"Witty, judicious and extremely well written, The Splendid Century is social history at its best." The New York Times
What was life like in France during the reign of its most glorious monarch, Louis XIV?
Known as the Sun King, he reigned for seventy-two years, in an age of growing decadence and absolutism in Europe.
His court was one of the most lavish places the world has ever scene as nobles and courtiers vied for patronage in the spectacular corridors and beautiful rooms of the Palace of Versailles.
W. H. Lewis’ brilliant account of this era The Splendid Century: Life in the France of Louis XIV does an exquisite job of bringing late seventeenth and early eighteenth century France to life.
The first chapter uncovers what Louis, this remarkable monarch that innumerable myths have developed around, was actually like.
This is followed by a stunning evocation of what life was like at the court, as brilliant political, military and cultural figures like Colbert, Mazarin, Louvois, the Grand Condé and Turenne, wandered through the corridors of power at Versailles.
Perhaps the most interesting section of the book, however, is Lewis’ account was life was life in France away from the court during this period. He explores the lives of the common people who struggled survive while those in Versailles gorged themselves, the emerging religious conflicts that developed across the nation, the marching army that followed Louis’ increasingly aggressive and expansionist orders, as well as the merchants and traders who tried to continue as normal through these turbulent years.
"This book is the kind of modern scholarship in history which makes reading a delight. A fascinating book, excellently documented and as readable as it is authentic." Book-of-the-Month Club News
"Not only a highly pleasurable, lucid read, but also an incredibly informative and satisfying introduction. Lewis deftly moved from court to country, king to commoner, illuminating the best and the worst of Louis XIV's France. Along the way, he gives a tantalizing glimpse into the underlying tensions within French society that would later serve as the impetus for the French Revolution." Cardis Murray, College of St. Rose
“A rather scholarly work on a specific period — Louis XIV — which offers a wealth of interesting data.” Kirkus Reviews
“The curtain of the past covers over the glories and heartaches, the achievements and disappointments, the casual social moments and weighty political events of other days. Only the unusual author can take us behind that curtain and make the past live again with all its vivid intensity. W. H. Lewis, not a professional historian but a retired army officer, has achieved this goal for the glorious age of Louis XIV.” Lester S. King, MD, JAMA