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Entertaining but not shallow - a better understanding of Louis XIV and his relationships
on 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.