French Legends: The Life and Legacy of King Louis XIV
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French Legends: The Life and Legacy of King Louis XVI (Unabridged)
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I opted for this Antonia Fraser book to begin because I find her style to be engaing and I enjoyed her biography of Marie Antoinette a few years back also, I liked the idea of her focussing on the women of this era and I was pleased to read about all the generations that touched upon the King's life - beginning with the influence of his Mother, his early loves, his wife s , mistresses, sisters in law and more at every age from a young boy to an elderly man.
Informative and interesting I thought. Jul 12, Ruby rated it it was amazing Shelves: france , non-fiction , 17th-century. Feb 14, Helen Carolan rated it it was amazing. A second read of this one and it's still terrific. I love Ms Fraser's books so this is a no brainer for me. Telling about the life of the sun king and the women in it, from his mother Anne of Austria, his cousins,his wife and of course his mistress. Great read. Dec 21, Alicia rated it really liked it.
Louis XIV of France - Wikipedia
Louis XIV loved a lot of women in his lifetime! Dec 27, Kam rated it liked it Shelves: non-fiction , history. When one gets sick, it's always assumed that it's the perfect time to thin one's personal to-read pile. In some ways it is: after all, it's not as if one can get up and go to work, or have life in general cut into one's reading time when one is supposed to be lying down and recovering.
Unfortunately, not all illnesses prove conducive to reading. It may be easy to read a book when one is sick with a cold, but when one is doubled-over with gastroenteritis, then it's a bit more difficult to muster When one gets sick, it's always assumed that it's the perfect time to thin one's personal to-read pile. It may be easy to read a book when one is sick with a cold, but when one is doubled-over with gastroenteritis, then it's a bit more difficult to muster up the necessary focus for anything beyond terrible reality TV shows.
This was very much the case with myself. After picking up a stomach bug from who-knows-where though I speculate it was either dirty ice or spoilt milk from my favorite milk-tea shop , I wound up pinned to my bed, unable to consume anything more than small sips of water and crackers, and downing medication by the handful. This also meant that my brain wasn't working in tip-top shape, either, which made any and all reading grind to a halt. But it did seem like a good "middling ground" sort of a book, especially when looking at my other choices: a stack of romance novels gastroenteritis is thoroughly unromantic , or some interesting novels I'd already lined up since I was getting towards the end of my non-fiction kick.
Fraser's book was no novel, based as it was solidly on fact, which meant I wouldn't have to exert my imagination much in order to recreate the glory of the Sun King's court, but it still promised a great deal of entertainment. In that regard, it certainly delivered. Love and Louis XIV was entertaining in its account of Louis' relationships with women, but it also provided a chronicle of his relationship with the Church, which disapproved of some of those relationships he had with women.
Alternating with glittering court scenes and tales of scandals and maneuverings at the court of the Sun King are stories of the Church attempting to reform the amorous monarch - something which eventually, surprisingly, actually worked, mostly thanks to Anne of Austria's early influence on her son's ideas regarding adultery and extra-marital affairs. Fraser identifies five women who might be considered crucial to Louis' life, but his mother, Anne of Austria, was perhaps the most important.
Unlike many other noblewomen of her time and certainly unlike a great many queens , she was a very hands-on mother, taking an active part in raising her children and therefore shaping them into the people they would become later on in life. A devout Catholic, she raised Louis to not only be a king, but also to have a great deal of respect for the Church - and a great deal of concern for the state of his soul. While alive she took an active part in the saving of his soul: for instance, manipulating the fate of Marie Mancini with help from the girl's uncle, Cardinal Mazarin to ensure that she would not get in the way of Louis' duty to marry Marie-Therese or Maria-Teresa, as she was known in Spain , who was Anne's niece and her ideal candidate as Louis' wife.
Of all the women in the book, Queen Anne is the one I find the most fascinating - mostly because I read about her in The Three Musketeers and loved her as a character in that book. Surprisingly, it appears Dumas managed to capture her pretty accurately, except perhaps when it comes to the issue of her affair with the Duke of Buckingham. It was interesting to read how much of that fictional depiction of her overlaps with the reality of her as researched by Fraser, and personally satisfying to realize that both Fraser and Dumas appear to agree a great deal about who she was as a person and as a queen.
While the more critical part of me wonders if Fraser might not have been just a bit blinded by Dumas' own glowing prose, I rather tend to believe that Fraser, as a serious researcher, would not have allowed such a thing to happen, and whatever qualities of Dumas appears in her writing regarding Queen Anne, they must be backed up by fact. The second woman who might be considered vital in Louis' life is Marie-Therese. As Louis' wife and Queen of France, this should be obvious, but in the long run she didn't seem to have been as important as Louis' mistresses - or at least, that was the idea I got from Fraser's book.
It's clear she was important enough to Louis that he did not take another official wife to take her place when she died, but the space she occupied in his life was clearly more an official as opposed to a romantic and personal one. Fraser clarifies, though, that this might not entirely have been Marie-Therese's fault: her upbringing at the Spanish court had left her ill-prepared for the culture of the French court, and therefore unable to fulfill the role of Queen as Louis had imagined it and as Anne herself had shaped it.
Fraser opines in the book that, while Marie-Therese might have made a great Spanish queen and for a while, she could have been: the royal line of Spain and Portugal at the time was a confused, tangled mess, with heirs constantly dying out, and since Spain did not have anything like the French Salic Law of inheritance, she could have ruled Spain and Portugal in her own right , as a French queen, she was a disaster waiting to happen - and she certainly was that, in the public sphere, anyway.
This, therefore, left the public role of the Queen of France as set by Queen Anne, and as idealized by Louis himself open to someone else. It is in the discussion of these mistresses and their children that things get more than a little confusing, since the names tend to get in the way. Fraser attempts to mitigate this confusion by giving a list of all the key players in the book at the very beginning, in a section titled "Principal Characters," but despite this, names get mixed up all the time: there were times in the middle of the book when I would get Athenais mixed up with Francoise because Athenais is actually named Francoise-Athenais, and Fraser uses that full name on occasion instead of just adhering to the more distinct Athenais.
And since the mistresses tended to name their children after each other sometimes, it was difficult trying to figure out which child was whose - particularly in the case of Madame de Maintenon, who got started out as the governess for Athenais' children before becoming Louis' mistress. It might be argued that some of that confusion might be due to the fact that I was sick at the time I was reading this, but since I was already on the mend by the time I got to this part of the book and I was still throwing my hands up in confusion, I rather think it might be an organizational flaw of the book.
I found myself wishing that Fraser had thought to break up her list of "Principal Characters," spreading it out across the four major sections of the book each named after the four seasons of the year , instead of putting them all down in one massive lump at the start of the book, where they could easily have been forgotten by the reader by the time he or she was in the thick of the book itself. In the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Shikibu Murasaki's The Tale of Genji , translator Royall Tyler does precisely that, prefacing every chapter with a gradually-updated list of crucial characters who are central in that particular chapter of the book.
While it's true that such a mechanism is necessary in that particular instance, given that The Tale of Genji has a truly massive cast of characters, I think something similar would have worked very, very well in Fraser's book, to help keep all the names straight. As a matter of fact, it would appear that organization is a major concern in this book. Stories interweave and collide on a frequent basis, and while this is unsurprising given the number of players, it certainly made things rather confusing in the middle third of the book.
Fraser jumps from personage to personage, often making leaps from past to present and occasionally to the future, in a manner that can leave the reader scratching his or her head and wondering just where he or she is in the context of the story. While I have absolutely no issue with multiple or colliding storylines, or even ones that jump back and forth across the timeline, I do take issue with the way such techniques are handled. Not all writers are capable of keeping the reins of narrative tight enough to have the story not seem like a mess, and unfortunately Fraser is not one of those writers.
She does so much better when she only has one subject to focus on her biography of Marie Antoinette is my favorite example , but when she has more than one primary character, and therefore more than one competing storyline, she doesn't do so well. Overall, Love and Louis XIV is not only entertaining, but in its own way enlightening, particularly when it highlights Louis' conflict between his role as king and all the expectations that come with it ; his own emotional needs as a person; and his sense of his own faith and his standing with the Church.
Many women, from his mother Queen Anne to Marie-Therese to his mistresses played crucial roles in his life, and Fraser takes time and care to depict their struggles equally: not even the great Marquise de Montespan, in many ways the most glorious of Louis' mistresses, was without her own troubles.
The heartbreaking story of Louise de La Valliere, who loved Louis for who he was, and not because of his title, stands out, as does the story of Madame de Maintenon who was quite the bluestocking in her own way , whom Louis married in secret years after Marie-Therese had died.
However, while the stories themselves are fascinating, it is the way they're presented that may create some trouble for the reader. Fraser attempts to tell these many stories side-by-side as they happen in the timeline, but is not above jumping to the past and to the future on occasion if she feels it necessary. This creates a certain lack of organization and tight narrative that constantly pulls the reader out of the story, instead of allowing him or her to completely immerse himself or herself in the narrative. If the reader can overcome that particular problem with this book keeping notes ought to help , then this is as entertaining and as insightful a book as anyone interested in the Sun King, his life, and his loves could ever hope for.
Sep 10, H. Moat rated it really liked it. This is a pretty big heavy book, and I started reading it right at the start of the summer, when Love Island was on. I am not embarrassed to say I watched every episode of that show and I would often do so before going to bed and reading this book. What's funny is that intellectuals deride Love Island constantly, saying it's trash for the culturally braindead, but I don't think a single one would say the same for getting stuck into Love and Louis XIV. And yet I realised that they are both essent This is a pretty big heavy book, and I started reading it right at the start of the summer, when Love Island was on.
And yet I realised that they are both essentially studies into an isolated group of people getting off with each other and breaking up with each other. However, the drama and scandal in this book is far superior than what happened in Mallorca, and in fact life at Versailles makes Love Island look like the Antiques Roadshow. As anyone who watched the TV series knows, Louis had an affair with his gay, cross-dressing brother's wife, who also happened to be their first cousin, he had a super-religious mistress who felt so guilty about their relationship she ran off to be a nun, and another mistress who was a grade- A shit stirrer who got caught up in a devil worship rumour.
I have a soft spot for the show because I once interviewed the actor who plays Louis and he was so charming and told me loads of interesting facts about Versailles that didn't make it onscreen, and so I was overjoyed to find out my favourite historical biographer Antonia Fraser had written about the Sun King and his court. Like, sadly overjoyed. That's because Louis was an absolute raving egomaniac. I'm quite pleased about that since outrageous characters always make for a better historical read. His love life was suitably colourful and he cultivated a sense of drama and decadence at his court that resulted in many of the people around him also behaving outrageously.
I've been to Versailles and it really is one of the most magical places on earth, so between story and backdrop the book is already onto a winner before you take into account Fraser's intelligent but accessible writing style I love that I always learn a couple of words reading a book of hers. My one complaint is that there is a little too much time and effort dedicated to Louis's wars, but then, it is a vital part of history and to be honest I'm always moaning about it View all 4 comments.
Antonia Fraser briefly profiles dozens and dozens of those women who however briefly captured the attention of Louis XIV. And there are A LOT of ladies. Which makes keeping all the of these ladies straight difficult, and the material would be better suited by several charts to establish the hierarchy and family tree of the French Court for reference. The print edition may have included such resources, but the audio book did not. Had Fraser focused her scope somewhat that may have not been necess Antonia Fraser briefly profiles dozens and dozens of those women who however briefly captured the attention of Louis XIV.
Had Fraser focused her scope somewhat that may have not been necessary, but as the book is written, it is hard to follow. Instead we get brief profiles and scant details on almost everyone whom the king has a flirtation with, those who marry within the upper echelon of the court, or can claim descent from Louis. Eyre delivers an impeccable French read at least to my ears but at times her inflections, pauses and pronunciations tend towards snobbery. Even if that was the point, I found her unlikable.
However it may not suit more discriminating listeners. Feb 15, Tatiana rated it liked it Recommended to Tatiana by: claudia. Shelves: non-fiction , do-not-own. Mar 27, Claire M. Antonia Fraser rarely disappoints and this book is no exception. This is a nice compliment to the letters of Madame Sevigne, because until now I really could not understand quite the "fervor" of Madame' S's letters to her daughter regarding the rising stars and the fading has beens that were gracing or exiting Louis XIV's bed.
All is now explained. And yes, we are absolutely indulging in some self-admitted wish fulfillment here, because in the end it is the bookworm, the studious one, the intell Antonia Fraser rarely disappoints and this book is no exception. And yes, we are absolutely indulging in some self-admitted wish fulfillment here, because in the end it is the bookworm, the studious one, the intelligent woman who ends up being the "wife" of Louis XIV in all sense of the word.
Not to mention, he was as concerned for his mortal soul as any Catholic and he was quite devout , and his struggles with the church and how this impacted his stature as a moral leader was fascinating. Exceptionally well done book. This was my first foray into biographies about the members of the French monarchy. I've long been a fan of Marie Antoinette, but it wasn't until I was searching for other books on different monarchy, that I chose to buy this one. The book starts off with Louis's miraculous birth.
Anne of A This was my first foray into biographies about the members of the French monarchy. Anne of Austria was of course one of the most important women in the King's life as well she should be. From there the book focuses on the major women in the King's life such as his wife and his mistresses. I was surprised that the author also talked about his daughters, granddaughters, and even great-granddaughters.
She didn't got into a lot of detail, but she could tell that Louis was fond of his female relatives. I liked how Fraser divided the book into the four seasons. That was an interesting way to do it, I admit. I might have to steal that for my writings one day :P But in conclusion this was great look at the important women in the Sun King's life.
I'll definitely be looking forward to reading more of Mrs. Fraser's works. Apr 27, Maren rated it really liked it. She gives some really interesting information about the women in the sun king's life and, through that lens, gets in a lot of information about the time period and a bit of political intrigue as well, but it's mostly a story about how Louis kept having sex, even after marriage, and with as many women as possible. At a certain point, given its narrow focus, the book's momentum definitely slows down and you stop caring about the new light of Louis' life, but that didn't make it not worth having picked the book up for a browse in the first place.
Mar 16, Jill Hutchinson rated it really liked it Shelves: biography , world-history. This book is exactly what the title say There is enough history to keep it from being gossipy but Lady Antonia doesn't skimp on the personal details. The life at the court of the Sun King was so bound by court etiquette that one misstep could evoke the displeasure of the King, and result in banishment or in the case of women, being sent to a nunne This book is exactly what the title say The life at the court of the Sun King was so bound by court etiquette that one misstep could evoke the displeasure of the King, and result in banishment or in the case of women, being sent to a nunnery.
Conversely, flagrant affairs were overlooked and in the case of the King, expected. The lives of the major and minor players in this history read like fiction and range from ludicrous to delightful. The author does her usual impeccable research, dispels some rumors about Louis' reign, and provides a window into a time of court intrigues,politics,arranged marriages and love affairs.
Quite entertaining and recommended. I just finished this book. I am fairly well-read on this Louis' maitresse-en-titres, but I found this book to be a bit messy, although it is a good book some ways and one I would recommend. The author establishes a remarkable portrayal of the the king's relationship with his mother and manages to draw parallels and connections from that maternal relationship that throughout Louis' other relationships that are covered in the book.
At some point, though, the author seems to have decided to cover a I just finished this book. At some point, though, the author seems to have decided to cover all Louis' relationships with women, love or not, and the book becomes confusing. Perhaps to have stayed focused on the "romantic" loves his life would have made the book less confusing. This is really a very good, thorough, sometimes arcane, book that should be read by anyone interested in the Sun King or courtesans or French history. Neither the government of France by a group of overlapping councils nor the administration of the provinces by intendants royal agents equipped with full powers in every field originated with Louis, but he took over these systems, making them more comprehensive and efficient, and extending the system of intendants for the first time to the whole of France.
Government became much more efficient in his day, but much of this efficiency was lost after his death.
It also became more bureaucratic, and this change was permanent. Increasingly, the affairs of provincial France came to be decided by the council, and local initiative was discouraged. Remembering the Fronde, Louis no doubt believed that anything was better than the semianarchy of the old days; but it can be argued that he carried the spirit of regimentation a good deal too far. Governmental overcentralization is a source of endless friction in France to this day.
Louis neither initiated this centralization nor carried it to its final completion, but he certainly accelerated it. The basic factor in the Fronde had been noble anarchy, and Louis was determined to keep the nobility in line. All through his reign he did his best to undercut the independent position of the nobles and turn them, particularly the richer and more powerful of them, into courtiers.
French Legends: The Life and Legacy of King Louis XIV (Unabridged)
In this he was largely successful. Versailles, which became the seat of government in although the palace was still far from completion , became the magnet to which the nobility were attracted. No nobleman could hope for appointment to any important position without paying assiduous court at Versailles. The cult of monarchy, which Louis deliberately strengthened to the utmost of his ability, made them in any case flock to Versailles of their own free will; exclusion from the charmed circle of the court came to be regarded as social death.
Louis has been criticized by some historians for turning the French nobility into gilded parasites, but it may be doubted, as the Fronde demonstrated, whether they were fit to play any more constructive role. Although he preferred to select his generals, his bishops, and contrary to legend his ministers from the nobility, Louis did not make the mistake of his successors and exclude the Third Estate from all the best positions. He made some of his appointments from the bourgeoisie.
In fact, this age began under Richelieu and was clearly over some years before Louis died. Nor did he do very much to help it. In the s he indulged in some patronage of writers, but his benevolence was capriciously bestowed, frequently on secondrate men, and it dried up almost entirely when economic conditions worsened after The King's enthusiasm for building Versailles, Marly, Trianon, and others , while costing the country more than it could afford, certainly furnished artists and architects with valuable commissions, and the King's love of musical spectacles offered a golden opportunity for composers.
The flowering of painting, architecture, music, and landscape gardening in France at this time must be largely credited to Louis. He married her reluctantly he was in love with Mazarin's own niece at the time and made no pretense of being faithful to her; but he was fond of her after his fashion, and at her death observed, "This is the first sorrow she has ever caused me. In later life he became very puritanical, and Madame de Maintenon has sometimes been blamed for this, but it seems likely that the change was inherent in Louis's own nature.
Louis did not allow the pursuit of pleasure to interfere with his professional duties; all his life he worked indefatigably at the business of government. He also fancied himself, without justification, as a soldier and derived much pleasure from conducting lengthy sieges of towns that were bound to surrender in any case and giving his generals unsought and unwelcome advice as to how to conduct their campaigns.
The King's last years were darkened not only by the successive disasters of the war and the desperate condition of his people but by a series of personal tragedies. In quick succession his son, the two grandsons still with him, and one of his two infant great-grandsons died. With them died his grandson's wife, the young Duchess of Burgundy, whom Louis adored. Only his other greatgrandson survived, to succeed him at the age of 5 as Louis XV.
When Louis died, France had long been sick of him, and his funeral procession was insulted in the streets. History can see him in a fairer perspective. He was not "Louis the Great, " as he was sycophantically hailed in his lifetime; he was a man of average intelligence and human failings who committed many blunders and several crimes. Nevertheless, he did his duty as he saw it, with a quite exceptional conscientiousness and devotion.
He saw himself as responsible to God for the well-being of his people, and though his interpretation of this responsibility was often strange, it was always sincere. More than any other man except Richelieu, he was the architect of the French national state. The greatness which France achieved in his lifetime was largely his doing. There is no definitive biography of Louis.