A society dame with the shrill voice of a street vendor hides her lover upstairs, then steals up for nocturnal raptures. A gay king who can’t stomach his queen sends his most trusted courtier to impregnate her. A palace congested with vermin and lice harbors lamb chops and cakes tucked deep into the upholstery. A queen fleeing the scourge of revolution relies on a careless hairdresser to get her to safety. What’s not to love about history!
History is what you get in Francine du Plessix Gray’s deeply intelligent novel “The Queen’s Lover.” Not history of the Sofia Coppola variety, mind you, in which Marie Antoinette is a bubblehead, giggling her way through a fog of silliness until her head is removed from the finery. This is History with a capital H, served up with relish. Packed with names, dates and research and bristling with a lively correspondence, du Plessix Gray’s book gives us fiction with a full dose of fact.