Louis XIV: A Royal Life

Donald R. Bernier, Author, Olivier Bernier, Author Doubleday Books $19.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-385-19785-4
Animated by well-chosen quotes from diarists of the period and the author's enthusiasm, this biography is as captivating as Secrets of Marie Antoinette and Bernier's other praised works. The life of the Sun King is described with immediacy from his birth in 1638, after an unexpected meeting between his alienated parents. Louis XIV inherited the throne when he was five at his father's death. As regent, his mother, Anne of Austria, and her minister, Cardinal Mazarin, targets of a ""great cabal,'' held onto power precariously, perhaps influencing the young ruler's determination to govern personally, which he did until he died in 1715. The Grand Monarque's reputation still stands on his reign, rich in art and literature, his brilliant court and invincible armies. Bernier's admiration is balanced by accounts of the king's moral lapses and multiple adulterous affairs. Perhaps his worst failing was his persecution of non-Catholics: not only reprehensible but an error that crippled the economy when thousands of Protestants fled the country. Illustrations not seen by PW. (November 6)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1987
Release date: 10/01/1987
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