Monday 22 April 2024

Book Review - The Bastard Prince of Versailles: A Novel Inspired by True Events by Will Bashor


The Bastard Prince of Versailles: A Novel Inspired by True Events
By Will Bashor

Publication Date: August 18, 2023
Publisher: Will Bashor
Page Length: 338 Pages
Genre: Historical LGBTQ Fiction / Historical Fiction

A historical novel inspired by real events, The Bastard Prince of Versailles, narrates the escapades of a misborn "prince" during the reign of Louis XIV in seventeenth-century France. Louis de Bourbon wasn't a real prince-even though his father was King Louis XIV. 

The illegitimate son of the King and his mistress, Louise de La Vallière, young Louis has been kept far from the court's eyes until summoned to bid adieu to his mother. To atone for her adultery, she joins a convent, abandoning Louis to an uncertain future. 

When Louis is humiliated by his father for his role in a secret gay society, he struggles to redeem himself through heroism and self-sacrifice in the king's army on the battlefield.

Count Louis of Vermandois and Admiral of France's scandalous life is vividly portrayed in Will Bashor's book, The Bastard of Versailles (The King's Secret Children Book). 

With one eye on the historical controversy of this era and the other on what makes an enthralling read, Bashor has presented his readers with an unashamedly impressive novel. Add to this the historical detail and the author’s skill in developing compelling characters ensures the reader stays engaged throughout. The author's mastery of word-building, impeccable prose, and compelling storytelling illuminated the essence of this era and exposed the shadows lurking within The Palace of Versailles.

The Palace of Versailles may well be glorious to behold, but there are cracks in the plaster, a metaphor for the duplicity and vulgarity of those who tried to bask in the warmth of the Sun King. While the sovereign watched closely, the nobility may have appeared to lose their ability to plot against him, but that didn't prevent them from plotting against one another. This nest, filled with vipers, is a dangerous place for a young naive child. The dangers in court are ever-present and very real. It does not take long before the young Louis finds himself tangled in a web of deceit. At times this novel is harrowing in its depiction of Louis, for he is preyed upon by sexual predators, be they both female and male, and sometimes with the consent of the king himself. Although considered a man in this era, as the author points out in the notes at the end of the book, Louis is ill-equipped to defend himself against these powerful and somewhat influential men.

Louis lives in the shadow of his brother, the Dauphin. His mother, Louise de La Vallière, is seemingly indifferent to both himself and his sister, choosing a life devoted to God rather than her children, while his father is something of an enigma to the young boy. Louis wants what all children want, love. But as the recognised but illegitimate son of a king, Louis also just wants to be seen in a favourable light. His downfall is marked by his innocence, for there are those who are entertained by the notion of destroying this young boy’s character. Louis was a character that was very difficult not to like. He is a young boy with a future ahead of him, and so it is especially tragic that he is put into a position where he is unable to defend himself. When he tells his father what has been happening to him, instead of compassion he is met with hostility, shame and brutality. And yet, through it all, his one thought is to make his father proud, which was incredibly moving. Louis struggles greatly with who he is and what he has seen. 

Although homosexuality (Italian Vice as it was known during this era) was illegal and many men found themself burnt at the stake, Louis is continuously exposed to it. His uncle, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans and his uncle’s lover the Chevalier de Lorraine are hugely influential and are seemingly untouchable. The depiction of Chevalier de Lorraine made my skin crawl, he is not only a morally dubious character, but he is also a vile and cruel man who exploits Louis' vulnerability, and although he is exiled when his seduction of the boy is exposed, he still manages to worm his way back into court. I thought the depiction of Chevalier de Lorraine was wonderfully drawn, he really is the villain in this tale.

Louis does struggle with his sexuality throughout this story, and this is probably why he is so easily preyed upon. Marcel Joubert is at first Louis' whipping boy, but as the story progresses they become fast friends, and Louis always keeps Marcel close. Although Marcel is a fictional character, I thought he was a character that helped to bring balance to the young Louis’ life. Their growing love for each other is built on a foundation of respect and friendship and he is the only true friend that Louis ever has.

Madame Elizabeth Charlotte, Duchess of Orléans is a character worthy of note as she brought a great deal of joy and amusement to this story. She is a very loving woman with an attitude of getting on with it, despite what life has thrown at her. She is married to the king’s brother, and they seem to rub along together, even though he prefers the company of men. She is a kind and thoughtful woman who always has Louis’ best interest at heart. I thought Elizabeth’s depiction was fabulous drawn and she was a character I really enjoyed reading about.

The author has included illustrations, including paintings from the time and maps throughout this novel. This idea was truly ingenious as it breathed life into the characters. The incorporation of these images, although uncommon in historical fiction, certainly added depth to the story.

The Bastard of Versailles (The King's Secret Children Book) by Will Bashor is a highly recommended read for several reasons. This tale introduces a diverse and unforgettable ensemble, exploring the shadowy aspects of The Sun King's leadership while chronicling the challenges faced by a determined young boy. It is a novel that will haunt you long after you have turned the last page.

Pick up your copy of
The Bastard Prince of Versailles 

Will Bashor

From Columbus, Ohio, Will earned his Ph.D. from the American Graduate School of Paris. In his spare time, he reads memoirs and researches the lives of royals and their courtiers. He hopes to share his fascination with the Bourbon dynasty and its quirky inhabitants and, at the same time, weave the historical record with creative fiction. He has written articles for the Huffington Post, Age of Revolutions, BBC History Magazine, and Carine Roitfeld’s CR Fashion Book.

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  1. Congratulations, Will, what a wonderful review.

    1. The Bastard Prince of Versailles is a fabulous book, I really recommend it.

  2. Congratulations, Will. If I may ask, what made you decide to write about this era of history?

  3. Replies
    1. It is easy to write a lovely review when the book is as good as The Bastard Prince of Versailles.


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