Saturday, May 22, 2010

"The French Mistress" by Susan Holloway Scott

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Susan Holloway Scott is another author whose works I have become addicted to recently. The period that covers the reign of King Charles II (1630-1685) has only recently become interesting to me. For some reason the Jacobite era - and that of King Charles I have not interested me. King Charles II, however, seems like he was a very interesting fellow - albeit a notorious womanizer who kept so many mistresses that I can't imagine how he didn't lose count! The author has written a series of fascinating books that recount the stories of some of Charles' most famous mistresses. This one is a bout Louise de Keroualle, daughter of an impoverished French nobleman, who leaves her family's crumbling chateau to enter the service of Madame D'Orleans (sister of King Charles II) wife to King Louis' sadistic, cruel brother the Duc D'Orleans. Louise learns much of value at the French Court but her fresh, youthful beauty goes largely un-noticed in the lascivious court of King Louis XIV.

Louise remain largely alone until her mistress is allowed to visit her brother, King Charles, in England. The English Court impresses Louise as being very different than the French Court, much more relaxed and less formal. During their stay in England Louise forms an admiration and crush on King Charles. Upon their return to France her mistress dies unexpectedly from what is largely believed to have been a poisoning. Louise is suddenly cut adrift - not knowing where she will next be able to find a position. She cannot go home without having completed her task of securing an auspicious and wealthy marriage. Most of Madame's other maids-of-honor have already returned to their country homes - or have been taken in elsewhere. Louise waits.

Ultimately it Louis that decides to send Louise to the English Court as a spy and it does not take long for her to be noticed by his Majesty, King Charles. The book recounts the story of their love, how Louise rises to become Charles' maîtresse en titre  (favorite mistress), how she has a son by Charles - with Charles ultimately ennobling both mother and child. Louise becomes the Duchess of Portsmouth and her son Charles, among other titles, become the Duke of Richmond. The book also chronicles the political tensions of this era. Louise is scorned because she is both French and a Catholic. She considers returning to France but can;t leave "her Charles". Upon Charles death at only 54  and his death left Louise de Keroualle utterly devastated. Ultimately she does return to France and lives out her life for another 50 years after the death of "her Charles". She never marries.

Charles left no legitimate heirs to his throne since his wife, the suffering and very patient Catherine of Braganza, was unable to have children . He did acknowledge a dozen children by his mistresses however. Five by Barbara Villiers (Lady Castlemaine) and his son by Louise deKeroualle (Duchess of Portsmouth). In fact, an interesting tidbit of information is that Princess Diana was descended from one of Charles illegitimate sons and, in the event Price William inherits the British Throne he will be the first monarch to be directly descended from King Charles II

As you may be able to tell. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am searching out more of Susan Scott Holloway's very entertaining and enlightening book to add to my reading collection !!


Marg said...

I started reading Susan Holloway Scott last year and have thoroughly enjoyed all of her books. Can't wait for her next book later this year.

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