Louis XIV, the highly-feted “Sun King”, was renowned for his political and cultural influence and for raising France to a new level of prominence in seventeenth-century Europe. And yet, as Antonia Fraser keenly describes, he was equally legendary in the domestic sphere. Indeed, a panoply of women — his wife Anne; mistresses such as Louise de la Vallière, Athénaïs de Montespan, and the puritanical Madame de Maintenon; and an array of courtesans — moved in and out of the court. The highly visible presence of these women raises many questions about their position in both Louis XIV’s life and in France at large. With careful research and vivid, engaging prose, Fraser makes the multifaceted life of one of the most famous European monarchs accessible and vibrantly current.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of History eBook: Love and Louis XIV|
|Release Date: 12-10-2008|
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Love and Louis XIV
Gift from Heaven
They saw in the arms of this princess whom they had watched suffer great persecutions with so much staunchness, their child-King, like a gift given by Heaven in answer to their prayers.
—Madame de Motteville, Mémoires
The first woman in the life of Louis XIV — and probably the most important — was his mother, Anne of Austria. When Louis, her first child, was born on 5 September 1638 the Spanish-born Queen of France was just short of her thirty-seventh birthday. This was an age at which a royal princess might well expect to be a grandmother (Anne herself had been married at fourteen). The Queen had on the contrary endured twenty-two years of childless union. Anne, as she told a confidante, had even feared the annulment of her marriage, since childlessness was one possible ground for repudiation according to the Catholic Church. In which case the former Spanish Princess, daughter of Philip III, would either have been returned to her native country or possibly dispatched to govern the so-called ‘Spanish’ Netherlands (approximately modern Belgium), as other princesses of her royal house had done, most recently her pious aunt, Isabella Clara Eugenia.
The birth of a child, and that child a son — females could not inherit in France under the fourteenth-century Salic Law — meant that the whole position of his royal mother was transformed. It was not only the obvious delight of a woman confronted with ‘a marvel when it was least expected’, as the official newspaper Gazette de France put it. It was also the traditionally strong position of any Queen of France who had produced a Dauphin, an interesting paradox in...