Louis XIV was a man in pursuit of glory. Not content to be the ruler of a world power, he wanted the power to rule the world. And, for a time, he came tantalizingly close.
Philip Mansel’s King of the World is the most comprehensive and up-to-date biography in English of this hypnotic, flawed figure who continues to captivate our attention. This lively work takes Louis outside Versailles and shows the true extent of his global ambitions, with stops in London, Madrid, Constantinople, Bangkok, and beyond. We witness the importance of his alliance with the Spanish crown and his success in securing Spain for his descendants, his enmity with England, and his relations with the rest of Europe, as well as Asia, Africa, and the Americas. We also see the king’s effect on the two great global diasporas of Huguenots and Jacobites, and their influence on him as he failed in his brutal attempts to stop Protestants from leaving France. Along the way, we are enveloped in the splendor of Louis’s court and the fascinating cast of characters who prostrated and plotted within it.
King of the World is exceptionally researched, drawing on international archives and incorporating sources who knew the king intimately, including the newly released correspondence of Louis’s second wife, Madame de Maintenon. Mansel’s narrative flair is a perfect match for this grand figure, and he brings the Sun King’s world to vivid life.
This is a global biography of a global king, whose power was extensive but also limited by laws and circumstances, and whose interests and ambitions stretched far beyond his homeland. Through it all, we watch Louis XIV progressively turn from a dazzling, attractive young king to a belligerent reactionary who sets France on the path to 1789. It is a convincing and compelling portrait of a man who, three hundred years after his death, still epitomizes the idea of le grand monarque.