PHILIPPE, DUC D'ORLEANS by Christine Pevitt


Regent of France
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 A tantalizing glimpse of a lost world. Although she asks the question in her preface, Pevitt never directly reveals an answer as to why someone at the end of the 20th century would become obsessed with someone dead for 300 years. Readers are forced to answer that question themselves, and they might be glad that Pevitt became so involved in a figure who, until now, has not received sympathetic treatment in English. French historians have for some time now been taking a new look at the duc d`OrlÇans, recognizing that he was much more than the philanderer and intellectual lightweight he had been made out to be. When his uncle the Sun King, Louis XIV, died in 1715, a remarkable era came to an end. While the five-year-old Louis XV became de jure king, it was Philippe who actually ruled as regent. In some ways a Renaissance man (he was a musician and artist as well as a soldier and statesman), Philippe delighted in shocking the more conventional members of the royal family and court. Extraordinary rumors (including the claim that he had slept with his own daughter) circulated through aristocratic circles. This, though, seems to have been a calculated strategy to hide his rather formidable talents. As regent, Pevitt argues, he displayed considerable iamgination and energy. He worked hard to rebuild the country's armed forces, began negotiations with England, France's ancient antagonist, and did what he could to spur on emigration to North America. (His efforts are indicated by the fact that New Orleans was named in his honor). Pevitt is not a professional historian, but this in no way detracts from her work; in fact, readers might find her style refreshing and thankfully free from academic pretensions. It seems that she wrote the book for no other reason than that the subject fascinated her--and what better reason could a reader ask for in an author?

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-87113-695-3
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1997