Twirling it About at The Tuileries: Oh, no he didnt!
This will have to be one of my briefest posts ever because I'm scrambling to meet a deadline for my next nonfiction book -- to be titled ROYAL ROMANCES: TITILLATING TALES OF PASSION AND POWER IN THE PALACES OF EUROPE. This volume will have about 17 chapters, and at present (though anything can change), the table of contents takes us from Edward III and Alice Perrers all the way to William and Kate, with a bonus chapter about my experiences in London for their royal wedding earlier this year.
Portrait of Louis XIV from 1670
At the moment I am researching the fascinating liaison between the Sun King, Louis XIV and Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, better known as the glittering, and wickedly witty marquise de Montespan. Nicknamed "The real queen of France," she bore the king seven illegitimate children, 3 of whom died before the age of 11; the rest he legitimized and they went on to found some of the great aristocratic houses of France.
Athénaïs utterly fascinates me. Although nothing was ever concretely proven, she was implicated in a plot to poison the king, which effectively put the kibosh on her tenure as his maîtresse en titre or official mistress (leave it to the French to create that position at court!)
But that's not even the subject of this post. It's this: this stop-you-in-your-tracks sentence that I came across during my research. Historian Lisa Hilton wrote the definitive biography of this alluring royal mistress, [The Life of Louis XIV's Mistress Athénaïs, The Real Queen of France] which was published in 2002. Her writing sparkles as much as her subject does. This is narrative nonfiction at its best.
And referring to Louis Quatorze's court, here's the sentence that I could build an entire book (alas, not the one I'm currently writing) around:
Even among the upper classes, male behavior was often shockingly uncivilized. In an etiquette manual of 1671, Antoine de Courtins found it necessary to advise aspiring courtiers not only against belching, farting, spitting and scratching, but against exposing of the penis in company."
Have you ever come across a tidbit of information that was so juicy, or suprising, that it changed, informed, or re-informed your perception of the world you were researching, writing, or reading about? What was it? Please share!