Philippe, Duc D'Orleans: Regent of France

Christine Pevitt, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $30 (384p) ISBN 978-0-87113-695-4
Regent of France from 1715 to 1723, Philippe, duc d'Orleans guided Louis XV into his coronation year and died of his dissipations eight years later, at 49. An efficient administrator, the duke worked to repair France's relations with its neighbors, restore the lagging economy and hasten colonial development in the vast expanse of Louisiana, where New Orleans was named for him. That was by day--nights were given over to drinking and womanizing, Pevitt shows. Though Philippe surmounted intrigues against him, he could not overcome his appetites, and his philandering offered him few moments of tranquillity. Pevitt, formerly a book publishing editor in Manhattan and London, writes with wit and verve, despite some lapses into lushness, and includes colorful, often malicious and uninhibited published and unpublished letters from a variety of court ladies and a selection from the dazzling, 42-volume memoirs of Philippe's crony, the duc de Saint-Simon. While the settings here are largely the luxurious suites of the ultra-privileged, Pevitt furnishes enough documentation of the seamy underside of life to offer contrast. It was not, she observes, the enchanted world of Watteau's canvases ""but his images remain those in which the age would have liked to believe."" Illustrations not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
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