From Publishers Weekly
In 1676, a seemingly devoted daughter and wife, Madame de Brinvilliers, shocked all of France with the heinous murder of her father and brothers. Furious that the family disapproved of her taking a lover, she and her scurrilous paramour poisoned them out of a desire for revenge and greed for her anticipated inheritance. The ensuing scandal, skillfully recounted by noted British historian Somerset (Elizabeth I
), inflamed the nation's fears that the decadent nobles at the Sun King's court were caught up in a clandestine world of sex, witchcraft and murder. Every untimely death and peculiar illness, including Louis XIV's chronic vapors, suddenly appeared to be the nefarious work of an unwholesome network of princesses, dukes and fortunetellers. As panic ballooned, even the king's mistress, Mme de Montespan, fell under suspicion (and was eventually banished from the king's bed), and many of France's most distinguished personages were sent to trial, jail and, in several cases, the scaffold. Somerset reconstructs this macabre history from surviving public documents, enlivened with contemporary gossip and wit from letters between the French elite. Her arch prose sometimes stalls amid the intricacies of myriad minor characters' histories, but overall, she offers an intelligent review of a darkly fascinating affair. 8 pages of color illus. not seen by PW
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Praise for Elizabeth I:
"This is my favorite among the biographies of Queen Elizabeth I. Anne Somerset presents a convincing as well as complex character at the center of her lucid narrative. She breathes new life into old sources so that we live the story again and see it afresh."
- Antonia Fraser
"The most comprehensive, the most reliable and the most readable biography of Elizabeth."
- New York Times Book Review
"Totally captivating...a wry, convincing portrait of a complex character."
- Publishers Weekly
"Somerset's thoroughly researched and exhaustively documented study will capture the reader's imagination."
- Library Journal
"An ample, stylish, and eloquent life of the queen."
- The Washington Post Book World
"Finely crafted, abundantly detailed...few biographies have explored the depth found here."
- The San Francisco Chronicle
"A gorgeous tapestry...even readers unfamiliar with the dynamic personalities of the Tudor era would do well to start their quest for knowledge here."
"A clear, moving, informed narrative."
- Kirkus Reviews