Thursday, April 16, 2009

Book rec: French history, sex, and Louis XIV

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

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 been-there-screwed-thats who 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 intelligent woman who ends up being the "wife" of Louis XIV in all sense of the word. Okay, aside from shoe-horning myself into Louis XIV's bed (and this man sounds fascinating), what is even MORE fascinating is the tug of war between Louis' emotional needs (his mistresses were not just a f**k), and the direct conflict of maintaining his "mistresse et titres," and his role (which he took extremely seriously) as a moral example, a role that he saw, and others also saw, as part of his role as king. 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.


france said...

I have read so many books about French history that I have the ability to distinguish the truth from a lie in a blog post, or forum post, or any discussion posted on the internet, with no responsibility or accurate information. French history is really to be admired, but blamed in the same. Everyone makes mistakes, at least this country had the power to overcome them.

Claire M. Johnson said...

To france: Yes, I was an English history major and it is fascinating to see the differences between the two countries. By breaking the back of the French aristocracy, the monarchy had no pulse on the nation. The English aristocracy's power was always firmly rooted in the countryside. There was a season and you were in London during that season. The rest of the time you saw to your lands. The English revolution wasn't about the masses revolting but a competing ruling structure. What I thought interesting about this book was the moral dilemmas Louis' affaires posed. I thought it well written. Did you read it?