The best books about Louis XIV

1 authors have picked their favorite books about Louis XIV and why they recommend each book.

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Memoirs Duc De Saint-Simon Volume Three

By Louis De Rouvroy Saint-Simon, Lucy Norton (translator),

Book cover of Memoirs Duc De Saint-Simon Volume Three: 1715-1723

Saint-Simon was another passionate outsider. He compensated for his lack of position and favour under Louis XIV by putting his fantasies of omniscience and his psychological perception into his memoirs. One of the great stylists of the French language, he leads readers into a universe where class, personality, and ambition are more important than public issues. He blamed French defeats on Louis XIV’s pride and ignorance. He called Versailles ’the saddest and most unrewarding place in the world’ and the King’s Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, heightening persecution of Protestants, ‘a general abomination born of flattery and cruelty’. At the same time, he praised the King’s ‘incomparable grace and majesty’. ‘Never was a man so naturally polite.’


Who am I?

The French court has fascinated me since boyhood visits to Blois and Versailles. The appeal of its unusually dramatic history is heightened by the prominence of women, by the number and brilliance of courtiers’ letters and memoirs, and by its stupendous cultural patronage: Even after writing seven books on the French court, from Louis XIV to Louis XVIII, I remain enthralled by Versailles, Fontainebleau, and Paris where, as the new science of court studies expands, there is always more to see and learn. The power and popularity of the French presidency today confirm the importance of the French monarchy, to which it owes so much, including its physical setting, the Elysée Palace.


I wrote...

King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV

By Philip Mansel,

Book cover of King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV

What is my book about?

Louis XIV, King of France and Navarre, dominated his age. After 1660, he extended France's frontiers into the Netherlands and Germany, established colonies in America, Africa, and India, and made his grandson King of Spain. Louisiana is named after him. This biography sees him as a global and European monarch. He was just as interested in foreign affairs, in  French relations with England, China, and the Ottoman Empire, as in the internal state of France.

Louis was also one of the greatest of art patrons  - Molière, Racine, Lully, Le Brun, Le Nôtre all worked for him. The palace he built at Versailles, and his pavilions at Marly and Trianon, became the envy of Europe, frequently visited and imitated. Louis made his court a centre of entertainment: dancing, theatre, music, and gambling, as well as a source of power and jobs. The power of women at his court, which he also encouraged, is a theme of this biography.

Hope

By Marian Fowler,

Book cover of Hope: Adventures of a Diamond

Marian Fowler’s lavish non-fiction account tracks the storied diamond from its origins in India, where it was bought by the great French jewel merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who sold it to Louis XIV. Weighing 110 carats in the rough, the blue was eventually cut into a heart-shaped jewel of 67.13 carats, known to history as the French Blue. In the turbulent early days of the French Revolution, all the crown jewels were moved from the Palace of Versailles to the Garde-Meuble, a treasure house in central Paris. On the night of September 11, 1792, thieves broke in and stole the jewels. Many were recovered, but the French Blue vanished forever. Too famous to be sold as it was, the London jeweler who eventually bought it, cut it down to 44.5 carats—the jewel sold to Henry Philip Hope in 1830. The Hope diamond passed through many hands, leaving behind a trail of…


Who am I?

I live in New York City, where I write thrillers about diamonds. My interest began when news broke of a diamond discovery in the Canadian Arctic. A reporter looking for a story, I climbed on a plane the next day. The discovery made Canada the world’s third largest diamond miner—one of the stories told in my non-fiction book, Diamond: the History of a Cold-Blooded Love Affair. I went on to write about diamonds for many publications, including Vanity Fair and the London Times, until finally, seduced by the glitter of the possibilities, I turned to fiction. The Russian Pink appeared in November 2020. The next in the series, Ice Angel, comes out in September.


I wrote...

The Russian Pink

By Matthew Hart,

Book cover of The Russian Pink

What is my book about?

The Russian Pink sends Treasury agent Alex Turner and his lover, the Russian femme fatale and diamond thief known as Slav Lily, on a chase from the old diamond city of Antwerp to the dangerous beaches of the South African diamond coast as they rush to discover the truth behind a fabulous pink diamond. Racing against time, they must unravel the secret scheme of Harry Nash, an unscrupulous, dashing titan, and Matilda Bolt, a powerful U.S. Senator—an intrigue that entangles the dark forces of government and a transnational business empire with the megawatt allure of the stunning jewel. It’s a scorpion of a plot with a stinger in the tail!

The Essence of Style

By Joan DeJean,

Book cover of The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafes, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour

This is cultural history with a difference and of a difference. It teaches you a lot about the reputation for fashionable culture that France enjoyed for centuries all over the world and continues to enjoy to this day. How much of all that is already packed into the book’s subtitle! The rest of the book is just as accessible and lively and unwilling ever to take itself too seriously. 


Who am I?

I have long been struck, as a learner of French at school and later a university professor of French, by how much English borrows from French language and culture. Imagine English without naïveté and caprice. You might say it would lose its raison d’être My first book was the history of a single French phrase, the je-ne-sais-quoi, which names a ‘certain something’ in people or things that we struggle to explain. Working on that phrase alerted me to the role that French words, and foreign words more generally, play in English. The books on this list helped me to explore this topic—and more besides—as I was writing Émigrés.


I wrote...

Émigrés: French Words That Turned English

By Richard Scholar,

Book cover of Émigrés: French Words That Turned English

What is my book about?

Émigrés examines the continuing history of untranslated French words in English. It asks what these words reveal about the fertile but fraught relationship that England and France have long shared and that now entangles English- and French-speaking cultures all over the world.

The book demonstrates that French borrowings—such as à la mode, ennui, naïveté, and caprice—have, over the centuries, “turned” English in more ways than one. It invites native Anglophone readers to consider how much we owe the French language and asks why so many of us remain ambivalent about the migrants in our midst.

Memoirs of the Comtesse de Boigne 1815 - 1819

By Charles Nicoullaud (editor),

Book cover of Memoirs of the Comtesse de Boigne 1815 - 1819

Madame de Boigne describes the same period as Chateaubriand, whom she disliked, from a liberal perspective. Both had their style and mind improved by suffering during the Emigration, which also made both, for a time, feel half-English. Boigne married a French officer who had made a fortune in India, but failed to tell her he had brought back an Indian wife. She took his money and returned to live with her parents. 

Born with what she called a ‘taste for royalty and the instinct for court life’, she described salons and quarrels, royalty and revolution, Paris and England, from 1780 to 1840. Her friend Count Pozzo di Borgo, for example, she says, would have descended into hell to find enemies for Napoleon, whom he had hated since their childhood in Corsica. She blamed the long foretold revolutions of 1830 and 1848 on monarchs’ exaggerated sense of their infallibility. A genius…


Who am I?

The French court has fascinated me since boyhood visits to Blois and Versailles. The appeal of its unusually dramatic history is heightened by the prominence of women, by the number and brilliance of courtiers’ letters and memoirs, and by its stupendous cultural patronage: Even after writing seven books on the French court, from Louis XIV to Louis XVIII, I remain enthralled by Versailles, Fontainebleau, and Paris where, as the new science of court studies expands, there is always more to see and learn. The power and popularity of the French presidency today confirm the importance of the French monarchy, to which it owes so much, including its physical setting, the Elysée Palace.


I wrote...

King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV

By Philip Mansel,

Book cover of King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV

What is my book about?

Louis XIV, King of France and Navarre, dominated his age. After 1660, he extended France's frontiers into the Netherlands and Germany, established colonies in America, Africa, and India, and made his grandson King of Spain. Louisiana is named after him. This biography sees him as a global and European monarch. He was just as interested in foreign affairs, in  French relations with England, China, and the Ottoman Empire, as in the internal state of France.

Louis was also one of the greatest of art patrons  - Molière, Racine, Lully, Le Brun, Le Nôtre all worked for him. The palace he built at Versailles, and his pavilions at Marly and Trianon, became the envy of Europe, frequently visited and imitated. Louis made his court a centre of entertainment: dancing, theatre, music, and gambling, as well as a source of power and jobs. The power of women at his court, which he also encouraged, is a theme of this biography.

The Son King

By Madawi Al-Rasheed,

Book cover of The Son King: Reform and Repression in Saudi Arabia

London-based Professor Al-Rasheed combines the objectivity of an academic with years of criticism of the House of Saud, and her consequent life in exile. One assumes the title is an allusion to Louis XIV of France who ruled for 72 years. A tougher read than the journalistic flows of the other books listed here, it is nevertheless very solid and perceptive.

Who am I?

British by birth, American by naturalization, Simon Henderson started in journalism as a trainee at the BBC before becoming its correspondent in Pakistan. Joining the Financial Times a year later, he was promptly sent to Iran to cover the 1979 Islamic revolution and went back again for the U.S. embassy hostage crisis. He now analyzes the Gulf states, energy, and the nuclear programs of Iran and Pakistan as the Baker fellow and director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.


I wrote...

After King Fahd: Succession in Saudi Arabia

By Simon Henderson,

Book cover of After King Fahd: Succession in Saudi Arabia

What is my book about?

I have written about the Saudi royal family – the House of Saud – for nearly 30 years. My first in-depth study was After King Fahd: Succession in Saudi Arabia. I followed this up in 2009 with After King Abdullah: Succession in Saudi Arabia. My latest study, A Fifty-Year Reign? MBS and the Future of Saudi Arabia published in 2019, examines the circumstances by which Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman may, or may not, become king.

Whatever happens the kingdom is changing, with social liberalization, a less central role for the Islamic religious hierarchy, and attempts to move the economy away from its dependence on oil. But MbS is an autocrat with a streak of ruthlessness, as illustrated by the detention and torture of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and the murder and dismemberment of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

To Dance with Kings

By Rosalind Laker,

Book cover of To Dance with Kings

This is also a book I read long ago, and it made me want to write historical fiction novels. This is an astounding story of a young peasant woman who is swept up into the Parisian society of King Louis XVI.

The author's attention to historical details in the construction of Versailles and the French Revolution is a standard that I have judged most novels by. It's a beautiful multi-generational story of love and loss, and I'll admit to tears when reading this book. I usually avoid sad books. I want love to never end. Having said that, I'm so glad I read it, and I was amazed at how much French history I learned!


Who am I?

I love reading novels that take me to another time, place, or adventure (an antithesis to my 30-year career as a professor teaching physiology & pathophysiology to medical and nursing students). I read for entertainment and variety. As an author, I write books I'd like to read! Drawn to history, I've written five historical romances—a woman of courage, intellect, and compassion at the heart of each. I've authored two contemporary espionage thrillers with a woman as the protagonist. I enjoy stepping out of the bounds of empiricism in my novels, blending genres, and stretching the imagination.


I wrote...

The Confederates' Physician

By Alison Blasdell,

Book cover of The Confederates' Physician

What is my book about?

The United States is entering the third year of the Civil War. Young Samantha Carter, recently educated as a physician in Paris, defies her father, disguises herself as a boy, and runs away to enlist in the Union Medical Corps. On her way there, she is captured by a Confederate patrol. When the commanding officer, Major Ethan Winters-Hunt forces her to serve as a surgeon for the Confederate Army. Samantha is unprepared for the horrors of battle and finds she must draw upon the strength and native mysticism imbued in her as a child.

Eventually, Samantha's identity as a young woman is discovered, and the friendship that Ethan and Samantha shared turns into a passionate love that is severely tested by deceit and betrayal as the nation rages in war.

Letters from Liselotte

By Maria Kroll,

Book cover of Letters from Liselotte: Elizabeth-Charlotte, Princess Palatine and Duchess of Orleans

Born a German princess, married to Louis XIV’s gay younger brother, ‘Liselotte’, as the Duchesse d’Orleans was often known, was an outsider who also, by her rank, was an insider. She put her venom and her frustrations into her letter-writing, denouncing the French court’s morals, policies, and personnel to her German relations. Versailles made her prefer dogs to people: she called Madame de Maintenon, the king’s second wife, ‘the old whore’. Her letters make us feel we are living at Versailles, when it was at the heart of European politics and culture.


Who am I?

The French court has fascinated me since boyhood visits to Blois and Versailles. The appeal of its unusually dramatic history is heightened by the prominence of women, by the number and brilliance of courtiers’ letters and memoirs, and by its stupendous cultural patronage: Even after writing seven books on the French court, from Louis XIV to Louis XVIII, I remain enthralled by Versailles, Fontainebleau, and Paris where, as the new science of court studies expands, there is always more to see and learn. The power and popularity of the French presidency today confirm the importance of the French monarchy, to which it owes so much, including its physical setting, the Elysée Palace.


I wrote...

King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV

By Philip Mansel,

Book cover of King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV

What is my book about?

Louis XIV, King of France and Navarre, dominated his age. After 1660, he extended France's frontiers into the Netherlands and Germany, established colonies in America, Africa, and India, and made his grandson King of Spain. Louisiana is named after him. This biography sees him as a global and European monarch. He was just as interested in foreign affairs, in  French relations with England, China, and the Ottoman Empire, as in the internal state of France.

Louis was also one of the greatest of art patrons  - Molière, Racine, Lully, Le Brun, Le Nôtre all worked for him. The palace he built at Versailles, and his pavilions at Marly and Trianon, became the envy of Europe, frequently visited and imitated. Louis made his court a centre of entertainment: dancing, theatre, music, and gambling, as well as a source of power and jobs. The power of women at his court, which he also encouraged, is a theme of this biography.

Bride of New France

By Suzanne DesRochers,

Book cover of Bride of New France

During the colonial period, women from Europe were shipped to Canada to marry military men, explorers, and fur traders. This story is about the Filles du Roi, sent by King Louis XIV of France, to populate the new colony.

In reading this story, I was given a taste of what life must have been like for these women who left a more modern society to marry a complete stranger and live in the rough, cold wilderness of 1660s Canada. They had to be strong if they were to adapt and survive, which many did not.


Who am I?

I am a Canadian who enjoys travelling and reading historical fiction from around the world. Having had the privilege of living in a variety of areas in Canada from coast to coast since childhood, I can recall listening to the stories of past generations and exploring the locations where some of these events took place. With a passion for Canada’s beauty and the history of its people, I like to research, explore, and incorporate these passions into my own stories.


I wrote...

Freedom Reins

By E.M. Spencer,

Book cover of Freedom Reins

What is my book about?

Charlotte Logan, affectionately called Charlie, spent her adolescent years under the control of the Grey Nuns. Now, her free spirit needs to be set loose. When the confined surroundings challenge her sense of adventure, she uses the art of manipulation to join a small wagon train heading west to the Fraser River in search of gold.

Travelling across untamed land brings new relationships and the discovery of her place in the world. When adventure turns to danger, Charlie finds her source of strength in the middle of gunfights, kidnappers, and a battle for her relationship against the temptress called gold.

Kiki's Paris

By Billy Klüver, Julie Martin,

Book cover of Kiki's Paris: Artists and Lovers 1900-1930

Due to the title, and the fact that the authors of this book edited my 3rd book, this may seem to be a redundant choice on my part. But I can assure the reader that it is not. Although a fine photo of Kiki also graces the cover, she plays a minor, more metaphoric role in the grand scheme of this large-format work, and only a handful of pages are devoted to her.

On the inside of the cover, and the first thick page to its right, one is presented with 96 roughly 1”x 2” black & white thumbnail photographs, not alphabetically arranged, but as it happens, beginning with a photo image of a portrait of Louis XIV in the top left corner and finishing in the bottom right corner of the following page with a photo of James Joyce. All those photos in between should tip off the reader…


Who am I?

As a young boy, I dreamed of becoming a novelist. I was fascinated and inspired by Les Années Folles, The Crazy Years of 1920’s Paris, when artists of all disciplines, from countries all around the world came together electrifying the City of Lights with an artistic passion. My mother was French. France is my 2nd country, where I spend a portion of each year. While researching my novel, The Memory of Love, I stayed in the actual atelier of my protagonist Chrysis Jungbluth, a young, largely unknown painter of that era. I visited, too, the addresses of dozens of the artists who bring the era alive again in our imagination. 


I wrote...

The Memory of Love

By Jim Fergus,

Book cover of The Memory of Love

What is my book about?

A story based on actual historical figures: After recovering from grave wounds suffered in The Great War, Bogey Lambert, a young cowboy from Colorado, makes his way to 1920s Paris, where he encounters the beautiful painter, Chrysis Jungbluth. Precocious, passionate, talented, the free-spirited Chrysis rebels against a society and an art world in which men have all the privilege and women none. By day, a serious student at the prestigious l'École des Beaux-Arts, at night Chrysis loses herself to the sensual pleasures of the Montparnasse nightlife, where all seems permissible. There, she and the American cowboy will live the love of a lifetime. 

The Witching Hour

By Anne Rice,

Book cover of The Witching Hour

What can I say about Anne Rice that hasn’t already been said? She is the Queen of the genre, especially with how Gothic and historical her tales are. She always incorporates such rich descriptions and historical background that you fully immerse not only into the story, but in the world it is taking place in. In the case of this book you’re taken on a mesmerizing journey through New Orleans. A huge fan of the area, Anne Rice brings everything to life from the magnolias growing in the garden to the wrap-around porches. This story was a ghost/demon feature story, but done in such a way I haven’t seen before. I was hooked from start to finish with this book, picking it up any chance I could, and finishing it within a few days. It is a long book and Rice prefers to go into thorough detail, which might bother…


Who am I?

Not only have I been a fan of the genre since my early childhood, I’ve also submerged myself from an author's perspective. I've honed my craft through several courses, research, and networking so that I know what I’m putting out is the best work I can produce. I love the familiar style of description and a plot woven into a well-versed tale of good versus evil, especially if the reader is left questioning whether it really was good that won in the end. My love for horror started young when I delved into Stephen King’s Bag of Bones, and I have devoured a lot of classic horror fiction since then.


I wrote...

Buried

By Sian B. Claven,

Book cover of Buried

What is my book about?

A classic horror haunted house tale with a twist. Buried follows a paranormal investigation team as they try disproving rumors of an underground mansion being haunted. It’s all great fun until they can’t get out, and the ghosts they don’t believe in start coming for them. 

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