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The Secret Wife of Louis XIV

Françoise d'Aubigné, Madame de Maintenon

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Françoise d'Aubigné, marquise de Maintenon and secret wife of the Sun King, Louis XIV, was born in a bleak French prison in 1635, her father a condemned traitor and murderer, her mother the warden's seduced daughter. A timely pardon and a hopeful Caribbean colonial venture failed to mend the family's fortunes, and Françoise was reduced to begging in the streets. Yet, armed with beauty, intellect, and shrewd judgment, she was to make her way to the center of power at Versailles, the most opulent and ambitious court in all Europe.

At fifteen, she was married off to the forty-two-year-old satirical poet Paul Scarron, a former roué now grievously deformed by rheumatism—"a sort of human Z," as he described himself. Despite his ailments, Scarron presided over the liveliest and most scandalous literary salon in Paris, and Françoise quickly became its most prized ornament.

After Scarron's death, she enjoyed a merry widowhood in the fashionable Marais district, in the company of the courtesan Ninon de Lenclos and the King's splendid mistress, Athénaïs de Montespan, who made the young widow governess to her brood of illegitimate children. The appointment transformed Françoise's life, but was fatal to the temperamental Athénaïs herself, with the King soon turning his attentions to the graceful governess. Françoise was raised to the nobility as Madame de Maintenon—and, unofficially, "Madame de Maintenant," the lady of the moment.
The acclaimed biographer Veronica Buckley traces the extraordinary story of Françoise's progress from pauper child to salonnière to the compromised position of Louis's secret wife and uncrowned Queen. An absolute ruler, Louis turned away his many other mistresses to live with Françoise only, trusting her as his closest confidante and remaining in love with her for forty years.

Sparkling with the irresistible wit of contemporary chroniclers such as Madame de Sévigné, this exactingly researched biography is a pinnacle of the form. In vibrant colors, The Secret Wife of Louis XIV paints a portrait of Europe in an age of violent change, and the Sun King's France in the process of becoming its modern self.

From Publishers Weekly

Jul 13, 2009 – Buckley (Christina, Queen of Sweden) serves up a superior biography of a remarkable woman who, most improbably, became the Sun King's second wife. Fran oise d'Aubign (1635 1719) was born in a grim prison, the daughter of a disinherited nobleman and traitor and a mother incapable of loving her. These facts, and a financially uncertain childhood, including a three-year sojourn in the Caribbean, contributed to the intelligent Fran oise's resilience but also to a deep emotional insecurity. A marriage of convenience to a renowned but crippled scholar brought her new social connections, which she, a lovely, popular young woman, exploited when she was widowed, becoming the governess of the secret illegitimate children of Louis XIV and Athenais de Montespan. Fran oise, aged 39, succumbed to being Louis's mistress after resisting for a year, ambitiously supplanted Athenais, who was implicated in the infamous poisons affair, and after the queen died in 1683, Fran oise married Louis, although the marriage remained secret. Buckley trains her intent gaze on 17th-century France from the civil and religious wars that plagued the Bourbons to lively Parisian salons offering a graceful, vivid portrait of a woman of intelligence and dignity. 16 pages of color illus.

Customer Reviews

Great book!

I love French anything really, and I love European history, so nothing could be better than this book! Made a great read, even for a 10th grader... Interesting yet sophisticated.

The Secret Wife of Louis XIV
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  • $7.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Aug 31, 2010
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Seller: Macmillan
  • Print Length: 528 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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