Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King by Antonia Fraser

A detailed look at the reign of Louis XIV and the various women in his life. The list begins with his mother, Anne of Austria, who acted as regent when Louis assumed the throne at age four; and then ends with his last mistress, Madame de Maintenon. In between we get details of his first love, a couple other maitresses-en-titres, his wife, daughters, and in-laws. My favorite of the bunch was Mary Beatrice d’Este, who was the wife of the exiled King James II. When the king had to leave his country, he took his wife and daughter to the French court, where they lived under Louis’s protection for several years. Mary Beatrice, apparently, was very intelligent in addition to being beautiful, and she and Louis were very close. Fraser doesn’t think they ever slept together (I vote “doubtful”), but their relationship was still very interesting.

Information about each of the women is pretty evenly distributed, but Fraser spends the most time with Maintenon – makes sense, since they were together the longest. Fraser thinks they actually got married in secret after Louis’s wife died, but I’m still not convinced. Fraser’s evidence is basically, “they were around each other all the time so you know, why not, and also once Maintenon was painted wearing royal ermine.”

And I have to point out – this book is, all things considered, kind of dull. If you’re a history nerd like me this won’t bother you, but still. For every interesting story Fraser gives us (dirty details, people. That’s what we want), there are pages of boring politics. Yes, Louis was involved in lots of wars, but let’s try and keep the book’s title in mind, Fraser. As Louis himself once said, “Whores over wars, bro. Whores over wars.” [citation needed]

Verdict: three out of five stars

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