The resplendent sex symbol of the splendid century'...The reign of Athenais de Montespan as principal mistress of Louis XIV corresponds with the most glorious period of the Grand Siecle. Athenais was 'the true Queen of France', symbol of a dazzling French culture in the seventeenth century. As a lover, she risked the disgrace of double adultery to conduct an affair which scandalized Europe; as a patron she supported many of the leaders of the cultural renaissance including Moliere and Racine; as a mother she is the ancestor of most of the royal houses of Europe. The greatest beauty of her day, Athenais lived her life publicly and sensationally until accusations of witchcraft forced her from power in the 'Affair of the Poisons', a mystery which remains unsolved. She fascinates not only because she achieved power at a time when it was denied to most women, but because she achieved that power through her manipulation of a prescribed role.
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(198mm x 126mm x mm)
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
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UK Kirkus Review »
Louis XIV of France was for the second half of the 17th century the most important and influential ruler in the western world, and for much of his life he was dominated by his mistress Athenais de Montespan, the subject of this engrossing biography. Beautiful as she was brilliant, she held sway at the magnificent court of Versailles for many years before falling a degenerate victim of her own excesses. Sexually she appears to have been quite breathtaking: to this quality add that of a razor-sharp mind, and you have the ingredients of a biographer's dream. Lisa Hilton has impressive control of all the research she has assembled so carefully, but there are so many royal personalities to be described in the story that keen attention is required to stop the mind going numb with information every now and again. Life at court was certainly cut-throat and complicated for these rarefied hothouse aristocrats, who would go so far as to hide underneath each other's adulterous beds in order to catch the latest gossip! And when Athenais - or Mme de Montespan as she became after contracting a short-lived marriage to a dissolute and eccentric courtier - took her place in the King's bed, there followed plots and counterplots enough to make the most diligent reader's head reel. But above all, she loved the luxury of her new appointment, and Louis loved her for loving it: their overinflated sybaritic life together was something they enjoyed above all else. It all adds up to a story that is without any comparison. This is 17th-century Hollywood at its most outrageous and flamboyant, from where poor Athenais would end up as a reject item cast into outer darkness. What a story! (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Lisa Hilton
Lisa Hilton is 28. After leaving New College, Oxford University, she studied Fine Art at Christie's in Paris. In 1999 she was runner-up for the Vogue Young Writer of the Year for Journalism.