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Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of…
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Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King

by Antonia Fraser

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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
This was an informative and entertaining book that takes a look at the life of Louis XIV, the Sun King, by exploring the women in his life. Fraser focuses on Louis's mother, his wife Marie Therese, and then his many mistresses: the pious Louise; the confident, womanly, and fertile Athenais; and the motherly companion Francoise. Later in his life he also was enamored by his grandson's betrothed, Adelaide.

By keeping such a tight focus on the women in his life, Fraser creates a structure that is easy to follow and highly detailed. You can see how Louis changed through his life and paint a picture of who he was through the people he chose to keep closest to him. I thought the whole book was very well done and also thought the reader of the audiobook I listened to, Rosalyn Landor, was excellent. ( )
1 vote japaul22 | Aug 28, 2015 |
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 necessary, but as the book is written, it is hard to follow. I also wouldn’t have minded some historical context to encapsulate some of these romances or amusements, nor would I have been against a little more focus or detail on some of those ladies who were more important to Louis life and reign. 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. I feared it would get to the point where Fraser would introduce Louis’ maids, cooks or those who walked through the room briefly were not introduced to the King.

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. And though Eyre’s performance did not curb my enjoyment of the book, she didn’t bring anything special to the material either.

I can’t get enough details on the scandalous courts and love lives of European Monarchic figures, so of course I did really enjoy the book. However it may not suit more discriminating listeners. ( )
  Sararush | Feb 28, 2010 |
Fraser's catalog of Louis XIV's feminine companions is breathtaking in its scope. Every woman, from his mother to his great-grandchildren (and all the nieces, cousins, mistresses in between), is covered in this book. It greatest strength, however, is its flaw. With so many women to describe and discuss, it is very easy to lose track of all the intermingling relationships and families. The two family trees included as guides are helpful to a point, as well as the wonderfully reproduced portraits of all the principal characters. Any lover of court intrigues will find this book riveting. ( )
1 vote NielsenGW | Sep 7, 2009 |
I was surprised by how engrossing this history turned out to be. It kept my attention and moved along quickly, but still managed to be substantive and informative. ( )
  Jthierer | Oct 23, 2008 |
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FOR HAROLD

nobilis et Nobelius
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The first woman in the life of Louis XIV - and probably the most important - was his mother, Anne of Austria.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385509847, Hardcover)

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 until 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:05 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

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 detail his intimate relationships with women. The king's mother, Anne of Austria, had been in a childless marriage for 22 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-Therese, in a political arrangement. While unfailingly kind to the official "Queen of Versailles," Louis sought others to satisfy his romantic and sexual desires. Fraser weaves insights into the nature of women's religious lives--as well as such practical matters as contraception--into her sweeping portrait of the king, his court, and his ladies.--From publisher description.… (more)

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