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The Man Who Would Be King: Life of Philippe D'Orleans, Regent of France (Phoenix Giants) [Paperback]

Christine Pevitt
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

13 July 1998 Phoenix Giants
A fascinating and fresh interpretation of the life of Philippe d'Orleans and a portrait of a brilliant and glomorous time in history. Philippe D'Orleans had been a rebel at the court of Versailles, delighting in flouting convention and flaunting his vice. The focus on his lurid reputation led many historians to overlook his achievements. Libertine he may have been, but he was also a great Liberal and gallantly pursued a goal of peace and prosperity for all his fellow countrymen while beset by conspiracies, plots and intrigues. Patron of Watteau and the young Voltaire, Philippe D'Orleans was a modernising patrician whose Regency was was both glamorous and a fascinating transition period in the history of a nation. This biography sheds a new light on the man and his times.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New edition edition (13 July 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 075380459X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753804599
  • Product Dimensions: 3 x 13.8 x 21.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,301,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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“A most agreeably readable slice of history” Alistair Horne.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Philippe d'Orleans was born on 2 August 1674 at Saint-Cloud, the home of his parents, the duc and duchesse d'Orleans, known at court simply as Monsieur and Madame, brother and sister-in-law of King Louis XIV. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars pageturner! 2 Jan 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For all those who, like myself, started reading the memoirs of the Duke of St. Simon and got stuck in the endless descriptions of seemingly petty disputes about precedence, here is a second chance. Philippe d'Orleans, nephew of Louis XIV, lived in pretty much the same time as St. Simon.
Luckily for him, Philippe's life was a lot more interesting and fulfilling.
Luckily for the reader, Christine Pevitt knows a lot better how to extract the pith than St. Simon did.

'The man who would be King' certainly was an interesting character, as one would expect from the son of such colourful parents as 'Monsieur' and 'Madame'. Philippe's activities included military leadership in Italy and Spain, fortune-telling, high treason (trying to rob Philippe V of his Spanish kingdom by means of underhand dealing with the British), alchemy, calling up spirits, offending mortals in very high places such as Louis XIV and Mme de Maintenon, and last but not least 'debauchery' with a range of mistresses. He had to endure serious frustrations in his career (not being trusted with command for years, then being present at the disaster at Turin in 1706 but lacking the power to prevent it, missing the victorious battle of Almansa in 1707 by just a few hours, failing in his plans to take over Spain) as well as long periods of being a pariah at court, ostracized by his 'friends', viciously attacked by his enemies and despised by the king. Although he did overcome these troubles, one can only feel sorry for him that he had so few years left to enjoy being Regent of France from 1715 to his death.

Thankfully Philippe figured prominently in two of the best sources of gossip from those days (the memoirs of his friend St. Simon and the letters of his mother Liselotte), enabling Pevitt to spice up the story with countless good anecdotes. Furthermore, the author's experience in publishing must have come in handy: this book is very well-written. Highly recommended reading!
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5.0 out of 5 stars a great read 16 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book offers a clear and extremely readable insight in the transitional period between the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV. It also shows how the House of d'Orléans - the 'junior' line of the French royal house - has brought forth the much more interesting and/or intelligent characters: Philippe Egalité during the Revolution and later on Louis Philippe the king.

Philippe d'Orleans on becoming Regent for Louis XV made the rare switch from middle-aged loungeabout and roué (albeit at the same time an accomplished painter and man of books, among others) to extremely hard-working administrator. This doesn't sound like a subject that makes for a page-turner, but that is nevertheless what this book is. Here is a man capable of real friendships and loyalties, sometimes a schemer, often a lecher but unusually for the times putting his interests in second place to those of the young King. This book by the way gives an anwer why there is not a single English language-biography of Louis XV: both man and child he was dull and withdrawn and left the business of administration and policy totally to a few trusted ministers and maîtresses.

Philippe on the other hand was very much alive and his character makes this a book that you will find difficult to put down.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Philip II, Duke of Orleans 18 Oct 2005
By Bomojaz - Published on
The duke of Orleans won success for himself as a young man in various military campaigns, and became a favorite of King Louis XIV. Only when he expressed a desire to replace Philip V on the throne of Spain did he suddenly fall from favor with Louis XIV. But the king appointed him regent of the young King Louis XV anyway; Louis XV was only five years old when his father died.

The duke at first accomplished some good things while acting as regent: he decreased taxation, reduced the size of the army, and restored liberty to the Jansenists. But he was also self-indulgent and a slave to pleasure. The duke often is described only in these negative terms, and Pevitt tries to rectify this by pointing out some of his better qualities. A good history, though lacking in literary distinction.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Effort 27 Sep 2009
By William Alexander - Published on
In "The Man Who Would Be King," Christine Pevitt attacks the weightly subject of the French royal family during the latter part of Louis XIV's reign and during the flagratly wild Regency period before the accession of the lackluster Louis XV. The center of this tale of Versaille intrigue and power-politics is Philippe D'Orleans, the Sun King's talented but often directionless nephew who eventually came to preside over the French court as Regent of France. Pevitt uses her source material competently and well, painting solid and unromanticized portraits of the major Versailles players of the Duke's day with just enough Royal scandal here and there to keep the reader interested. And, the picture of the Duke himself is a fascinating study of a royal person "on the cusp" of both the reactionary monarchist movement and the Enlightenment, fascinated by both but too often vacillating between the lure of power and the lure of new ideas and thinking which, by implication, challenged the very foundations of the absolutist monarchist principle itself. The Duke was a competent field commander, avid amateur "chemist," passionate lover, a dabbler in occult spiritualism, patron of the arts, and sometime-patron sometime-foe of figures like Voltaire and the lesser philosophes making such an impact on the intellectual life of France. Pevitt presents him almost sympathetically, as he was in some ways, even as she paints a picture of a man who could be a microcosm in one body of the conflict between the France that was and the France yet to be. My only quibbles are a too free use of French phraseology without citation or translation, and a propensity to make a muddle of the various personages of the convoluted French court, many of whom had names or titles which were similar and sometimes interchanged. At points, this made the the narrative very hard to follow, and the chapter on the War of the Spanish Succession, in particular, highlighted these deficiencies at their worst. And sometimes, the narrative will drag, but that is not a critique. It is a rare biography that does not from time to time, and it's a "flaw" easily forgiven.

Still, I was very happy to have picked up this book. It does the high-flying Regency period much justice, and the author's obvious desire to be balanced and straightforward about her many subjects shows the work of a disciplined mind caring about its subject but determined not to fall into the gushy, Harlequin romance traps that too often mar biogprahies of royal persons with useless, speculative sentimentality.

I recommend "The Man Who Would Be King" to any European history enthusiast or student of the French monarchy. A very fine first effort.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointed 26 Jan 2008
By Zhenya - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was very disappointed with this biography. This book was more about royal court and France during 18th century, than Philippe himself. As soon as Christine got back on track and it got interesting, she would immediately change the subject and talk about someone else. I also did not like the use of French phrases without English translation, i don't speak French. Also, pages and pages of describing royal palace and gardens. I have never been to France, so I can't begin to picture it in my head, maybe add a few images of these places.
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