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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 21 August 2009
I found this book to be absolutely rivetting. Antonia Fraser explores in detail the character and influences on Louis XIV and the dicotomy he faced between his religion and his affairs. The pressures from the church, his mother and wife and his mistresses are all explored at great length. She also gives a rounded picture of the three principal mistresses characters and what drove them, in their turn, into their respective affairs with Louis XIV together with their own struggles, or lack thereof, with reconciling their affairs with their religion. It is a gripping read and not a dry historical biography. The last section of Louis XIV became a little complicated with all the granddaughters, grandsons, distant relatives and their respective spouses. The sumptuousness of life at court really comes across in this book but it is a sympathetic and balanced study.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 30 September 2006
Antonia Fraser is one of the best writers of (popular) history and this book just proves why.

So many books have been written about Louis XIV and it seems nearly impossible to shed a new light on this most famous of all French kings. So it was a very pleasant surprise that Antonia Fraser did this.

She follows the relationships of the Louis XIV with females from birth to death: from the long-for heir to the French throne, boy king at the age of 4 years and 8 months, through the period when the Sun King dominated Europe to the period when France and his king were nearly going down under and the reign ended on a sad notion. Each period had a distinct female symbolizing that very period: Anne of Austria, the King's mother and regent, Maria Theresia, his Queen, Madame de La Valliere and Madame de Montespan, his most famous mistresses and la Marquise de Maintenon, his morganatique wife. Of course, there are more like la Princesse Palatine, the Duchess of Burgundy or the first Duchess of Orleans. It seems that the Sun King did a full circle - Anne of Austria and Madame la Marquise had much in common and might be described as the same kind of personality. It is very much appreciated that Antonia Fraser restores Louis XIV's Queen Consort to her rightful place. The Queen is often neglected as the king did and she was properly the most remote person in terms of personal affection, but her role was vital for his gloire. The Infanta of Spain was the most valuable princess and none other would have done for the King and she was the mother of the rightful heirs to the throne.

Antonia Fraser commands the rare gift of writing in an entertaining manner without becoming shallow or superficial. All in all a book one can only recommend. I enjoyed it immensely.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 30 March 2007
I love Antonia Fraser's writing. This book was absorbing from start to finish, I'm rather sorry to have read it so fast! It gives the reader an idea of a woman's life - and the choices open to her - in the 17th century. Whilst the main theme was Louis XIV and the women in his life, Ms Fraser also gave us relevant snapshots of the lives of other monarchs in Europe - not least on the English throne. It was entertaining to read of the way the later generations of women pushed the boundaries of court etiquette, although only as far as Louis XIV was prepared to indulge! Overall, I would really recommend this book and I know I shall be able to read it more than once.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 14 January 2010
This is the first Antonia Fraser book I have read and I am thoroughly impressed. She has a very readable style and manages to get a lot of information in without sounding dry as can happen with non-fiction.
With a quick overview it would be easy to dismiss Louis XIV as a womaniser - especially by today's standards - but this book gives a clearer picture of the man, who seemed to genuinely love women as friends, relatives and companions as well as lovers. In the context of the time, where most aristocratic marriages were arranged for reasons other than love and royal marriages particularly were mostly arranged for political motives, Louis XIV was merely honest about his intentions with each of the women in his life. By the standards of the day, I'd say he was quite a modern man.
Though the title suggests the book is only about the romantic side of Louis' life, it actually gives a very broad view of France - and Europe to an extent - and its people at the time. Louis' life plays out against a backdrop of wars in Europe, poverty amongst his own people and the growing splendour of the Palace of Versailles and the book pays attention to all these things and more.
Wonderful book about an intriguing subject, rekindling my interest in the history of Europe and the aristocracy. I would thoroughly recommend to anyone.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 14 January 2007
This book, a study of King Louis XIV of France and the women in his life, including his mother, Anne of Austria, his wife Marie-Therese of Spain, his two sisters-in-law, Henriette-Anne of England and Liselotte of the Palatinate, his granddaughter-in-law Adelaide of Savoy, and of course his mistresses, Louise de La Valliere, Francoise-Athenais de Montpesan, Angelique de Fontagues and Francoise d'Aubigne, Madame de Maintenon. Then there's the mistress who never was, Marie Mancini.

As ever, Fraser tells a wonderful story - this is history at it's best. One of her best skills as an author, in my opinion, is the way she treats her characters as human beings; she is sympathetic to Louis being biased. She doesn't overlook his faults, but she isn't pessimistic about him. The characters come alive spectacularly, even though it's a non-fiction book - by the end, we feel as though we know Louis, Liselotte, Adelaide and the others. The Sun King has always been a compelling characters - I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to find out more not only about him, but about the women in his life!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 2 July 2007
This is not a biography of Louis XIV; it is rather a study of his relationships with the women in his life and it includes biographies of those women. Fraser does not confine herself to his Queen (Marie-Therese of Austria) and the royal mistresses, but investigates Louis' relationship with his mother and, at the other end of his life, his platonic relationships with various favourites. The queen and mistresses do however play a large part in the book, as they played a large part in Louis' life.

It is refereshing to note the attempt to understand the importance of Louis' Catholicism and how this coloured his relationships, especially with la Maintenant but also with Louise de la Valliere and, indeed, with Marie-Therese.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 25 August 2007
Another historical masterpiece from the author of `Mary Queen Of Scots', `Marie Antoinette The Journey' et al.
The book has at its centre the life of Louis XIV and the women who found themselves in his orbit.
Despite the allusions to romantic love in the title, there is a platonic element to the numerous biographies that Fraser intertwines with Louis', such as his mother and daughter-in-law.
The light shone on the Sun King is painted in delicate colours and there is little allusion to `goings on' outside his immediate court, such as the Edict of Nantes (a very significant event of his reign) and the wars with the Dutch and the `Grand Alliance' under Marlborough and Eugene. This is because it is a biography devoted to the emotional - dare we say it - human side of Louis.
One really can find little fault in any of Antonia Fraser's scholarly works, of which this is an elegant and insightful example.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 February 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed this look at the life and loves of Louis XIV. It manages to engage the reader with the life of the Sun King, imparting a depth of knowledge without getting the reader bogged down in too much detail. I'm not a fan of historical fiction when the writer speaks for the subject, neither do I like overly biased biographies. I found this book to be as impartial as a book can be, I couldn't put it down, I came away with an overall favourable view of Louis XIV which might be at odds with what the general consensus.
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on 5 June 2015
A well researched book does not guarantee a well written book and this attempt at an historical account of Louis XIV women epitomises this fact. Fraser’s inability to construct well structured sentences not only impede the flow of the narrative but render many parts of it incoherent.
The above coupled with an enormous cast of characters and their associated genealogies create a confusion which doesn’t merit the effort required to unravel.
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on 24 April 2014
I am sure this is a brilliant book, superbly written and researched, and I am genuinely interested in the subject. But try as I might for weeks, it just was not happening for me.
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