I just finished a book that I procrastinated in so long that it moved with us twice, Le Montespan, by Jean Teulé. It was a fascinating and disturbing story in equal measures.
It’s the true story of the Marquis and Marquise de Montespan – he was an impoverished minor noble and she was his beautiful wife with witty banter who caught the eye of Louis XIV. What Louis liked, Louis got and Madame de Montespan became his favaorite and remained so for twenty-four years.
The approved protocol was for the cuckolded husband to remain quiet and accept honors from the king – better titles, plum sources of revenue, nicer châteaus – as a sort of spouse rental fee. Montespan wouldn’t play along, and this is the story of how that worked out for him.
The story is fascinating, but Teulé seemed to be just as interested by every scabrous and scatalogical fact of life in the late 17th century. I could have lived without some of those visuals! In French, it won Le Grand Prix du roman historique and Le Prix roman de la presse in 2008, which shows you how long I procrastinated on reading it. If you want to check out all of the scandalous bits for yourself, it has been transformed into a bande dessinée (cartoon) and translated into English as The Hurlyburly’s Husband.