"Licentious or bigoted, noble or ignoble", wrote Nancy Mitford, "there has seldom been a dull Bourbon." The story of the Bourbon kings encompasses the two most glorious and turbulent centuries in French history, yet surprisingly, this is still the only narrative account of the dynasty for the general reader. They emerge from a shadowy line of medieval princes in 1589 to rule France for over 200 years, dominating Europe, launching an endless series of wars, creators of the dazzling splendour of Versailles, survivors from the holocaust at the French Revolution.
They begin with the dashing figure of Henri IV, with his courage, gaiety and sixty-four mistresses; they include figures such as the Sun King Louis XIV and Louis XVI who ended under the guillotine; they close with the little-known "Henri V" - expected to return and rule France in 1873 but whose refusal to abandon the Lily banner of the Bourbons for the Tricolore finally lost the throne. Desmond Seward sets them in historical perspective, each with his entourage of generals, cardinals and whores, wrestling Vith a haughty aristocracy and financial crisis. Spiced with scandalous contemporary gossip, here is a splendidly readable book.
Desmond Seward was born in Paris and educated at Ampleforth and St Catharine's College, Cambridge. He is the author of many books including The Monks of War: The Military Religious Orders, The Hundred Years War, The Wars of the Roses, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry V as Warlord, Josephus, Masada and the Fall of Judaea (da Capo, US, April 2009), Wings over the Desert: in action with an RFC pilot in Palestine 1916-18 (Haynes Military, July 2009) and Old Puglia: A Portrait of South Eastern Italy (Haus August 2009). Forthcoming is The Last White Rose: the Spectre at the Tudor Court 1485-1547 (C...
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