The Sun King (New York Review Books Classics)
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The Sun King is a dazzling double portrait of Louis XIV and Versailles, the opulent court from which he ruled. With characteristic élan, Nancy Mitford reconstructs the daily life of king and courtiers during France’s golden age, offering vivid sketches of the architects, artists, and gardeners responsible for the creation of the most magnificent palace Europe had yet seen. Mitford lays bare the complex and deadly intrigues in the stateroom and the no less high-stakes power struggles in the bedroom. At the center of it all is Louis XIV himself, the demanding, mercurial, but remarkably resilient sovereign who guided France through nearly three quarters of the Grand Siècle.
Brimming with sumptuous detail and delicious bons mots, and written in a witty, conversational style, The Sun King restores a distant glittering century to vibrant life.
a young man, grand without being pompous, full of light and air and cheerfulness—a country house.” She describes the Galerie des Glaces as the palace’s “main street” or “market place.” Not all readers, however, will agree that this gallery, which contains more images of the monarch it glorifies than any other, is “one of the beauties of the western world.” If she idealizes the palace, it is not true that she idealizes Louis XIV. She describes him as “a man of iron,” unbowed by deaths or defeats.
the Stage. After that there was a whole bag of letters from Versailles to the French volunteers in Hungary, none of which was relished by the said monarch. Some of them made fun of him and Mme de Maintenon and complained that the dullness of Versailles now beggared description; there were several homosexual love-letters and, in the same fatal packet, one from Marie-Anne de Conti saying that she was obliged to drive out with Mme de Maintenon and an old freak called the Princess d’Harcourt, day
over her imagination, Mme de La Maisonfort could not imagine why she had ever hesitated to take the veil; not only she but most of the other Dames became as radiantly happy as they had hitherto been discontented. Mme de Maintenon, too, fell under Mme Guyon’s undoubted charm; she was grateful to her for what she had done at Saint-Cyr, which now seemed ready to fulfil all hopes. She singled out Mme Guyon for favours including a room of her own in the convent. A little set was soon formed there led
would be obliged to make economies and wouldn’t fail to begin by cutting off Monsieur’s allowance. Dinner was then announced and the two men sat down, Monsieur crimson in the face. The King said it was quite obvious that he ought to be bled, and he had a good mind to send him to his room and have it done, if necessary by force. However they both calmed down as they ate the usual enormous meal; when it was over Monsieur went back to Saint-Cloud. Late in the evening Chartres sent the King a
by Maréchal de Villars, one of those picturesque, boastful soldiers who are sometimes, to the annoyance of their colleagues, as good as their own opinion of themselves. He was a man of great courage; his knee was shattered by a bullet at Malplaquet; in agony he continued to direct the battle until he fainted away. He refused to allow the surgeons to cut off his leg and by a miracle he was soon well again, except for a stiff knee. At Versailles he was considered a slightly comic figure, partly