Love and Louis XIV

by Antonia Fraser

Hardcover, 2006




New York Nan A. Talesee/Doubleday 2006


The self-proclaimed Sun King, Louis XIV ruled over the most glorious and extravagant court in seventeenth-century Europe. Now, Antonia Fraser goes behind the well-known tales of Louis's accomplishments and follies, exploring in detail his intimate relationships with women. The king's mother, Anne of Austria, had been in a childless marriage for 22 years before she gave birth to Louis XIV. A devout Catholic, she instilled in her son a strong sense of piety and fought successfully for his right to absolute power. In 1660, Louis married his first cousin, Marie-Thérèse, in a political arrangement. While unfailingly kind to the official "Queen of Versailles," Louis sought others to satisfy his romantic and sexual desires. Fraser weaves insights into the nature of women's religious lives--as well as such practical matters as contraception--into her sweeping portrait of the king, his court, and his ladies.--From publisher description.… (more)


½ (170 ratings; 3.8)

User reviews

LibraryThing member mgaulding
I just finished this book. I am fairly well-read on this Louis' maitresse-en-titres, but I found this book to be a bit messy, although it is a good book some ways and one I would recommend. The author establishes a remarkable portrayal of the the king's relationship with his mother and manages to
Show More
draw parallels and connections from that maternal relationship that throughout Louis' other relationships that are covered in the book. At some point, though, the author seems to have decided to cover all Louis' relationships with women, love or not, and the book becomes confusing. Perhaps to have stayed focused on the "romantic" loves his life would have made the book less confusing. This is really a very good, thorough, sometimes arcane, book that should be read by anyone interested in the Sun King or courtesans or French history.
Show Less
LibraryThing member NielsenGW
Fraser's catalog of Louis XIV's feminine companions is breathtaking in its scope. Every woman, from his mother to his great-grandchildren (and all the nieces, cousins, mistresses in between), is covered in this book. It greatest strength, however, is its flaw. With so many women to describe and
Show More
discuss, it is very easy to lose track of all the intermingling relationships and families. The two family trees included as guides are helpful to a point, as well as the wonderfully reproduced portraits of all the principal characters. Any lover of court intrigues will find this book riveting.
Show Less
LibraryThing member japaul22
This was an informative and entertaining book that takes a look at the life of Louis XIV, the Sun King, by exploring the women in his life. Fraser focuses on Louis's mother, his wife Marie Therese, and then his many mistresses: the pious Louise; the confident, womanly, and fertile Athenais; and the
Show More
motherly companion Francoise. Later in his life he also was enamored by his grandson's betrothed, Adelaide.

By keeping such a tight focus on the women in his life, Fraser creates a structure that is easy to follow and highly detailed. You can see how Louis changed through his life and paint a picture of who he was through the people he chose to keep closest to him. I thought the whole book was very well done and also thought the reader of the audiobook I listened to, Rosalyn Landor, was excellent.
Show Less
LibraryThing member bhowell
Another masterpiece from Antonia Fraser about this very important French Monarch.
LibraryThing member maunder
A frustrating book. Interesting details about the wives and mistresses of Louis XIV but the focus is so narrow. Little information on the King himself or the actions he took to warrant being called the Sun King (unless dancing in a Court ballet counts). Did these women contribute anything to the
Show More
decisions he made or were they merely ornaments. The answer seems to be the latter and that makes the content of the book rather trivial.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Melissande
Not so great! I found very interesting the opinion of the author about madame de Montespan ....
LibraryThing member Jthierer
I was surprised by how engrossing this history turned out to be. It kept my attention and moved along quickly, but still managed to be substantive and informative.
LibraryThing member Sararush
Antonia Fraser briefly profiles dozens and dozens of those women who however briefly captured the attention of Louis XIV. And there are A LOT of ladies. Which makes keeping all the of these ladies straight difficult, and the material would be better suited by several charts to establish the
Show More
hierarchy and family tree of the French Court for reference. The print edition may have included such resources, but the audio book did not. Had Fraser focused her scope somewhat that may have not been necessary, but as the book is written, it is hard to follow. I also wouldn’t have minded some historical context to encapsulate some of these romances or amusements, nor would I have been against a little more focus or detail on some of those ladies who were more important to Louis life and reign. Instead we get brief profiles and scant details on almost everyone whom the king has a flirtation with, those who marry within the upper echelon of the court, or can claim descent from Louis. I feared it would get to the point where Fraser would introduce Louis’ maids, cooks or those who walked through the room briefly were not introduced to the King.

Eyre delivers an impeccable French read (at least to my ears) but at times her inflections, pauses and pronunciations tend towards snobbery. Even if that was the point, I found her unlikable. And though Eyre’s performance did not curb my enjoyment of the book, she didn’t bring anything special to the material either.

I can’t get enough details on the scandalous courts and love lives of European Monarchic figures, so of course I did really enjoy the book. However it may not suit more discriminating listeners.
Show Less
LibraryThing member wealhtheowwylfing
Lady Antonia Fraser is an accomplished historian; her Tudor books have enthralled me for years. I chose her to introduce me to the French court--sadly, a disappointment. This book is focused on King Louis XIV and the women he loved in his life.
It begins well, with a focus on Louis XIV's mother and
Show More
regent Anne of Austria. Anne was a pious and effective ruler, and she left her son with a profound belief in the Catholic Church. Partly through her influence, Louis abandoned his love affair with Marie Mancini and married the Spanish Infanta Marie-Therese. After a short period of romance, their marriage was stable, if loveless. Louis was in love with Louise de La Valliere, a young woman as passionately in love with God as she was with Louis. They had several illegitimate children together before Louis's attention passed on to the far more glamorous Francoise-Athenais de Rochechouart de Mortemart. Athenais was dazzling in beauty and wit, and reigned Versailles for about ten years. After a short affair with the beautiful but dim Angelique de Fontanges, who died bearing his child, Louis moved on to his illegitimate children's governess, Francoise de Maintenon. She was three years older than he, with no connections, wealth, or reputation, and yet Louis was true to her until his death. In fact, it is rumored that after the death of his queen, he married her in a secret, morganatic ceremony. Whatever the case, Louis's remaining years were spent in the War of the Spanish Succession (wherein he tried to put his grandson on the Spanish throne--and eventually Philip V did reign) and marrying his grandchildren by his mistresses to his grandchildren by his wife. Creeeepy.

There was a real lack of quotes or letters in this book. After reading the whole thing, I had as little understanding of Louis's character as at the start. The women do not shine through either. I was confused by the many titles and the incredibly similar names (Marie-Jeanne, Marie-Anne, Anne-Marie...ugh!), a situation made worse when a character would be named on pg 100 and then reappear, with no explanation, on pg 300. Overall, a frustrating book about a fascinating period.
Show Less
LibraryThing member briandrewz
A good look at the Sun King and the women he surrounded himself with. We learn of his relationship with his mother, his sisters-in-law, his mistresses, his wives, and his descendants. I was looking for something less political and more personal, and I found it in this book. The court of Louis XIV
Show More
comes to life in Antonia Fraser's very capable hands. I was glad to read about the king's secret wife, Francoise d'Aubigne, who is a distant relative of mine. This made it all the more interesting for me.

Very easy to read and recommended for those looking for something that goes beyond the political life of the court of the Sun King.
Show Less


Original publication date



Page: 1.4792 seconds