Everyone knows the story of King Louis XVI, his queen, Marie Antoinette, their unpopularity, downfall, and the French Revolution, but it is not often that historical fiction tells the story of the king that came before them and his numerous mistresses. King Louis XV, the grandfather of Louis XVI went from being a popular and beloved king to a king who could barely show his face in Paris because of the great dislike of him by the people. “The Road to Compiegne” by Jean Plaidy is the story of a king with many mistresses, a king who experienced great popularity to great unpopularity, and a king that just wanted love.
“The Road to Compiegne” not only focuses on the life of King Louis XV, but his many mistresses specifically two in general. The Marquise de Pompadour held the lusty king’s attention for many years with her beauty, charm, and wit and even manages to keep his love and affection when their passion and attraction fizzles. The Marquise de Pompadour was a powerful mistress admired and also hated by many at court. She put her friends in power and destroyed her enemies. Many including the king’s son, the Dauphin and others plot her downfall, but the Marquise comes out on top. The Marquise even manages the king’s affairs by placing beautiful and delectable young girls in his bed and basically creating a brothel for him. She loved her power and strove to keep it any way possible. The other main mistress focused on in the novel is Madame du Barry, the commoner turned great mistress who enticed the king with her fun and sparkling personality and common and brash manners. She basically ruled the court of King Louis XV in his later years. The Marquise de Pompadour and Madame du Barry stand out as the great loves of Louis XV’s life among a plethora of sexual escapades and mistresses along the way. Also focused on in the novel are figures such as the Dauphin who is constantly at odds with his father over the managing and politics of France, the king’s pious and unhappy Queen, and the duc de Choiseul, who is a cunning and ambitious statesman and diplomat that is always plotting. The heart of the novel though is King Louis XV’s unpopularity and strained relationship with the people of Paris and how he went from their beloved king to a king who could barely show his face in the city.
“The Road to Compiegne” is an interesting work by Jean Plaidy as readers will rarely find a novel about the time period before Marie Antoinette. King Louis XV is a fascinating figure as he went from being such popularity to unpopularity. Also interesting are his two main mistresses, the powerful and ambitious Marquise de Pompadour and the joyful and playful Madame du Barry. The French court was truly ruled by whomever was sharing the king’s bed. Plaidy presents two well-written female characters in the proud and graceful Marquise de Pompadour and the passionate and fun Madame du Barry. Plaidy’s portrayal of the king himself is also strong as you can get a sense all he really wants to be is truly loved.
The novel does drag in the parts featuring the duc de Choiseul and his constant quest for power. Also many readers will be disappointed at the portrayal of Marie Antoinette’s arrival at court and how she reacted to the king who became her grandfather and her strained relationship with Madame du Barry. It barely is focused on.
“The Road to Compiegne” is definitely an interesting novel on a time period in history that was so fascinating, but rarely portrayed in novels. Readers will get romance, lust, rivalries, scheming, politics, religion and history all in one novel.
To purchase “The Road to Compiegne”: http://www.amazon.com/Road-Compiegne-French-Revolution/dp/0330231715/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1282241616&sr=1-1
For more information on Jean Plaidy: www.randomhouse.com/author/results.pperl?authorid=24084