dazzling in beauty and wit, and reigned Versailles for about ten years. After a short affair with the beautiful but dim Angelique de Fontanges, who died bearing his child, Louis moved on to his illegitimate children's governess, Francoise de Maintenon. She was three years older than he, with no connections, wealth, or reputation, and yet Louis was true to her until his death. In fact, it is rumored that after the death of his queen, he married her in a secret, morganatic ceremony. Whatever the case, Louis's remaining years were spent in the War of the Spanish Succession (wherein he tried to put his grandson on the Spanish throne--and eventually Philip V did reign) and marrying his grandchildren by his mistresses to his grandchildren by his wife. Creeeepy.

There was a real lack of quotes or letters in this book. After reading the whole thing, I had as little understanding of Louis's character as at the start. The women do not shine through either. I was confused by the many titles and the incredibly similar names (Marie-Jeanne, Marie-Anne, Anne-Marie...ugh!), a situation made worse when a character would be named on pg 100 and then reappear, with no explanation, on pg 300. Overall, a frustrating book about a fascinating period.
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Reading Progress

10/15/2008 page 108
10/16/2008 page 138
35.57% "206"
10/16/2008 page 206
53.09% "I don't understand Francoise, Madame de Maintenon, as a mistress. So old! Hates sex!"
10/16/2008 page 283
72.94% "Book has degenerated into tangles of titles marrying each other. Who *are* these people?"
10/17/2008 page 298
76.8% "Three of LouisXIV's grandchildren by his mistresses have now married three of his grandchildren by his wife. Ugh."
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