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.