Friday, August 28, 2009

The Friday Book Review - Sex with Kings

Book Review for: “Sex with Kings”
Written by: Eleanor Herman
Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-06-058544-0
5 Stars

Herman takes her readers on a delightful romp through history and gives us a taste of what its like to have sex with kings. Masterfully written and easy to read, history comes alive in ways the reader doesn’t expect.

Herman takes a look at some of history’s most famous kings: France’s Charles VII, Francois I, Henri II, Louis XIV and Louis XV. She also gives us a peek into English kings as well, including Edward III, Henry VIII, Charles II, and even Prince Charles.

Sex with kings was an art and no one was more skilled than the royal mistresses. Herman points out that the kings usually gave their hearts to their mistresses – their wives were very rarely treated with the same affection. Louis XIV fell in love with his last mistress, Madame de Maintenon while she was serving as a governess to the children he had with his second mistress, Madame de Montespan. While he did have affection for his wife, it wasn’t the grand passion he reserved for his mistresses.

There was a lot to consider if one was going to have sex with a king. The first consideration was the fine art of giving him pleasure. The mistress had to appeal to his sensual side. Very rarely were their wives chosen for their sensuality. Henri II of France clearly preferred Diane de Poitiers over his wife, Catherine de Medici. After nine years of marriage, Henri had yet to have a child by his wife because he spent so much time with Diane. An agreement was worked out were Diane would work Henri up and then she’d send him to Catherine to finish the job.

Mistresses had appearances to keep. Generally, they didn’t scold or throw fits. They were always in a good mood – even if they weren’t. They never frowned. They had to enjoy the king’s hobbies, even if they didn’t. After all, the benefits outweighed the discomfort.

Mistresses were usually paid well. The king provided everything she needed or wanted – and he usually took care of the bastard children. Herman points out the children the king usually had with his mistresses were healthy and thrived. The children with his wife were usually sicker. This was due to the fact the royal bloodlines were intermingled. Marie-Theresa, Louis XIV’s wife, was a sickly woman and short in stature due to her family’s in-breeding. Out of their six sons, only one grew to adulthood, and he resembled his mother in her dull, unattractive looks.

Mistresses were provided with jewels, apartments, real estate, and titles. Most of them knew better than to engage in political intrigue with the king, but some tried. Diane de Poitiers almost ran the government for Henri II, but his grandson, Louis XIV, didn’t care for his mistresses to be active in his political life.

The book ends with Herman taking a look at modern day mistresses, Wallis Simpson and Camilla Parker-Bowles. While times change, the allure of having a mistress does not.

Herman’s writing is brisk and sharp. Her anecdotes about the various kings throughout history are interesting. The book includes several color portraits of various royal mistresses and a reader’s guide to help sate the reader who demands more. “Sex with Kings,” is a book that is hard to put down.


  1. Interesting post, Steph. I guess that's one way to separate business and pleasure. ;-)