From the moment of his accession to power in 1660, Louis took firm control of the reins of power, confounding everyone at court and in bureaucratic circles. And when that power was firmly in hand, he began building what author Nancy Mitford calls "the love of his life", Versailles. From its beginnings as a simple hunting lodge for Louis XIII, Versailles went on to become the epitome of the lavish royal residence, the pride of France and the envy of monarchs everywhere. It was a byword for fashionable elegance, courtly manners, and refined taste. It was also a hotbed of deadly political intrigue and sexual politics.
In this witty and exciting book, you will hear how Louis kept his aristocratic dandies under his control, how he used his mistresses to his advantage, and how he decided whether or not to legitimize his many offspring. Listen as legendary mistresses Madam de Maintenon and Madam de Montespan engage in a duel of hearts to win the king's favor. Find out how the king managed his incredibly complex household of thousands, and how he ruled the most powerful nation on earth from his heavenly residence.
Nancy Mitford has produced a masterpiece of biographical entertainment, certainly one of the most charming, witty, and moving works ever written about Louis XIV and his time.
This audiobook also includes a brief prologue by Arthur James Grant, Louis XIV: A Brief Biography.
©1966 Estate of Nancy Mitford; (P) 2004 Audio Connoisseur
"With learning and flair, Nancy Mitford employs an elegant and aphoristic style to match the complexity and splendor of her subject." (Time)
An absorbing book! I've listened to it twice already. The author flawlessly mixes hard historical context with gossip, scandal, and delightful facts that were obviously gleaned from obscure sources. The narrator is fantastic too - a deep, booming English voice, full of pomp and gravity.
What an entertaining audiobook. Although I am a big fan of Mr. Griffin's, the sheer delight of listening as the 17th century comes to life is an overwhelming pleasure in and of itself, and this was due in no small measure to the expert writing of Nancy Mitford. The research she did to come up with so many penetrating insights and fascinating details is beyond my comprehension. She must have had a roomful of notecards before she even began writing. Her knowledge of court life in this period is very impressive. For those of you who are already familiar with Griffin's narrative style, there is nothing I can add. He is terrific. And the wonderfully sophisticated voice of Ellen Ezekiel introduces each chapter with a French quotation. This is a class act all the way!
Listened to this on a long drive across country, in preparation for an upcoming trip to Paris. The author, Nancy Mitford, gives a thorough description of the life of the Sun King. I love the little details of political connections and back stories of people in the King's life, from vignettes of the Gardener, to quarrels between his economic and military chiefs of staff. However, I did not give this 4 stars because there were just too many names to keep track of. I would love to have had a chart of names and portraits to look at while reading this book.
Finally, I would like to compliment Ms Mitford on sussing out the origins and influences of power, economic and political, as well as aesthetic and religious as they were used in the 17th Century.
Painter, musician, bibliophile...
Nancy Mitford's 1966 classic is a must-read for all of us who enjoy the exploits of the royal Bourbons. Not only is the book written in an accessible and enjoyable style, it is full of the little treats I enjoy most in reading history: details of everyday life, from food and fashion to the finer points of romantic dalliances, betrayals, and intrigues.
You'll learn more than you ever might have wanted to know about a day in the life of a Louis XIV courtier, from "lever" to "coucher." The personalities of the prominent royal mistresses Louise de La Vallière; Françoise d'Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon; and Françoise-Athénaïs, Marquise de Montespan are quite vividly illuminated.
Of course, the ever-growing Château de Versailles may be said to be its own character here. Few could understand what drew Louis XIV to such a place, but the attraction became an obsession, and his building and decorating projects are detailed along with the court gossip.
Mitford's erudition was immense. It is taken for granted that one needs a basic grasp of the cast of characters before embarking upon this book. If you are entirely new to this time period, you might wish to read a few background sketches beforehand.
Sometimes I think Charlton Griffin is an all-or-nothing proposition. I have listened to books that he's perfect for, and others that set my teeth on edge. I can't say I was thrilled with him here. I found a lot of his French pronunciation to be eccentric at best. Also, he can become overly dramatic and the ear tires of too much of that. (Then again, perhaps it was just my own mood while I listened to this).
What a wonderful sumer read! All the dish, everything you want to know about Louis xiv and his court at Versailes. And his wives, mistresess!
It is like reading a tabeloid from 400 years ago. Lovely, Lovely read.
Louis XIV is considered by many historians to be the most influential king in thie history of France, if not Europe entirely. His reign lasted 72 years, during which France was upturned by the discovery of the New World and teetered toward revolution. This book, however, is not about any of that. Instead, it depicts the court life of Louis XIV as a soap opera; it is almost entirely about his mistresses. Anything historically relevant seems to have been carefully trimmed down to a paragraph or two; there is more about the architecture of Louis XIV's palace than there is about the economic policies about Colbert, which were enormously influential, and the few paragraphs on that subject are oversimplified, claiming that he ruthlessly and energetically invigorated France's economy, when in reality economic historians are divided as to whether his policies were constructive or destructive.
I found this book very dull. I hope to find another book that will inform me about Louis XIV's political life, not just his personal one.
The book on its own may have been a good read, but the audiobook was difficult to get thru. Cheesy music, sound effects, whispered quotes in French and an overly dramatic reader. I would highly suggest Antonia Fraser's Love and Louis XIV as a first choice.
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I liked this book, especially the set up! Its so smart: it starts with a brief biography of Louis XIV complete with all the dates you need to fall asleep, then the rest of the book fleshes out his life, the lives of the members of the Court and the French Royal Family without that “reading a text-book” feeling. More like a collections of anecdotes – right up my alley!
My problem was just that: “all the members of the Court and the French Royal Family” - there just TOO MANY PEOPLE!!!
Although I was interested in the subject matter and really liked the quirky, gossipy tone of the narrative, I SUCK a remembering names. I am TERRIBLE at it!! This book was so jammed packed with so many people that by about ¾ of the way through I was completely lost. Too bad – my loss.
I really like the way NM approaches biographical writing; you get a lot of history but told in the form of mini-episodes and gossip, very clever. So for the book alone I might have given 4 stars, but it loses 1 due to the really odd way this audio book is presented. The reader sounds, by turn, suggestive, bored and frightfully posh - we have gorrn instead of gone and orrfice instead of office. However, he sort of grew on me. What didn't, in fact I hated it, were the interludes of music denoting the end / beginning of chapters, always loud, sometimes fading in and out and sometimes just abruptly stopped or started. And then, there is the French woman, reading bits in French, in an echo chamber, sounding like a tour-guide recording. Really bizarre.
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