The way it was delivered was intriguing: we do get a fly-on-the-wall feeling through much of the book, though it seems to evolve into more of a scandal sheet as Louis reaches his maturity and becomes a promiscuous and malleable young king. The early part of the book, which was written very well and was exciting to read, covers the princes lonely and unloved youth. In fact, the author makes it a point to tell us several times that the king really wasnt all that intelligent, and learned to put on a face of haughty arrogance to impress his countrymen. This, of course, wasnt until after Mazarin died, for the Cardinals influence, even in exile, was impossible for Louis to confront. The author concluded that Louis was very good at pretending to be king. The author thinks Maintenon acted out of duty rather than any affection for the king, and by this stage of the book, I felt like I was reading from duty rather than any enjoyment. It all became quite tedious, probably much like Louis must have felt as he neared the end of his 72-year reign.
And one of the things that makes it remarkable is that the author, Prince Michael of Greece, is a descendant of Louis XIV. And Versailles was the place where not the Word of God, but the will of the king prevailed. The wars created by the rulers of that era, often without any rhyme nor reason to them, senseless wars destroyed countless numbers of lives, devastated farmlands, left people penniless. And he says of the king, Charles II, He was almost born an old man, for degeneration had affected his body even to the bone. One nation after another in Europe had this kind of problem. Let me cite the example of one person, again, quoting from Prince Michael of Greece, this time on page 275. She looked like a pug, a bit mouthful of rotten teeth that stank so much that one could smell them at the other end of the room, a horribly thick neck, a back stairs wit to which others added a nose pointing up to the sky, a complexion the color of tanned leather and the deportment of a barrel. This culture of royalty and nobility where the rule was anything goes as long as the king does not frown on itwhether God frowns on it or not makes no differencecorrupted all the people of any account. Well, this culture was, in time, imitated by the middle classes with devastating results. In time they began to build homes. They were built to impress people. They were built to make them look like important people. As a matter of fact, that is still very much a powerful motive, even among very ordinary people, because this has now been passed down to the lower class, to the working man. The whole idea today is to make an impressive appearance, to look like a princess, to have a living room or a bedroom that will be very impressive, more than comfortable. We build homes to impress people. When I was a boy some of the old farm houses, many of which are now gone, most of them, in fact, were built for family living. They were marked by an oversized kitchen, a kitchen that was a family room where you ate, where the children studied, where there were davenports for the old folks to sit in the evening, big enough, in some instances, for people, oh, 20, 30, 40 to gather around the table and eat. Our architecture is a remote hand me down from Louis XIVs Versailles, but, as such, it is important in that it still has as its basic thrust to make an impression. Other kings imitated Louis XIV and built little Versailles. The whole point of Versailles was to impress you with the greatness and the importance of Louis XIV. Ye shall be as gods knowing, every man determining for himself good and evil, every man his own God. And so people seek to impress, to be as god, to put on an act that will be impressive, not to communicate the fact that this is my life, my family.