30 Books in 30 Days - Day 16: A book you've read more than once
This is one of my all-time favourite books. It combines history, politics, romance, gossip and scandal. For someone who is interested in the history that is often unseen, I was fascinated by how much influence royal mistresses have had over the years. This book also began my fascination with Chenonceau. Given to Diane of Poitiers by her lover, Henri II, the description of the chateau and its story captivated me. I first read about the palace in this book, about ten years ago and have wanted to visit ever since.
Over numerous holidays in France we have tried to visit, but have never been near enough for a day trip there. However, last summer, we finally managed to visit. Usually - at least in my case - when you have waited for so long to visit somewhere, when you finally get to go, it never quite lives up to the image you've created for yourself. Chenonceau was the exception. It was just as beautiful as I'd imagined, I could picture Diane sweeping her way elegantly through the halls and the grounds and hear Catherine de Medici cackling gleefully to herself when, after Henri's death, she claimed the chateau her erstwhile husband had given his mistress, for herself.
It is because of this book that when my history mad eldest son mused about which French king had died after being hit in the eye when jousting, I was able to say immediately, 'Henri II'. Brownie points for Mum for knowing a random history fact!
The follow up book 'Sex With The Queen' covers things from the opposite angle and tells the story of the Queens who took lovers - in most cases both the Queen and their lover fared worse than the King and his mistress!
Sex With Kings is a book I stumbled across accidentally. I'd watched and loved the Doctor Who episode The Girl in the Fireplace and had never heard of Madame de Pompadour, so was looking for a book to tell me more about her. This came up on a search for her and although it didn't give me all the information I wanted (and I moved on to specific biographies of her), it did open up a whole different area of interest for me. From this book I moved onto the aforementioned biography of Madame de Pompadour, one of Marie Antoinette and subsequently a book on the French Revolution.
It may have been a happy accident that I first found this book, but it's one I've returned to over and over again throughout the last decade. I recommend it to everyone and it's a staple of my holiday reading most years!