Douglas Johnson

Leading Rake or Early Socialist?

The Man Who Would be King: The Life of Philippe d’Orléans, Regent of France

By Christine Pevitt

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 496pp £25 order from our bookshop

An earlier biographer of Philippe d’Orléans began his book by quoting Balzac’s master criminal, Vautrin. There were, he wrote, two kinds of history. There was the lying, official history that is taught in schools. And there was secret history, the shameful history which reveals the true causes of events, that is to say, ‘personal feelings and private hatreds’. Philippe d’Orléans was clearly a subject for the second kind of history. An English biographer, W H Lewis, entitled his book The Scandalous Regent, and from the beginning claimed that as his subject stood self-advertised as one of the leading rakes of the eighteenth century, he had made no effort to ‘soft-pedal’ or excuse his debauchery. Most historians explain that when Louis XIV died, his successor was a five-year-old orphan. Therefore the first prince of the blood, the deceased monarch’s nephew Philippe, Duc d’Orléans, became Regent of the kingdom. Then they invariably go on to speak of the Regent’s laziness, his lack of moral sense and his liking for dissolute pleasures in the company of fellow debauchees.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Weekend read 2: Take inspiration from Jonathan Meades's 'anti'-recipes and 'serve up a treat' this Sunday ,
    • If you're at , starting tomorrow, there are free copies of Literary Review for festival attendees. Grab while stocks last!,
    • Weekend read 1: 'The fiery meteor that was Victor Grayson', as presented in David Clark's biography ,
    • We’re offering the chance to win a copy of I Am Not Your Negro. You can find all the information in our newsletter: ,
    • Stephen Bates reviews Richard Ingrams's biography of Ludovic Kennedy ,
    • RT : Pls enjoy my interview about the Bad Sex Awards w @Lit_Review-"My body was her gearstick" & "his bulbous salutation" ,
    • RT : Come for the insights about love from , stay for the readings from the 's Bad Sex Award winners! ,