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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 October 2011
The life of Philip V of Spain is another proof that history is often better than the best fiction. Enter Philippe, Duke of Anjou, an awkward 18 year old who is told by his grandfather Louis XIV to leave for Spain to take over a kingdom. I seriously doubt he wanted to go, but then grandpa Louis was not the type of person to take no for an answer. Soon poor Philippe crossed the Pyrenees, became Felipe & had to govern a country he knew nothing about - admittedly with kind assistance of his new wife from Savoy.
One can only feel sorry for this troubled young man who suffered from severe depressions - apparently the only remedy in his case was being in the thick of fighting; luckily the outbreak of war provided enough action to serve as psychotherapy. In addition he was so shy that at least initially he could only participate in 'cabinet meetings' (or whatever equivalent they had) when sitting behind a curtain. It is perhaps amazing that he came out on top at the end of the Spanish succession war. Even more amazingly, he actually launched Spain into another war just a few years after, this time against the combined might of France, England, Savoy and Austria. Perhaps Felipe was a fool to enter this War of the Quadruple Alliance (it did cost him his entire fleet) but in the end Spain got something out of it, namely a renewed foothold in Italy.
Kamen argues against the commonly held belief that Felipe's wives dominated him, not just because of his mental instability but also because he combined a voracious sexual appetite with such a deep religiosity that he (unlike pretty much all his colleague kings) would not entertain any mistresses. However interesting Kamen's argument that Felipe really was in control all the time and that he was not a mad weakling at all might be, the problem is that he does not provide a lot of proof. For example, he states that everything that St. Simon (ambassador in Madrid for a while) said about the king was not true, but then fails to prove this point.
Overall, Kamen's subject matter is certainly very interesting, the book is alternatingly hilarious and moving, in short a good read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 4 August 2006
Long gone, when the Bourbons ruled in France and Italy, except in Spain now for 306 years. The rule was turbulent and interrupted but ultimately the dynasty remains.

Philip V was the first king, who as second grandson of Louis XIV of France was part of the political ambitions of his grandfather. Significantly it was Louis XIV who presented him as King of Spain in Versailles. The War of the Spanish Succession followed throwing Europe for 14 years in to turmoil. Philip V survived and remained King of Spain. So in the end he was successful, maybe for many at the time a bit of a surprise.

This excellent book covers the reign and rule of the King, who abdicated once and resumed power. Henry Kamen re-created the personality of the king, shows how ill-equipped he was for his position and how he struggled to fulfil his destiny. He explores the relationship with his queens and puts it in a different perspective, different from the "usual historical reputation". It is well written, with a good flow and covering all aspects of his life. I believe it is a great study given one many ideas and perspectives on this very King. Highly recommended.
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on 30 July 2013
This title is somewhat a gem of a book! Easy to read and covers the many wider aspects of Philip's reign and the historical events in which he played a part. I stumbled across it by accident and it has helped me plug a few gaps in my knowledge of this period.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 December 2002
This book is absolutely brilliant. The first book in English to be written on Philip V did not disappoint. It covered the character of the King, his children and the relationship with his wives in very great detail. It also covered the state of Spain in the early 18th Century, and the War of the Spanish Succession. One of the best books that I have ever read! My only problem was that the book was not longer.
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