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Opening from the Les Plaisirs de l'Ile Enchantée

Viscount Fitzwilliam’s love for fine books and all things French is well represented by this volume. It bears the title of the magnificent festivities which Louis XIV (reigned 1643-1715) gave in the gardens of Versailles to 600 guests between 6 and 13 May 1664. Officially organised in honour of the Queen-Mother, Anne of Austria, and Louis’ consort, Marie-Thérèse, they were really dedicated to Louise de la Vallière, the king’s mistress. The parks were re-designed to stage concerts, theatrical performances, ballets, fireworks, spectacles, balls, and exotic banquets, and brought together leading poets, dramatists, musicians, and artists to celebrate the wealth and power of the royal court. Similarly, this volume, of which limited copies were printed under the auspices of the Sun King and presented as diplomatic gifts, pressed the arts into the service of absolute monarchy.