The story begins with the Sun King, Louis XIV (Louis XV’s great grandfather) on his death bed, his life imminently ending. From the moment the Sun King holds his little great grandson and tells him that he will be his successor, I fell in love with the little guy who would become the Well beloved of all of France.
If it weren’t for his great grandfather and uncles, Little Louis was left practically an orphan after the sudden deaths of both his parents and older brother. The only one left to mother him was his governess, whom he became completely and totally attached to (in my opinion, this in itself probably set the stage for loving in a grand way, all the subsequent ladies in his life).
It was incredibly interesting to read about Louis’ coming of age as a Little King admired by all. From the beginning we sense his kind nature and desire for closeness and intimacy (with the privileged few, mind you). Even more important, Louis stands out as one whose great aversion to any type of conflict or breach of etiquette was mega- or borderline insane.
Louis The Well Beloved takes us through Louis ’life, his reign and his loves...and of these, there were quite a few. Louis, in his all consuming passion for the ladies, was, believe it or not, incredibly faithful (especially for those times...and in France!). Without going into too much detail, I will mention the obvious Mistress, Madame de Pompadour; notorious for winning the King’s heart (she wasn’t the first nor the last though...). I love the way Plaidy portrays her in this novel. It’s a refreshing look at someone whom I thought to have been quite the opposite (well at least in this first book of this series).
Plaidy also brings in Louis’ children (mostly daughters) and shows us the King as an overly protective, doting
- father. we get a good taste of what the princesses were like as well. Louis was also a most loving husband. Yes, another surprise, this Queen was blessed with Kingly love. Too much love, in fact- Louis was insatiable. Sadly we see how their love slowly digressed- but the respect remained and neither was really to blame. Louis really tried.
As far as the country went, France loved her King. Louis could do no wrong. It was all the fault of either his ministers, tutors, queen or mistresses. Louis was their hero, but how long could they sing that tune? The seeds of the Revolution were slowly taking root. For how long could Louis remain The Well Beloved?
I f you love French history, and all the eccentricities of etiquette taken too far, along with a good dose of rapturous forbidden love- this Plaidy is for you. I absolutely must read 'Road to Compiegne' next- which is the sequel to this one.