The reign of Louis XIV is divided into three periods, dominated by three influences - three stars, three women.
The first is the epoch of half-Spanish, half-French gallantry. It is personified in Mademoiselle de la Valliere. The second period of the reign is symbolized by Madam de Montespan - who exults in being queen, by grace of love. With her opens the military epic, the era of conquest. The tendency is to materialism of the heart, too paganish of sentiment. It is the age of action, of maturity, of strength. Everything yields to the victorious king - citadels and women. The third and last part of the reign is summed up in Madam de Maintenon. Sensual mysticism has replaced the pomp and activity of the old court. The dying century becomes a hermit, glory takes the veil . . . Louis XIV, that king over whom a woman reigns, droops slowly toward his grave. . . Madam de Maintenon is the hand by which the Gallican church sways the old age of Louis XIV. Quietism offends the shrewd, powerful, intriguing woman, who bears, not without dignity, the weight of the crown. That uncrowned queen gives its shape, as they said in those days, to the close of the reign. . . Everything assumes the mast of piety.