Among the potted orange trees of Versailles, the incredible abundance of architectural invention, the glowing richness of the decorative arts originating in the reign of Louis XIV of France, Miss Mitford has discovered a turbulence of personalities -- warring to playful mistresses; competent to anxious ministers; a variegated royal family; a likeable gardener; a core of career courtiers; doctors faithfully bleeding and excising royal patients; and the king himself, vigorous, brilliant in aspect, courageous, ruthless, assured of his semi-divinity. There are innumerable portraits, but the author delights in confrontations, a lively brew of personalities in situ -- the king's ladies packed in a carriage, miserably bumping and banging along on one of his excursions; a tearful reconciliation with the eclipsed mistress, Louise de La Valliere, Mme. de Montespan and a regretful King; terrible operations and birthings with doctors hastening the departing; scandals involving poisons and murder; the king's religious discoveries. Handsomely and lavishly illustrated with 56 plates in color and 131 monochrome, this is a witty and graceful illumination of a fabulous community, and some remarkable personalities making their way in a difficult, circumscribed and yet exhilarating world. A lovely book--for gift, history and art shelves.