Histoire du Roi Gonzalve et des douze princesses (The Story of King Gonzalve and the Twelve Princesses) is the ultimate transgressive incest fantasy. The unfinished manuscript of Roi Gonzalve was among the manuscripts sold by Pierre Louÿs’ widow to the bookseller Edmond Bernard, and later resold to private collectors and clandestine publishers. It was first published anonymously ‘in Madrid’ (though actually Paris) in 1927, ‘aux dépens d’un dilettante’ (‘at the expense of a dilettante’). Its origins, however, date from a period around 1900, when Les aventures du Roi Pausole was published; it would appear that Roi Gonzalve is Louÿs’ much riskier and ‘forbidden’ version of the more acceptable Roi Pausole.
The plot revolves around a king with incestuous desires towards his twelve daughters, each with a name based on the Latin ordinal numbers (Prima, Secunda … ). When Gonzalve hears from the Royal Confessor that the princesses live in constant sinful thoughts, he gives his wife permission to take a pilgrimage, the better to put into practice his criminal intentions. He then summons his daughters, one a night, in order to defile them, only to be surprised by the level of experience they already possess, having been under the tutelage of Lady Chloris, one of the most libertine women in the court. King Gonzalve, the great debaucher, ends up being catechised by his daughters he so much wanted to deflower.
Kris de Roover’s twelve illustrations for this edition of Roi Gonzalve are bold, colourful, and explicit without being overly voyeuristic. The monarch and his daughters are clearly enjoying themselves.
French, Dutch and Spanish editions of the de Roover-illustrated Gonzalve were produced, but sadly no English-language version. An English translation of Roi Gonzalve has yet to be made.