Jonathan Keates

Mesdemoiselles Soleil

Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 355pp £25 order from our bookshop

‘Nothing succeeds like excess’ should have been the personal motto of King Louis XIV of France. His long reign (1643–1715) was a triumph of overstatement in everything from the flowerbeds at Versailles, whose plants were changed every day, to the royal breakfasts, where the monarch gorged on a banquet large enough to have nourished several families for a week. Flattery, on a scale undreamt of since the days of Nero or Caligula, sustained a dual epiphany of the god-king, either as a benign Apollo charioted amid pasteboard clouds at the climax of a court ballet, or as warrior Mars astride a caracoling charger, trampling Flanders and the Palatinate beneath its hooves.

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