The House of Bourbon is one of the most historically important European royal houses. Bourbon kings first ruled Navarre and France in the sixteenth century and by the eighteenth century members of the dynasty also held thrones in Spain and southern Italy - in fact, the current king of Spain is a Bourbon monarch. This new history of the Bourbons is notable for being both comprehensive yet concise as it charts the rise, fall and rise again of the great French dynasty.
Henry IV, king of Gascony, became king of France after the murder of the last Valois monarch in 1589. The Bourbon rulers who followed, including Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King' and Louis XV reigned during a period when France was the leading military power in Europe and when its arts was dominant. Louis XIV's palace of Versailles epitomised classical French culture and celebrated the power of its creator. France's autocratic government, under which the nobility were largely exempt from taxation, led in the eighteenth century to increasingly severe political and financial strains. The French Revolution of 1789 brought about the fall of the Bourbon monarchy and resulted in the execution of Louis XVI and his wife, Marie-Antoinette. In exile under Napoleon, the Bourbons returned to power for fifteen years after 1815 but never fully re-established their authority. This book tells their fascinating story.
J H Shennan
scintillating history of the Bourbon dynasty in France and elsewhere
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I expected a relatively brief history of the Bourbon kings, ending (almost) with Louis XVI, beheaded in the Revolution. Instead, Sheen writes of the evolution of the relationship between kings and country. What begins as an essentially war lord position, where success and victory lead to a family inheriting ownership of land and people changes with time to be a relationship of obligation of a monarch over an increasing "free" people, who hold themselves as equals in rights to a throne once believed to be consecrated by God. The personalities, strengths and weaknesses of the wearers of the crown impact this progress, speeding or slowing the changes in the making of a modern concept of nation hood. This a not a series of biographies but a well written, clearly stated history of the throne and a continuance of the larger discussion of the purposes of government. Highly recommended.
This is a wonderful but brief history of the Bourbon dynasty. It covers all the most cogent points of each king's reign. It is a easy read and never slow or boring. Anyone interested in French history, can use this book as a jumping off point to explore and understand how the Bourbon dynasty met such an ignominious end.
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