A Year in Books/Day 163: The Secret Wife of Louis XIV

  • Title: The Secret Wife of Louis XIV Francoise d’Aubigne, Madame de Maintenon
  • Author: Veronica Buckley
  • Year Published: 2008 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux))
  • Year Purchased: December 2011
  • Source: This was a Christmas gift from my husband.
  • About: Francoise was Louis XIV’s second wife, the relationship entered into when they were both middle-aged. The union lasted more than thirty years, until his death in 1715. The marriage was morganatic, and was never officially announced. The incredible circumstances of her long life prove the soundness of the old saying that truth is stranger than fiction. Her uncommon path from destitution (as the daughter of a disastrously poor, imprisoned minor nobleman) to affluence (as the uncrowned wife of the Sun King) was a long one, and takes up three-quarters of the book; yet her relationship with Louis is the lodestar which we, as readers, are always chasing. Although controversial in her time, she was far too subtle, intelligent and charming to engage in cheap escapades. A reluctant mistress, she made an even more reticent royal bride (for reasons other than lack of love for the monarch). Surrounded by dozens of supporting players-the least of which is one of history’s most fascinating royals-Francoise’s story inextricably rises and declines with the fortunes of the great empire into which she was born and died.
  • Motivation: This historical biography officially stripped my husband of his right to complain that I own too many books: after six years together, he finally buckled and bought one for me. That’s it, game over: that action put him on my side, like it or not.
  • Times Read: 1 (I just finished it yesterday afternoon)
  • Random Excerpt/Page 62: “This and another 125 similarly worthy verses were set for the three to learn by heart, a dozen or so daily, a stodgy dessert after their lunch of bread and cheese. They digested both in the same place every day, a natural grotto overlooking the governor’s meadows, before shepherding the turkey cocks back home.”
  • Happiness Scale: A very solid 9

    Françoise d'Aubigné

    Françoise d’Aubigné (Photo credit: Wikipedia)