Book Title: The Bastard Prince of Versailles: A Novel Inspired by True Events
Author: Will Bashor
Publisher: Diderot Press
Cover Artist: Will Bashor
Release Date: September 6, 2023
Genre: Historical gay fiction
Tropes: Forbidden love, friends to lovers, coming of age
Themes: Love, war, redemption
Heat Rating: 2 flames
Length: 95 000 words/ 330 pages
It is a standalone book and does not end on a cliffhanger.
Château of Versailles, October 1682
The gathering of nobles and courtiers in the marble-tiled courtyard gasped when fifteen-year-old Count Louis of Vermandois collapsed after the final blow of the whip, his body dangling from the ladder’s frame. King Louis XIV, his expression grim, raised his hand to end the spectacle and motioned for his son’s lifeless body to be carried away.
Hours later, in a dungeon cell reeking of rat urine and pipe smoke, Count Louis woke up on a cot with vermin-infested straw prickling his bare stomach. Despite the sounds of vicious dogs growling and drunken jailers cursing in the corridors, his mind wandered back to his idyllic youth, trying to understand how he ever ended up in a dank, dark prison cell.
CHAPTER ONE: The Dance of Faeries
Château of Sceaux, January 1674
In a peaceful country château, far from the constant intrigue of infidelity and adultery that tarnished the Palace of Versailles, lived a young prince who, despite all that he’d ever been told, was not a true prince. Even though his father, King Louis XIV, had named him Louis de Bourbon and ennobled him under the titles of Count of Vermandois and Admiral of France, he was still not a true prince. Not yet.
From his chambers on the second floor, seven-year-old Louis gazed out of one of his two large windows encased with leaded panes and carved wood, overlooking an imposing courtyard. The enchanted château and its seven pavilions were linked by ornate galleries with gardens, a basin showered with waterfalls, and a grand canal flanked with trellises of greenery. The view always offered Louis a sense of harmony and serenity.
But today was different. His foxlike, deep brown chestnut eyes were wider than usual as he waited anxiously at the window for the first of the royal coaches to appear. His mother, Duchess de La Vallière, and the king rarely visited but were expected to pay a visit to Sceaux on this twenty-eighth day of January. Even though the king had legitimized him and his sister, Mademoiselle Marie-Anne de Blois, at an early age, recognizing them as his natural children, Louis never understood why they didn’t live at Versailles. Still, he dreamt of one day living at the fairy-tale palace and maybe even inheriting the crown. What he was too young to understand, however, was that a decree of legitimization only ensured him a certain number of limited rights.
Louis’ foster family, the Colberts, also chose this visit for a special event—his breeching. Like most princes before the age of seven, Louis had grown up in the company of women, and as such, court tradition required him to wear a girl’s gown. Until today. Today, the valets in his chambers were meticulously laying out his crisply pressed chemise with ruffles, embroidered breeches, and silk stockings in preparation for his rite de passage.
When Madame Colbert entered Louis’ room to check on their progress, Louis, after wiping the foggy window with his sleeve, looked up at her with an innocent smile. He knew there was something in his brown eyes that could melt any woman’s heart. He’d often admired himself in the mirror and his eyes offered him a sense of solitude. Or was it loneliness? With his parents living at Versailles, and the beautiful and graceful eight-year-old Marie-Anne caring little for her younger brother at Sceaux, he often felt quite alone.
Madame Colbert ran her fingers through Louis’ hair. In the window’s reflection, he noticed how his hair spilled down his neck like ink on a tilted piece of parchment. The subtle rays of light reflected an indigo blue on his curly locks, contrasting with the moonbeam paleness of his face. He remembered courtiers who’d visited Sceaux and found themselves speechless when searching for words to describe him, often deferring to “pretty” or “lovely.”
“Stop wriggling, Count Louis,” said Madame Colbert. “Remember, you have royal blood running through your veins.”
Still, he thought, Madame Colbert never really treated him any differently than her other three sons. Her youngest, the impetuous Jules-Armand, was only four years older than Louis and, unlike his older brothers, still lived at Sceaux. Jules-Armand often invited Louis to play with him and his friends, but Louis had nothing in common with Jules-Armand. Instead, he preferred playing on his own in his chambers, shying away from the rough-and-tumble diversions in the courtyard. Because Jules-Armand’s bedroom was just across the hallway from his, he could sneak into Louis’ bedroom at night to play games. Or at least Louis thought they were games.
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