Athenais: The Life of Louis XIV's Mistress, the Real Queen of France [NOOK Book]


In her superb new biography, Hilton chronicles the life of this extraordinary woman, known as "the real Queen of France," who reigned as official mistress to Louis XIV during the most glorious period of "the splendid century."
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Athenais: The Life of Louis XIV's Mistress, the Real Queen of France

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In her superb new biography, Hilton chronicles the life of this extraordinary woman, known as "the real Queen of France," who reigned as official mistress to Louis XIV during the most glorious period of "the splendid century."
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Beautiful, haughty, well bred and, by the author's account, "a superlative lover," Athenais de Montespan was a shoo-in for the role of official mistress to King Louis XIV. Despite being married, she spent 12 years in a passionate relationship with the Sun King, commanding his attention in a way that his own wife couldn't: she teased him, told him jokes, even scolded him and threw tantrums, and he rewarded her with not only his adoration, but jewels bigger than those he gave his wife. In independent scholar Hilton's well-researched but unevenly paced account of Montespan's "reign," the queen, Marie-Therese of Spain, is a pitiful and unattractive blight on the royal landscape, unable to compete with Montespan's manifold attractions. It may be true, but Hilton's scathing descriptions of the other women who crossed Louis's path-one was "so extremely plain" that a platonic relationship "was the best she could hope for," while Marie-Therese with her "lumpy Hapsburg nose" was "frankly far too unattractive" for sex with her "to be anything more than an obligation for the king"-raises questions about her evenhandedness. Distracting, too, is her tendency to wander off the topic, though some of the tangents are memorable-among them, that red-headed wet nurses were unpopular in 17th-century France because redheads were thought to be "a product of sex during menstruation." The life of a royal mistress usually offers an intriguing perspective on her lover's reign, and Montespan is no exception, but Hilton's debut biography would have had more impact if she had been more focused in choosing her material. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Dec. 4) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In a strong debut, Hilton brings new color to the cheeks of Athénaïs-Françoise de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise de Montespan, the woman who named herself for Athena, captured a king, delivered his children, finessed a queen, and fought with ferocious intelligence and political skill to maintain her precarious position at Versailles. Hilton, 27, writes with the confidence of a veteran historian about a set of extraordinarily complicated events. Showing a facility with French language, culture, politics, and history, she fashions an exciting tale of a woman who employed her stunning beauty, sexual inventiveness, and incomparable guile to advance herself and her consequent-and ungrateful-children. Her toxic sons were inconvenienced by her death, and one of them raced to her bed, ripped from her still-warm neck a key to her desk, unlocked it, and galloped away with the contents. Hilton does a solid job of reconstructing Athénaïs's childhood and of charting her rise in Louis's court. At first the smitten monarch visited her in disguise, but soon the relationship was known by all. It was a different time, adultery-wise: The king traveled in a coach populated not just with his wife (the "dull and dumpy" Marie-Thèrése) but also with once and future mistresses. When Athénaïs met Louis, she was, inconveniently, married to an abusive gambler. But he was convinced to disappear, and Athénaïs found herself living in Versailles in service to Louis XIV, sometimes thrice daily. Alas, Athénaïs delivered nine children, lost her looks, lost her position, and devoted herself to charity-a sequence Hilton chronicles with compassion. Her love of the arts enhances her descriptions of pageantry, furniture,fashion, and architecture, though those who don't know French will not enjoy having to visit the endnotes for translations. And some will wonder, too, why Hilton's descriptions of unattractive people are written with such patent relish. Still, a compelling portrait of an astounding figure. (8 pp. b&w photographs)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316030458
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 10/15/2007
  • Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 312,060
  • File size: 885 KB

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2003

    Intriguing Look at a Fascinating Woman

    I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a well-written biography AND French history. Madame de Montespan was a beautiful cortesan, and mistress of the Sun King, Louis XIV. Her rise and fall is well-detailed in this excellent book. The inside (and not always flattering) look at the lavish court of Versailles and its nobility makes for great reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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