When Madame de Pompadour became the mistress of Louis XV, no one expected her to retain his affections for long. A member of the bourgeoisie rather than an aristocrat, she was physically too cold for the carnal Bourbon king, and had so many enemies that she could not travel publicly without risking a pelting of mud and stones. History has loved her little better.Nancy Mitford's delightfully candid biography re-creates the spirit of eighteenth-century Versailles with its love of pleasure and treachery. We learn that the Queen was a "bore," the Dauphin a "prig," and see France increasingly overcome with class conflict. With a fiction writer's felicity, Mitford restores the royal mistress and celebrates her as a survivor, unsurpassed in "the art of living," who reigned as the most powerful woman in France for nearly twenty years.
About the Author
Nancy Mitford (1904–1973) was born into the British aristocracy and, by her own account, brought up without an education, except in riding and French. She managed a London bookshop during the Second World War, then moved to Paris, where she began to write her celebrated and successful novels, among them The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, about the foibles of the English upper class. Mitford was also the author of four biographies: Madame de Pompadour (1954), Voltaire in Love (1957), The Sun King (1966), and Frederick the Great (1970)—all available as NYRB classics. In 1967 Mitford moved from Paris to Versailles, where she lived until her death from Hodgkin’s disease.
Amanda Foreman was born in London in 1968 and educated at Sarah Lawrence College, Columbia University, and Oxford University, where she received a Ph.D. in history. She is the author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and A World on Fire; her new study, The World Made by Women: A History of Womankind from the Age of Cleopatra to the Era of Hillary Clinton, is forthcoming in 2016.
Table of Contents
|1||Versailles and Louis XV||3|
|2||Paris and Madame d'Etioles||19|
|3||The Ball of the Clipped Yew Trees||36|
|5||Presentation at Court||60|
|9||Royal Family and Poisson Family||108|
|11||Friends and Table Talk||139|
|12||Tastes and Interests||156|
|13||From Love to Friendship||168|
|14||The Affaire Choiseul-Romanet||180|
|15||Politics at Home||188|
|18||The Seven Years' War||233|
|20||The End of a Dream||264|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I looked forward to reading this book with great interest. Not only was I interested in the subject, but the author as well. I found the book to be extremely intelligent, insightful, witty and sympathetic to the subject and her circumstances. I have read many books on on this and related subjects, and there is something particularly charming and graceful about this book. It is,consequently,one of my favorites on this subject.
Although I can agree with the publisher's view that no 'historian writing in English' can give a better 'pen-picture of Versailles', this statement must be referring to Ms. Mitford's study of Louis XIV in her 'The Sun King'. No way does her Madame de Pompadour compare. It was very disappointing and my interest was lost quite quickly. Except for naming every name under the sun that ever had anything to do with Madame, there isn't substance. Madame's personality is not clearly defined, the descriptions of her relationship with Louis XV makes me wonder why he ever bothered with her, and there was no sense of the grandeur of Versailles and the court life at all. For a truly excellent read on that time period, PLEASE enjoy 'The Sun King'.
Such a good balance between the world of treasure in which she lived, the rules she had to live by, and the life she made for herself.
I picked this up because I have a weakness for all things Mitford, but it proved to be a delightful read. A biography I really couldn't put down, though sometimes Nancy's non-linear approach had me flipping back chapters to remember where she left off with certain characters who disappeared & reappeared throughout the story.
Nancy Mitford at her best with a sparkling portrayal of court life. As a biography it's famously, delightfully biased, referring to various personages as "feather-brained" or "dull". But excusing MdP of ll wrongdoing.
This book was so eloquantly written, that you couldn't help fall in love with French history. It is easy to get dull and boring when writing about the past - especially when writing about wars, famine, revolutionaries, kings, treaties and the like - however, Mitford brings the characters to life and provides enough gossip to keep the book enjoyable to read.
Entertaining history of French mistress.
This is one of the liveliest and wittiest biographies ever written. How could anyone resist such an evocative opening line, "After the death of the great King, beautiful Versailles, fatal for France, lay empty seven years while fresh air blew through its golden rooms, blowing away the sorcery and bigotry which hung about the walls like a miasma, blowing away the old century and blowing in the new."