Love and Louis XIV

The Women in the Life of the Sun King

Publisher: Anchor Canada
The superb historian and biographer Antonia Fraser, author of Marie Antoinette, casts new light on the splendor and the scandals of the reign of Louis XIV in this dramatic, illuminating look at the women in his life.

The self-proclaimed Sun King, Louis XIV ruled over the most glorious and extravagant court in seventeenth-century Europe. Now, Antonia Fraser goes behind the well-known tales of Louis’s accomplishments and follies, exploring in riveting detail his intimate relationships with women.

The king’s mother, Anne of Austria, had been in a childless marriage for twenty-two years before she gave birth to Louis XIV. A devout Catholic, she instilled in her son a strong sense of piety and fought successfully for his right to absolute power. In 1660, Louis married his first cousin, Marie-Thérèse, in a political arrangement. While unfailingly kind to the official Queen of Versailles, Louis sought others to satisfy his romantic and sexual desires. After a flirtation with his sister-in-law, his first important mistress was Louise de La Vallière, who bore him several children before being replaced by the tempestuous and brilliant Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan. Later, when Athénaïs’s reputation was tarnished, the King continued to support her publicly as Athénaïs left court for a life of repentance. Meanwhile her children’s governess, the intelligent and seemingly puritanical Françoise de Maintenon, had already won the King’s affections; in a relationship in complete contrast to his physical obsession with Athénaïs, Louis XIV lived happily with Madame de Maintenon for the rest of his life, very probably marrying her in secret. When his grandson’s child bride, the enchanting Adelaide of Savoy, came to Versaille she lightened the King’s last years – until tragedy struck.

With consummate skill, Antonia Fraser weaves insights into the nature of women’s religious lives – as well as such practical matters as contraception – into her magnificent, sweeping portrait of the king, his court, and his ladies.


From the Hardcover edition.

READ AN EXCERPT

Chapter 1

Gift from Heaven

They saw in the arms of this princess whom they had watched suffer great persecutions with so much staunchness, their child-King, like a gift given by Heaven in answer to their prayers.
—Madame de Motteville, Mémoires

The first woman in the life of Louis...
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READING GUIDE

1. Discuss the various types and degrees of love that shaped Louis’s life. How did his mother’s circumstances – a pious woman, age thirty-six when giving birth to him after so many childless years – affect his upbringing, and his perceptions of women?

2. Why might Queen Anne have lavished...

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PRAISE FOR

A Globe and Mail Best Book

Love and Louis XIV is the perfect book to read in bed on a long summer day--or a short winter one.” The New York Times

“Drawing on letters, diaries and memoirs to support her own eminently readable prose, Fraser makes the romances and scandals of the 17th century seem as lively as the latest gossip about Nicole Richie, Tom Cruise or Paris Hilton.” Los Angeles Times

“A painstaking, exhaustive study of the influence the fairer sex had on [Louis XIV] and the era in general. . . . Fascinating. . . . It’s a must for both history buffs and those who live and die by the breathless, often scurrilous gossip in the tabloids.” The Gazette

“Most intriguing.... The book vividly portrays the extravagance of life at the French court in the 17th century, especially in a description of the ‘vagabond court’ which rolled to war.” The Washington Times

“A sparkling new look at the Sun King.” National Post