Synopses & Reviews
Throughout the centuries, royal mistresses have been worshiped, feared, envied, and reviled. They set the fashions, encouraged the arts, and, in some cases, ruled nations. Eleanor Herman's Sex with Kings
takes us into the throne rooms and bedrooms of Europe's most powerful monarchs. Alive with flamboyant characters, outrageous humor, and stirring poignancy, this glittering tale of passion and politics chronicles five hundred years of scintillating women and the kings who loved them.
Curiously, the main function of a royal mistress was not to provide the king with sex but with companionship. Forced to marry repulsive foreign princesses, kings sought solace with women of their own choice. And what women they were! From Madame de Pompadour, the famous mistress of Louis XV, who kept her position for nineteen years despite her frigidity, to modern-day Camilla Parker-Bowles, who usurped none other than the glamorous Diana, Princess of Wales.
The successful royal mistress made herself irreplaceable. She was ready to converse gaily with him when she was tired, make love until all hours when she was ill, and cater to his every whim. Wearing a mask of beaming delight over any and all discomforts, she was never to be exhausted, complaining, or grief-stricken.
True, financial rewards for services rendered were of royal proportions -- some royal mistresses earned up to $200 million in titles, pensions, jewels, and palaces. Some kings allowed their mistresses to exercise unlimited political power. But for all its grandeur, a royal court was a scorpion's nest of insatiable greed, unquenchable lust, and vicious ambition. Hundreds of beautiful women vied to unseat the royal mistress. Many would suffer the slings and arrows of negative public opinion, some met with tragic ends and were pensioned off to make room for younger women. But the royal mistress often had the last laugh, as she lived well and richly off the fruits of her "sins."
From the dawn of time, power has been a mighty aphrodisiac. With diaries, personal letters, and diplomatic dispatches, Eleanor Herman's trailblazing research reveals the dynamics of sex and power, rivalry and revenge, at the most brilliant courts of Europe. Wickedly witty and endlessly entertaining, Sex with Kings is a chapter of women's history that has remained unwritten -- until now.
"When kings marry foreign strangers for dynastic or financial reasons and queens are trained in piety over sensuality, royal mistresses seem an inevitability. Kings had flings and extramarital relationships through much of European history, and in her first book, Herman offers, with relish and dry wit, a delightful overview of their sexual escapades. Her subjects are international, though France dominates and England gets a strong showing. It's a lively account, organized by topic e.g., 'The Fruits of Sin Royal Bastards.' Herman weaves into a larger pattern the tales of recurrent figures, such as Louis XIV's mistress Athnas de Montespan and Madame de Pompadour, who is perhaps more famous than her royal lover, Louis XV. Fashions, love potions and cheerful conversation kept kings enthralled while mistresses made themselves wealthy, husbands acquiesced or simmered, courtiers wooed the mistresses and the public admired or ridiculed. A striking number of these relationships continued despite arguments and even the lack of sex. George II even felt it necessary to keep a mistress for his reputation despite actually loving his wife. Herman ends on a modern note, recounting how Camilla Parker-Bowles famously introduced herself to Prince Charles by noting that her great-grandmother had been his great-great-grandfather's mistress. Herman ends on a serious note, but her wit and perceptiveness will carry readers through this royally pleasurable romp. Agent, Barbara Perlmutter. (July) Forecast: As Janet Maslin has already indicated in the New York Times, this could be the high-brow sexy beach read of the summer. And though a commoner and American-born, Herman dresses regally in her author photo. BOMC main selection." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Herman's spirited history of royal 'mistresshood' is certainly a catchy read....History made as buoyant as fiction." Booklist
"Sexy, dishy and funny." New York Times
Sex with Kings
is an absolutely unputdownable romp through the sex lives of the men who inherited the thrones of Europe over the last 500 years. Herman's fluid and frequently cheeky text delves unabashedly into the affairs of male royalty and their mistresses. And what a fascinating history especially in comparing the mores of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries to the more stringent standards of the twentieth century." Georgie Lewis, Powells.com
(read the entire Powells.com review
About the Author
Eleanor Herman was born in Baltimore, Maryland. She studied journalism and German at Towson State University and languages in Europe. Named after Eleanor of Aquitaine, her grandmother twenty-eight times removed, she is related to most of the royal families of Europe. For eight years she was associate publisher for North America for NATO's Nations and Partners for Peace magazine. An accomplished lecturer and TV and radio commentator on royal issues, Herman is married and lives in McLean, Virginia, where she writes history from a woman's perspective.