The Hurlyburly’s Husband by Jean Teulé is a historical fiction book about the Marquis de Montespan and his new wife, Athénaïs, who becomes the preferred mistress of King Louis XIV. The novel was spent many weeks topping the French charts and was translated by Alison Anderson.
The Marquis de Montespan and his new wife, Athénaïs are in love – a minority among the nobility in 17th Century France. However, the couple faces huge debts due to their lifestyle, but their problems and status seem to be almost over when Athénaïs becomes lady-in-waiting to the Queen at Versailles.
The beautiful, intelligent and vivacious Athénaïs becomes the lover to King Louis XIV, the Sun King, but unlike other husbands who sees this as an opportunity, the Marquis is heartbroken and sacrifices life and fortune to make his stand.
The Hurlyburly’s Husband by Jean Teulé is a funny and touching book, it tells the story of the Louis Henri de Pardaillan de Gondrin, marquis de Montespan instead of the one most people familiar with, that of his famous wife. Françoise-Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan, better known as Madame de Montespan, was the most celebrated lover of King Louis XIV, had seven children from his seed and, for a while, was the de-facto queen.
Mr. Teulé stays away from the most common pitfall in historical fiction stories – judging the characters by today’s standards. He goes to great length to explain that by Athénaïs agreeing to become the king’s lover was not an act uncommon at the time. If the king wished to bed one’s wife, it would be prudent to accept and even worthwhile as it would elevate the family’s status and ensure riches. Not agreeing would have the opposite consequences, some which would be severe.
However, the story is about the Marquis de Montespan and his love for his wife. A love so great he would dare defy the king, turn away money and prestige. The character of Athénaïs is not depicted as a woman of loose morals, just one who does what is expected of her and who loves the rich lifestyle. She is not a cardboard character and the king is not only attracted to her looks, but also her personality and intelligence.
The author does an excellent job bringing to life the court of King Louis XIV, he does not paint it in rose colored glasses. Beyond the riches and glamour, the court was a filthy, dirty place where nobles would urinate where they’re standing, defecate on the side and the king himself has been known to only bath once during his life.
It took a while for the book and characters to grow on me, at first Marquis de Montespan annoyed me, but I soon learned to appreciate the character and the author’s effort. I learned much from this book about French history and culture, which made the reading pleasurable and worthwhile.
- 340 pages
- Publisher: Gallic Books
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1906040656