review: The Enemies of Versailles
The third in Sally Christie’s Versailles trilogy, The Enemies of Versailles is told by two women close to King Louis XV: his daughter, Adélaïde, and his last mistress, Madame du Barry. While The Sisters of Versailles focused on Louis’ early life (and secession of sister-mistresses) and The Rivals of Versailles was a bit extreme on the sexual depravity of the King, this story showed a wider view of the messy political situation in France shortly before the Revolution. The enemies are, of course, the two protagonists of the story, but also the enmity between du Barry and Marie Antoinette, as well as Adélaïde and “Antoinette”—and many other background characters–the angry mob included. The factions at court were ever changing as the country descended into anarchy. I found, rather to my surprise, that Madame Adélaïde’s quotes held much wisdom (even if she didn’t realize the true depth, as she was self-righteous to the extreme.) Here are a few gems:
“History is not made in the way we might wish, or want, but when one is called to greatness, one must oblige.”
“The world doesn’t stop turning and nothing breaks, and I see in a moment of sad clarity that is one does not believe in it, etiquette is as meaningless as a crucifix to a pagan.”
“Is it not better to die young and know only sweetness and no sorrow than to grow old to witness a world of disenchantment?”
I found Madame du Barry’s character more relatable, but Adelaide’s story was a pleasure to read owing to her manner of being slightly ridiculous peppered with bits of wisdom. Enemies wraps up this trilogy nicely. Like the previous two novels, the language used can seem a bit modern, but not in an off-putting way. I was reminded heavily of one of my favorite movies, the 2006 Marie Antoinette film (a perfect mix of historical and modern), and enjoyed listening to its glam-rock soundtrack while reading. Overall a pleasant experience which I prolonged by reading a bit too slowly.
This book reads great as a stand-alone, but to truly understand Christie’s Louis XV, readers should take on the entire trilogy.