- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
The Mancini Sisters, Marie and Hortense, were born in Rome, brought to the court of Louis XIV of France, and strategically married off by their uncle, Cardinal Mazarin, to secure his political power base. Such was the life of many young women of the age: they had no independent status under the law and were entirely a part of their husband’s property once married.Marie and Hortense, however, had other ambitions in mind altogether. Miserable in their marriages and determined to live independently, they ...
The Mancini Sisters, Marie and Hortense, were born in Rome, brought to the court of Louis XIV of France, and strategically married off by their uncle, Cardinal Mazarin, to secure his political power base. Such was the life of many young women of the age: they had no independent status under the law and were entirely a part of their husband’s property once married.Marie and Hortense, however, had other ambitions in mind altogether. Miserable in their marriages and determined to live independently, they abandoned their husbands in secret and began lives of extraordinary daring on the run and in the public eye. The beguiling sisters quickly won the affections of noblemen and kings alike. Their flight became popular fodder for salon conversation and tabloids, and was closely followed by seventeenth-century European society. The Countess of Grignan remarked that they were traveling “like two heroines out of a novel.” Others gossiped that they “were roaming the countryside in pursuit of wandering lovers.” Their scandalous behavior—disguising themselves as men, gambling, and publicly disputing with their husbands—served as more than just entertainment. It sparked discussions across Europe concerning the legal rights of husbands over their wives.Elizabeth Goldsmith’s vibrant biography of the Mancini sisters—drawn from personal papers of the players involved and the tabloids of the time—illuminates the lives of two pioneering free spirits who were feminists long before the word existed.
"The story of the 17th-century version of the Kardashian sisters, but with the added touch of brains, literacy and class . [T]he story moves along at a swift pace . [F]ascinating."
Dr. Amanda Foreman, FRSA, author of Georgiana and A World on Fire“A fascinating account of two genuine rebels—seventeenth century sisters who fought for the sisterhood, and throughout their extraordinary adventures always gave as good as they got. The Kings’ Mistresses succeeds in being both entertaining and highly instructive." Susan Holloway Scott, author of The Countess & the King"At last two of history's most fascinating sisters have the book they deserve. Rich with period detail and thoughtful research, this is biography at its very best: the intertwined story of two women who refused to be ruled by either husbands or kings, and dared instead to create their own destiny." Leslie Carroll, author of Royal Affairs“The bigger scandal in this fascinating double biography is not the bold behavior of its aristocratic heroines, whose colorful lives a novelist would envy—but the shocking treatment they endured at the hands of the powerful men who sought to punish them for seeking their independence. The lengths they went to bring the Mancini sisters to heel will leave readers shocked, wishing they could turn back the hands of time to champion these courageous survivors themselves.” Barbara Diefendorf, Professor of History, Boston University, author of Beneath The Cross“The Mancini sisters demanded a freedom that law and custom denied their sex. Goldsmith shows the high price both women paid for this freedom, while celebrating the liberated spirit with which they pursued it. The book is a page-turner; it is also good history.”
"[A]n atmospheric, absorbing tale of 17th-century female media stars taking charge of their own lives."
"This ribald tale works all the better because it is true . Culling their correspondence and memoirs, Goldsmith is able to paint a vivid portrait of two remarkably daring free spirits who paved the way for centuries of women stifled and exploited by both men and societal constraints . Revolutionary, cutting-edge, and inspiring, their lives are worthy of revisiting."
Library Journal"Goldsmith presents the sisters as pioneers who embraced notoriety by publishing accounts of their unconventional lives. Their prominence during the emergence of print journalism prompted debates on women’s rights, marriage, and property laws
.[A] spirited account that humanizes the experiences of 17th-century women.”
Women’s Review of Books“With The Kings’ Mistresses, Elizabeth Goldsmith has achieved the feat of producing a Work that will both satisfy the general reader and provide a resource for those who wish to understand more deeply the complicated sexual politics of the seventeenth century.”
Posted April 24, 2012
In the 17th-century, sisters Marie and Hortense Mancini married into wealth and nobility, but they soon discovered themselves desperately unhappy with their abusive husbands. Divorce at the time, was available, but extremely difficult, if not impossible, to acquire and fraught with scandal. Left with little choice, the two women fled, at times in each other’s company, and other times alone. From Italy, France, and England, the women travelled and lived the high life, visiting and finding refuge in some of Europe’s most elite families. They found love in the arms of kings. They indulged themselves in love affairs, gambling, hunting, and art collecting, much to the gossiping delight of the world that could not help but be fascinating with the wild freedom of these two women.
But as they moved from home to home, or castle to castle, their husbands tracked them, thrusting impediments and threats in their path, forcing them into convents or withdrawing all money, or entering into negotiations to force them into submission. Somehow, they managed to dodge the courts and their husband’s attempts to squash their seized independence.
The author did an impeccable job of researching and tracking the travels of these two fascinating women. The book takes us on a journey with them from country to country, court to court, and home to home. However, it is quite academic in nature and brushes too briefly over their actual escapades. What I mean by that, is I got a wonderful picture of their actual travels, but very little about what truly made them notorious, where they flaunted societal standards, and why the world was so enchanted by their mischief. Nevertheless, this was a fabulous book that takes the reader into the courts of kings for a first hand glimpse of the world in 17th century Europe.