cover image Louis XIV: The Power and the Glory

Louis XIV: The Power and the Glory

Josephine Wilkinson. Pegasus, $29.95 (468p) ISBN 978-1-64313-015-6

This biography of Louis XIV, king of France (1643–1715), from historian Wilkinson (The Princes in the Tower), is an entertaining, if unnecessary, work that brings no new understanding of the thoroughly studied royal. Wilkinson traces Louis’s life in chronological order, from his ascent to the throne at age four upon his father’s death, through his education, first loves, and the initial signs of his weakness for women other than his wife. Wilkinson identifies the traumatic experience of the Fronde, a series of civil wars in which Louis was challenged by and prevailed over members of the nobility, as the cause of the young king’s fear of nobles; “Louis therefore entrapped his nobility within a gilded cage and controlled them with court ceremonial” while expanding his power abroad, affirming his dominance through his lifelong renovations of the palace at Versailles. The Louis XIV that emerges is by turns pious and pitiably impulsive, though there’s little examination of either state. And Wilkinson’s text requires of the reader a level of historical knowledge that would render this book redundant. Readers hoping for a new authoritative biography of the Sun King will be left wanting. (Mar.)