The Hurlyburly’s Husband

Written by Jean Teulé
Review by Jane E. Hill

The Marquis de Montespan and his new wife Athenais are a truly devoted love match, which is a rare thing amongst the nobility of 17th-century France. They never cease to display their fervent desires for each other even whilst riding in their coach or in front of courtiers or their own household.

Madame de Montespan, a beautiful and sexually desirable woman who enjoys attending parties and balls, soon becomes the talk of Paris and attracts the attention of Louis XIV, the Sun King.  The Marquis and his wife build up large debts, but luckily for the Marquise she is offered the opportunity to change their fortunes by becoming lady-in-waiting to the Queen. It is no surprise to anyone, except perhaps the Marquis, that his ravishing wife catches the attention of King Louis.

Congratulated by everyone on his new status of cuckold by royal appointment, the Marquis is broken‑hearted, determined to seek revenge on the monarch and win back his adored wife. He visits brothels with the intention of acquiring a venereal disease and raping his own wife, who would of course pass on ‘the clap’ to the King. He also makes an attempt to make love to the Queen and so cuckold the King.

It may be a surprise to many readers that in the 17th century the court at Versailles was not seriously affected already by venereal disease, but be that as it may, the picture of life at court and amongst Paris ‘society’ makes interesting and colourful reading. The book is certainly a page-turner.