What interested me in Louise de la Vallière

A reader wrote:

“I enjoyed the book very much–you did the near impossible–you brought Louise Vallière to life and made her a comprehensible and touching character to modern eyes.

“Usually in most histories on Louis XIV, she is presented as crying ninny who goes off to a convent when Louis moves into Versailles, but you actually made her life interesting.”

For me it was the contrast of the conventional portrait of Louise as—as the reader says—a “crying ninny” and wall-flower, together with the accounts of her amazing ability on horseback and as a hunter that provoked my curiosity.

“What’s wrong with this picture?” I thought.

And thus began my consuming interest in her.

Louise captured my interest because of her horsemanship, and the romance of her relationship to the Sun King. She was unsophisticated, a tomboy, from the lower nobility—an unlikely young woman to capture the heart of a powerful and charismatic man like the Sun King (the rock star of kings).

How did this come about?

Most of all, I wondered how a young woman at that time would acquire such a high level of skill riding horses. Today she would be considered at an Olympic level of accomplishment.

There were so many unanswered questions. She is described as timid, something of a wall flower; yet how did does jive with her prowess on horseback? She was a daring horsewoman, a mistress to the Sun King, a Carmelite nun. The combination of these qualities intrigued me.