cover image Louis XIV

Louis XIV

Ian Dunlop, Author St. Martin's Press $29.95 (512p) ISBN 978-0-312-26196-2

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 sources--many of them firsthand observations of the king and his court--to bring the man and the era to life. He leads us through the Sun King's life--from 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.)