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Louis XIV Hardcover – August 12, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (August 12, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312261969
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312261962
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,010,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Winner of the 1999 Enid MacLeod Award, Ian Dunlop's elegant biography of Louis XIV (1638-1715) brilliantly achieves the author's aim "to help my readers see [Louis] as his contemporaries saw him." Extensive quotes from diaries and memoirs (each assessed for their prejudices) bring to life the glittering French court in the heyday of divine-right monarchy. Handsome and athletic, autocratic but kind, devoted to his queen as well as his mistresses yet also a pious pillar of the Catholic Church, Louis seemed to his dazzled subjects to incarnate the power and glory of the French nation. He moved in a world where personal relations dominated political affairs, and royalty's private life was intensely public: "The great families of the French aristocracy were at their most natural when they were showing off," writes Dunlop, with a nice appreciation of this society's paradoxes. Louis's fondness for wars and passion for extravagant building projects like the palace of Versailles strained the French economy and sowed the seeds for the French Revolution. In his time, however, he was adored. Dunlop's engaging depiction of a generous, charismatic man makes it easy to understand why. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

The life, times and character of the Sun King have never lacked for treatment by historians, and Dunlop, a student of architecture and biographer of Marie Antoinette, adds little new to our understanding of the notorious ruler, whom he calls "one of the most elusive" men in French history. But he skillfully deploys a wealth of sourcesAmany of them firsthand observations of the king and his courtAto bring the man and the era to life. He leads us through the Sun King's lifeAfrom his birth to his acquisition of mistresses to the battlefield; from Louis's religious dilemmas to the death of his son, the Grand Dauphin. Nor is the narrative confined to the politics of the day. Louis XIV was a major patron of the arts, and the literature, art and architecture of the period (the king's "passion for building" was "second only to his enthusiasm for warfare") are also presented in an informative and entertaining way; Dunlop is especially to be commended for a brief yet exact explanation of Jansenism. The general reader will find much of value here. The volume might seem daunting for its length and perhaps too great a wealth of detail. Still, this is an impressive addition to the literature on Louis XIV and deserves a wide readership. 12 pages of b&w illus. not seen by PW. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Overall I found the book to be disjointed and hard to follow.
Philip Livsey
I found this to be a very well thought out, and well-written, biography.
Bruce Loveitt
I do not want to say that the book was bad because it was not.
Nicholas Roberts

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mauro Mioni on July 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The book's title appears to me to be misleading, inasmuch as rather than a chronological biography, as the title would seem to entail, it is a somewhat loose assembly of anecdotes relating to the Sun King's lifelong passion for the construction of royal palaces, interspersed with descriptions of his battles. I found that the portrait of the man, both as an individual and as a king, highlighting either his private or public life, or both, and the man's impact on history, with the whole coherently and cogently presented in a clear prose, was sorely missing. In sum, I found the book to be unfocused, uninformative, rambling and at times boring.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is like wading thru glue. It references people and times without explaing why people disliked/like them. It adds confusion by jumping around wihtout transition or explination, and worse, it is awash with phrases and quotations in French with no translation. If I could read French, I would not need a book in English to learn about the "Sun King."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Andrew O'Connor on July 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Academic reviewers have been a bit sniffy about this book. It's true that Dunlop scatters quotations throughout the book without a footnote to be seen. He also makes some careless errors of fact. For example on p.432 he claims that Lully was composing music in 1710, when he had been dead for 23 years.
However, readers who are not worried about its lack of scholarly rigour should find this a very enjoyable book. Dunlop has a delightfully easy going style and an eye for the enlivening anecdote. It would be hard to write a dull book about such an extraordinary monarch as Louis XIV and Dunlop's biography is not a bad place to make his acquaintance.
Those who want to meet Louis face to face, as it were, should seek out Lucy Norton's three volume edition of Saint Simon's Versailles memoirs.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Loveitt on September 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I found this to be a very well thought out, and well-written, biography. In the space of less than 500 pages we are given a very complete picture of a remarkable man, a man who came to the throne as a child and was king from 1643 until his death in 1715. The author is admirably even-handed. Louis' faults are not ignored: In his youth and up until middle-age he was an inveterate womanizer. When he was through with a mistress, she was carted off to a convent. (There was a joke making the rounds at the time that the quickest way to salvation for a woman was via the King's bed!) Louis also had an inordinate fondness for war and glory. Besides the obvious cost in lives for soldiers of all the countries involved in these conflicts, France was bankrupted. This did not stop Louis from building and renovating- Versailles; Marly; Fontainebleau, etc. One of the many strengths of this book is that Mr. Dunlop can rightfully criticize this irresponsible behavior and profligate spending; then, he can turn right around and describe the architectural splendor, the beautiful gardens and fountains, etc. For, as Montesquieu asked: "Who could have told that the King established the greatness of France by building Versailles and Marly?" Another glaring "negative" in the rule of The Sun King was his persecution of the Huguenots, via his 1685 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. But without making excuses or trying to justify what Louis did, Mr. Dunlop puts this in perspective. To quote the author: "Tolerance enjoys a high moral status in Western civilisation today, but it exists in inverse proportion to a general decline in commitment to any creed or moral code. Total tolerance denies, in effect, the possibility of any objective truth in either religion or ethics.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Sebastian Catala on October 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
'Louis XIV' by Ian Dunlop is the perfect biography. That is, when the author enjoys such a visceral feeling for his subject, that he, she is able to translate to a reader, the true human and spiritual qualities. An ideal inner life portrayed, not clouded by descriptions and bogus historical data. Not that Ian Dunlop doesn't reveal a myriad of well reseached events, though here, luckily, his scholastic duties never get on the way of showing us intimately his grand and real Bourbon king. There are familiar themes though this time narrated by a very virile mind (is this politically correct?) Dunlop is here concerned historically with many political and military vignettes that at times I found hard to grasp. My fault, not Dunlop's. He's more at easy discribing military stuff, than he is at gossiping with Louise de la Valliere, the Mancini, or Madame de Montespan. Everything about La Fronde is brilliantly accounted. At last I got to really know Anne Marie Luise d'Orleans, La grande Mademoiselle. And her tortured relationship with her cousin. That dreamy king of France. Kind, young, handsome, alluring, noble. Who was incongruously happiest at war camps, fighting his own battles. And many battles were wrought, a sinister epecter borne that will cost France later, much blood. All the political and military unfold in an articulate and lucid manner. Dunlop, by nature not a gossip, nevertheless reveals triumphantly the filial relationship with the young king's mother, Anne of Austria. La Montespan appears as rackish and fascinating as ever. I'm intrigued, have a thing, for Madame de Maintenon, and don't you know I read her pages two or three times. Ladies, keep an eye on your baby sitters. Dunlap channels her with a new and sober elan. It's all here St Cyr, everything.Read more ›
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