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Louis XIV Hardcover – March 10, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0786713097 ISBN-10: 0786713097 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Resuming chronologically from the subject of his previous biography (Cardinal Richelieu and the Making of France, 2000), Levi probes the Sun King's psychology--though fear not, he is no speculative psychobiographer. Deeply steeped in the world of seventeenth-century France, the author adheres to sources, always alluding to their partiality or incompleteness, and brings forth Louis XIV's personality. Levi sees him as a man of inner conflict, torn between normal insecurities and an externalized and prodigal pursuit of grandeur. For starters, his father was probably not, Levi argues, Louis XIII, but rather Cardinal Mazarin, the real power during Louis' minority. A habit of dissembling arose from that secret, while Louis' absolutist propensities might have been encouraged by the disorders of the Fronde, the civil war that broke out when he was 10. Also judging Louis to be cruel and brutal (referencing much detail about the Versailles court to make that case), Levi's portrait is critical but incisive, one that readers drawn to French history will not want to miss. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


Louis XIV was one of the most successful monarchs of all time, whose manufacturing industries and scientific and artistic advancements were the envy of the world, but they were supported by a vast war machine whose undisguised aim was hegemony over the entire European continent and its colonies overseas. Louis's famous personal motto, 'the state is me', expressed a dictatorial philosophy which deviated from the rule of law. Second only to God, and the head of an immensely powerful state, Louis XIV was an institution rather than a private individual. At the heart of this lucid and continually absorbing biography lies the story of the clash between his role as le Roi Soleil and his guilt as a human being at the effect of his reign on France and its people. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st edition (March 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786713097
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786713097
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #897,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Gary McCollim on May 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Levi's Louis XIV is an odd book. After the introductory first chapter, the next seven chapters proceed chronologically from his birth to the affair of the poisons, although Levi does jump around within that chronological order. The final five chapters are arranged topically on Versailles, the king's religion, war and foreign policy, Popes and Protestants (one would think that this chapter should have followed the one on the king's religion), and finally the king's character, health and death.

This is not a very good book. It is jammed with facts but many of them are not right. For instance, on pages 263 and 264 Levi discusses Marshal Vauban who has been a heroic character throughout the book. On page 263 Levi says that Vauban had been appointed a member of the Order of the Holy Spirit in February 1708 with all kinds of special permissions by Louis XIV. Yet on page 264 Levi says that Vauban died in March, 1706. (He actually died in March, 1707.) Either this is sloppiness on the part of the writer or bad proofreading by the publisher. And this is one example out of many of apparent misstatements of fact or sloppy publishing.

Some of Levi's sentences are unreadable. On page 269 in discussing the death of Louis XIV's grandson the duc de Bourgogne, he writes the following: "No fasting was involved, and doctors were not being provoked by being told against their judgement (sic) by a miscellany of priests and royalty that the danger of death was imminent, although it was." This is just one example of some of the monstrosities in this book.

Levi makes a pair of linked outrageous claims in this book. First, he says that Louis XIV was not the son of Louis XIII but was a product of a union between Anne of Austria and Cardinal Mazarin.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on December 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As a first introduction to Louie XIV, one could hardly do better than this sophisticated psychological analysis of perhaps the most complex and the most important of French royals. Assuming the throne at the age of four, the seventy-five years of Louis XIV's reign set the initial parameters for the French culture we have come to know and love (and hate). Using his personality as foreground, this book gives not just a skeletal look at French power and culture during the 17th and 18th Centuries though this lens, but the essentials for understanding French political and cultural development since. It is more psychological analysis than history per se, and that is just fine with me.

Of equal importance to the unfolding of this story of Louis XIV's personality, is the parallel developments in the backdrop (which will disturb establishment historians, since it almost amounts to a subtext), is France's development as a nation, as a culture and as a world power. It is at this intersection between Louis XIV's personality and its impact on these other developments: French national unity, continuing French power, and French cultural development, that the author earns his pay.

Louie XIV, his father, and their respective courts, especially the ministerial advice of Richelieu, Mazaarini, and later Corbert, shaped the French foreign and military policies, as well as the French culture we have come to appreciate. In the early pages of the book the author describes the "Boy King" as being the custodian of France's grandeur. No description could be more apt.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Poore on March 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book in the bookstore at Versailles. After my tours of the palace and the gardens looking for ghosts and wondering what life was like and what was in the heads of the people at court of Louis XIV. This is a very readable yet scholarly history book. It doesn't get into the head of Louis XIV quite so well as Antonia Fraser was able to do in her biography of Marie Antoinette, "Marie Antoinette The Journey". Louis XIV doesn't quite become a real person in the pages of this book however it is a beginning. This is one of the better written histories I have found.
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