Reviews

  • A superb biography of Louis XIV by Philip Mansel, the best non-French historian of France. Historical biography does not get better than this

    A. N. Wilson, The Week
  • Mansel ... treads the line between the academic and the accessible effectively ... No other English-language biography has so successfully given us a portrait of him as man and monarch ... His grasp of the sources is superb

    Gareth Russell, The Times
  • A superb biography ... wonderfully detailed and fluent ... Huge amounts of information have been digested ... Mansel is alive to every nuance of rank and relation and a master of the mechanics of life at Versailles and the other royal palaces. This mastery naturally extends to dynastic relations and to the diplomatic history of Louis's reign ... The portrait of Louis that emerges from this titanic effort is compelling: a man of large appetites, capable of intense affection and loyalty, vengeful, gracious, vain, hard-working, hardened in the exercise of his own will, susceptible to flattery, conceited in his isolation, capricious, unforgiving and stubborn ... It seems hard to believe ... that this biography will ever, in English at least, be surpassed.

    Hamish Robinson, Oldie
  • Almost everything about Louis XIV - the size of his palaces, the length of his reign, the height of his heels - was on a gargantuan scale. ... Such splendour is there not just to dazzle, but also to deceive, and excavating the "real" Louis poses a major challenge for any biography. Philip Mansel's impressive new survey - the best single-volume account of the reign in any language - moves deftly between these fictive and objective worlds. He revels in the fêtes and fireworks, the frescoes and tapestries, that glorified Louis's rule. But he is never blind to Louis' failings and absurdities, and clearly delineates how the "absolute monarch" was never as absolute as he wishes the world to think. ... Mansel brings this teeming, sybaritic, ultra-competitive Versailles vividly to life

    John Adamson, Sunday Times
  • Mansel is master of the well-chosen anecdote and of the pithy summary. Interesting details sit comfortable within the big picture that he portrays ... this is a scholarly, readable and impressively wide-ranging account of the longest reign in history.

    Julia Priest, Times Literary Supplement
  • Excellent though Mansel is on the larger picture - you will find no more comprehensive biography of this extraordinary monarch - his genius lies in unpacking the complexities of Louis' royal court.

    Miranda Seymour, Financial Times
  • Time and space both yield before Mansel's authorial ambition on quite as vast a scale as Louis's own territorial, reputational, amatory and gastronomic appetites.

    Minoo Dinshaw, Daily Telegraph
  • On a scale suitable to its subject, King of the World is in one way an extended moral fable ... Mansel tells the story of these wars fluently and fairly

    David Crane, Spectator
  • To do [Louis XIV] justice and encapsulate his person, his plans, his successes and his failures, all which involved a dizzying cast of characters and a mind-numbing web of relationships, is no easy task. With his extensive studies of court ritual and his sympathy for the Bourbons, Philip Mansel is the man for the job. ... Mansel's descriptions of how Versailles functioned are masterful and high-entertaining.

    Adam Zamoyski, Standpoint
  • thorough, scholarly and fluent... breath-taking... indispensable

    Donald Lee, The Art Newspaper