I love Nancy Mitford, and I love the French monarchy (well, reading about the French monarchy), so I am excited to get my hands on NYRB Classic's reissue of The Sun King, Mitford’s biography on Louis XIV. Louis was known for his ostentatious style, but his brother, the Duc d’Orléans, was no slouch in the sartorial department either. (He would go to battle decked in diamonds and ribbons.) Just take a look at his fur-trimmed velvet cape, and the oversized red bow tie, affixed with a diamond brooch. Yowzers!
In his youth, Monsieur was partial to battles. He would arrive rather late on the field, having got himself up to kill; painted, powdered, all his eyelashes stuck together; covered with ribbons and diamonds – hatless. He never wore a hat for fear of flattening his wig. Once in action he was as brave as a lion; only afraid of what the sun and dust might do to his complexion.
- some more from Nancy Mitford’s The Sun King, which published today. The monsieur in reference is Phillipe I, Duc d’Orléans, Louis XIV’s younger brother (it was traditional to call the younger brother of the king “Monsieur”). Another description from Mitford of the Monsieur: “In spite of being one of history’s most famous sodomites, Monsieur had two wives, a mistress and eleven legitimate children of whom seven died in infancy or were born dead; and he is the ‘grandfather of Europe.’” Makes the English monarchy look rather dull.