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This review is from: The Real Queen Of France: Athenais and Louis XIV (Paperback)
At least we have a biography worthy of Athenais de Montespan! Whatever feelings this woman stirs in you, here she emerges as a flesh-and-blood person, in 3-d and full technicolour. In this respect, "The Real Queen of France" deserves full honours. This extraordibnary woman was too much of a personality to fit the shoes of a harpie, who poisoned her way to the top. Hypocrite believer? Bad mother? Unfaithful friend? Hilton skips the preconceptions on Athenais' personalities, which found their way into the romantic novels, and she concentrates on the facts. De Montespan was a jewel in Louis' crown when the monarch was at the height of his "gloire". She patronised the arts, built palaces, indulged in cards and charity, back-stabbing and, most infamously, got involved in black magic. She was entirely of her times and it is in this context she ought to be judged. Here's the most important point of the book, the point which other reviewers seem to have overlooked. She lived in the age (as we do now) when the romanticised view of the woman's role in the society only existed in romatic novels, people were more frank about their expectations of life.
It is inappropriate to judge her on 19c Victorian values. Also, do we have to admire instead Mme de Mantenon's hypocritycal resignation to "duty" (in keeping the king away from sin), or Louise de Lavaliere's romantic dullness (which, as the king found out, was suited more to fiction than the real life), as other biographies suggest? Do we have to feel a justified Victorian indignity at Athenais who dared to be brilliant? This book suggests otherwise.