This book tells the tale of the secret wife of Louis IV, Francoise d’Aubigne, who during her lifetime managed to make her way from desperate poverty to a brilliant salon life in Paris and the centre of power at Versailles. Married at fifteen to forty-two-year-old Paul Scarron, tragically disfigured and scandalously popular poet of the burlesque, Francoise encountered in her husband’s famous salon all the brilliant, beautiful, comic and tragic characters of the seventeenth-century’s glitterati. After his death she led the life of a merry widow among her friends in the Marais quarter of Paris, before being chosen by the King’s mistress, Athenais de Montespan, as governess for her growing brood of royal batards. Leaving the pleasures of the Marais behind her, Francoise began a new life at court, first at the genteel palace of Saint-Germain, then at the King’s fabulous new folly of Versailles.
This is the extraordinary story of Francoise’s progress from governess to royal mistress and thence, in secret, to the compromised position of Louis’ uncrowned Queen. Through the rags-to-riches tale of the marquise de Maintenon Veronica Buckley reveals every layer of the vibrant and shocking world that was France in the age of Louis XIV.