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text 2014-06-21 02:56
Friday 56 Challenge: Quote from First Gentleman of the Bedchamber
First Gentleman of Bedchamber : The Life of the Duc de Richelieu : Courtier, Warrior, Man of Affairs, and Marchal of France - Hubert Cole

So when I picked up this book at a thrift store - because I'm a sucker for $1 books - I was sure that the title was used purposely to draw in folk who didn't know what a "gentleman of the bedchamber" actually was, and assumed it was all about someone's wild sex life. I was pretty sure that it was going to be the usual French history, with large amounts of courtly traditions of lesser royals serving greater royals, where handing the king his nightshirt was the main excitement. I was expecting a lot of gossip.


Oh, was I sooooo wrong. Not about the gossip because there's loads of that - but that this wouldn't be all about someone's sex life. Because it is.


The full title of the book is The First Gentleman of the Bedchamber: The Life of Louis-Francois-Armand, marechal duc de Richelieu. And the man not only had sex with every woman that ever struck his fancy, but also took great delight in telling everyone about it. I can't stop reading because I keep waiting for him to get into some kind of trouble that he can't manage to talk his way out of. It's kind of amazing that no one's made a movie out of his life yet - but that's probably just because I haven't watched enough French films - someone must have. The details are just too over the top.


His wikipedia page, under the name: Armand de Vignerot du Plessis

Which doesn't tell you anything near the detail of the book, but I will call attention to this line, under Marriages:

"The duke was such a renowned womaniser that it is said Choderlos de Laclos based the character Valmont in Les Liaisons dangereuses on him."

Yes, he's that guy. So there's at least that movie. But there's so much more dirt in his biography...


I was hoping that page 56 would have a great example of one of his sex stories. Like the time he had two mistresses of his - both thinking they were his only (current) lover - meet at the same time and place, and then (surprise!) meet each other....and he STILL ends up sleeping with both of them (they agree to it!!!), right then, one after the other. (And this happens AGAIN with two different women. He apparently liked this scenario.)


But no, page 56 only gives us a duel. It's also not his first duel. Links in the quote to wikipedia, in case you want to know who the royals involved were. And in case it's not clear, Richelieu was indeed sleeping with Mademoiselle de Charloais (though possibly not as frequently in 1721 simply because I find it hard to keep track of who he was with when, and he seemed to tire of women rapidly after they said yes).


p. 56-57:


"In May 1721, a guest once more at a hunting party at Chantilly, he was drawn aside by his host, the duc de Bournon. Bourbon was in the mentally disturbing situation of hating his sister, Mademoiselle de Charolais, yet bitterly resenting Richelieu's association with her. He had frequently tried to provoke him to a duel: unfairly, since provocation would not have been a sufficient excuse to save Richelieu from severe punishment if he had done serious injury to a prince of the blood. This time Bourbon ordered him to draw his sword on the spot, saying: "Richelieu, you know that I have disliked you for a long time; now you shall answer to me for it."


Richelieu protested that he had no wish to comply. "I know the respect that I owe you, Monseigneur, and I am not the man to fight you." The only reply was a lunge from the prince, and Richelieu put himself on guard. He allowed Bourbon to wound him in the hand, thinking that this might satisfy him. It did not, and in the end Richelieu was fighting in earnest, desperately trying to ward off the furious attack without inflicting too much damage on his opponent. In this he was only half successful; Bourbon was wounded in the stomach, but he had the grace to admit that he had forced the fight on Richelieu. Fortunately, he was known to be a man of violent and uncontrolled temper. As one diarist put it: "Everybody says that Monsieur le Duc's mind has been deranged for some time. Not that this makes much difference, for what he had was small and evil."


Those snarky lines at the end? The book is full of them. Lots of people left letters and memoirs full of that kind of snark. Which I honestly have to approve of, because it's terribly fun to read. (If teachers had this kind of primary source reading in high school I think a LOT more kids would enjoy history. Or at least pay attention during class.)


Oh and I will indeed quote some of the sex stories in the review. They're not full of risque language or graphic detail, just many, many scenarios. Not to mention scenarios of his peers, many of whom were also hopping in and out of various beds. I think after I finish this and Worsley's Courtiers I'll have to try and figure out who was having more affairs at this time, the English or the French court.


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text 2014-05-02 14:00
Friday 56 Challenge ~ Friday 26
Parallel - Lauren Miller

I want to scream, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT AM I DOING HERE????


Abby Barnes wakes up in parallel universes. Multiple times.


I love stuff like this, though the reality seems ridiculous to me. Still, there are apparently many scientists who believe the idea of parallel universes is true and seem to suggest that they take care of the many problems of time travel.


Whatever the truth is, stories about it can be fun and so far, this one is.

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text 2014-04-26 01:06
Friday 56: Almost Forgot...
Women Of The French Revolution - Linda Kelly

Oops, I knew I wasn't remembering something to add to that last post! Page 56:


"Since his dismissal as Minister of War, Narbonne had joined the army on the northern frontier under the command of Lafayette. Madame de Stael, so rumour had it, had gone to join him at the camp of Arras, bearing a phial of poison on her person, with the intention of killing herself should any harm come to her lover. How Narbonne responded to this gesture is not known; his overwhelming preoccupation now was with the king. His liberalism was sincere, but so too was the loyalty he felt as a soldier and a nobleman to the monarchy, a loyalty which transcended the King's personal defects, and in which his own honour was closely involved."


I am really going to hunt down the key commands for accents, because there are so many I'll be ignoring otherwise when I post quotes from this book. Even though none of my French teachers are going to be tut-tut-ing over the lack of accents. Well, that I'll know about.


Meanwhile I really am going to have to read more on Madame de Stael. This isn't the first time I've bumped into her in a history book, and I've read enough to want to read some of her writing. Also the quote above wasn't the last mention of suicide during her relationship with Narbonne either. But then when you're threatened with the guillotine, poison does seem like the easier way out.


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text 2014-04-25 14:00
Friday 56 Challenge ~ Friday 25
The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel - Pamela Mingle

Miss Bennet, if you will not take my hand, I fear we shall be forced to turn back. The way is too rough for you to walk unaided. I promise to release your hand back to your keeping as soon as we arrive on the path.


I smiled, still not looking at him, and grasped his hand. In this way we progressed, and in a very short time, placing my hand in his seemed natural.


I love well-written Pride and Prejudice continuation stories. One of the people I follow here gave it a good review, so I'm looking forward to this read.


I'm also happy to see Mary Bennet get a little attention. She's always seemed to be the neglected Bennet daughter. Looks like she's going to come out of the shadows and get herself some love!

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text 2014-04-18 23:00
Friday 56 Challenge: Because I'll Always Turn To A Page When Asked!
Ladies of the Grand Tour: British Women in Pursuit of Enlightenment and Adventure in Eighteenth-Century Europe - Brian Dolan
Arabian Nights: The Marvels and Wonders of The Thousand and One Nights - Anonymous,Richard Francis Burton,Jack Zipes

However one of the interesting books I was reading had a dull pg 56, so I'll ignore it and post from two others. Which I'll add to my list of reasons why it's not a bad thing to read multiple books at once. (I often have conversations with myself over whether this is a good or bad thing. My answers vary.)


This is actually from page 57, because page 56 is blank.


"Educated women often either cultivated their talents privately and secretly, or risked ridicule by priggish critics who saw women's forays into the masculine world of intellectual discourse as an affront to polite feminine etiquette. The road to enlightened improvement for men was expected to involve university education and continental travel; for women, it involved bible study and child-rearing. Women were educated and raised to be companions, not connoisseurs; they were ideally suited to complement men, not compete with them.


However, social conventions ere not always strong enough to contain certain individuals."


-- Ladies of the Grand Tour: British Women in Pursuit of Enlightenment and Adventure in Eighteenth-Century Europe, by Brian Dolan (2001)

I added the start of the second paragraph so you'd have an idea of where the book was going from that point.


Tip for any of you who might time travel, and be incredibly wealthy (and thus able to travel) and in this particular time period - a completely acceptable reason to go abroad is to be ill yourself, or accompany an ill child or sibling or parent. And then go hang about the Paris salons, or gatherings at Spa (in Belgium, or wherever else you'd go to drink the waters) and chat about books all you wish. Because it was excusable for a woman to travel for reasons of health, not reasons involving education. Oh you don't actually have to be ill (though many were) - you can just say that. This is also apparently a good story if you have to go somewhere to privately (secretly) give birth to an illegitimate child. Or meet up with a lover. But for some reason not that many people were suspicious of the "oh but I'm ill" line as you'd think.


"The king continued to turn the pages, but the book was poisoned, and before long the venom penetrated his system so that the king had strong convulsions and cried out, "The poison has done its work!"


And now the Sage Duban's head replied, "Fortune repays an ungrateful tyrant's oppressive ways with the just punishment he duly deserves!"


--Arabian Knights, adapted from Richard Burton's Unexpurgated translation by Jack Zipes (1991)


I've read bits of this, but never finished this particular book. (The Burton one is multi-volumed, my copy of this translation is just one volume.) And I'm remembering why now - racism, wife killing, etc. In fact I should keep a tally on how many wives are killed off for sleeping with another man. But what does keep me reading are the great surreal and fanciful bits, like a poisonous book and a talking disembodied head. In the hardback copy I had as a child (belonging to my parents as kids) there's a picture of this head too - will have to look that up and share the art later.

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