The French Mistress by Susan Holloway Scott
What could be better than reading about the sumptuous life of a favourite love in Charles II’s life? Compound this with an in-depth look at the life of his beloved sister Henriette (whom I simply adore); seen through the eyes of our heroine, Louise de Keroualle, her principle maid-in-waiting- and you have a book that I just devoured.
Although Louise came from an average background, her honourable and loyal family, through merit, was granted the privilege of sending her to the French Court at the service of Madame Henriette. Due to Louise’s genuine kindness and honesty, absolute loyalty, prim demeanor, chaste morals and devoutness to her Catholic faith, this lady-in-waiting raised the bar for herself and soon became Madame’s closest, most trusted and devoted companion.
Poor Henriette (also called Minette), led a tragic life at the hands of her husband, le Duc D’Orleans (her first cousin as well as Louis XIV’s brother). Finding no love in this demeaning relationship, she gave herself completely to the cause of re-kindling ties between France and England through her brother Charles II and her cousin, Louis XIV. This project consumed her completely; bringing her much of the sanity needed to survive (although briefly) through it all.
Henriette dedicated her time in planning her most-awaited reunion with her brother, whom she adored to no end. She would spend endless hours talking to Louise about her brother’s exceptional qualities, along with his charms and loving manners towards the ladies. Henriette thought the world of her brother and this image she portrayed of Charles as being the most perfect, kindest, gentlest and most handsome man ever, helped propel him into the role of hero of Louise’s love fantasies. Young and very impressionable, she became enamoured of King Charles II. Before even meeting him, Charles became Louise’s secret Love of her life.
The reality though, was that Louise’s family wanted her to remain true to her virtues and morals in order to soon marry high, and well. Louise abided by these wishes by keeping herself chaste and pure until she would find a suitable husband…something quite uncommon in Louis XIV’s Royal Court. In fact, most of the ladies surrounding Louise aspired to catching the King’s fancy and becoming his mistress. Let alone that she did not think Louis her type (another rarity), she herself, being dark-haired; completely the opposite of the blonde fair look that was all the rave- Louise was probably not the most sought out gal at court. So, lucky for Louise, Louis did not favour her in that way; The French King would have other plans for this different beauty…
These plans finally unravel when Louis allows Henriette to visit Charles in England. Madame is then reunited with her loving brother where she manages to strengthen the ties between the two countries while convincing Charles to convert to Catholicism- Madame’s most important objective. This is not all that Charles is ventured into. Once he lays eyes on Louise de Keroualle, the King becomes floored by her beauty (English tastes differing from the French…). Louise de Keroualle, a real lady in every sense, captures the heart and soul of this magnificent King.
From then on, Louise’s life would take a sharp turn away from the high aspirations of marrying respectably. Although she would keep a strong hold on her virtues until a solid commitment was reached, inevitably she would forego all to become the King’s favourite. Different from most mistresses of the time, Louise would only know Charles, and be loyal to him for life. Because of her strong devotion to Charles and her selfless dedication to Henriette, Louise comes across as an incredibly warm, loving and caring person; it’s no wonder she was adored and held in the highest esteem by both these royal siblings.
The French Mistress is a definite page turner. The story, written in the first person, gives a brilliant account of the life in the times of both the French and English Courts. The story completely drew me in. I loved reading about the particularities in the lives of two of my very favourite royals. Susan Holloway Scott details the scenes, filling them with emotional dialog and in-depth character perceptions that clearly bring the period to life. I couldn’t help feeling a kinship with Louise and concurring with all her thoughts and emotions- almost like reading the memoirs of a close friend. The book is beautifully written to vividly depict this most grandiose time in all of its spendour, without being devoid of its tragically sad and scheming deceptions.
If like me, you love the extravagance of the French courts of the 17th century; the magnetic and totally charming Charles II spins your fantasies; the superb Louis XIV completely fascinates you; the most graceful and loving Henriette endears you…then, you have got to read about this exquisite French mistress’ take on all of it. I guarantee you’ll love this book.
I defintely want to read more books by Susan Holloway Scott