Marie-Therese was only a child when her parents, King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette of France, were beheaded during the French Revolution. After a childhood of privilege, she faced great deprivation as a teenager and endured constant struggle through the rest of her life, yet somehow managed to remain dedicated to France and her people. Marie-Therese was an inspirational woman and Susan Nagel has done well on writing her first biography. I have always wondered exactly what happened to Marie Antoinette’s children. So often, history focuses on her and her husband, ignoring that one of the children survived and went on to live a mostly healthy life.
Contrasted with Marie-Therese’s story, there are short snippets about another woman, “The Dark Countess”, whose story has convinced many that she was the real Marie-Therese. There was another girl very similar in appearance to Marie-Therese, but who died at a much younger age, so the identity of this woman has never been discovered. This story was relevant, but I was glad that it only had a small place in the book, as I thought the real Marie-Therese deserved her own story.
This book is horrifying to read at times, particularly when the royal family is imprisoned and treated disgracefully. As a historian, Nagel can tease out all the details and we can learn how unjust their treatment was. The entire family lived less extravagantly than their forebears and essentially fell prey to the ambition of their cousin, who made the most of a bad situation. The royal family remained loyal to France despite their despicable treatment as prisoners.
Nagel’s writing is always fluid and easy to read. At times, I did get bogged down in the vast number of people that I was supposed to be remembering, especially regarding the Dark Countess. I think that if I knew a bit more about post-Revolution France, or even if I spoke French, I would have had an easier time of it.
Regardless, I enjoyed this a lot and I felt I learned a great deal about one of those parts of history that isn’t normally focused on. Marie-Therese was an interesting person who led a fascinating life, even in its extremely unhappy parts. As the only royal to survive, she had a great legacy on her shoulders and she bore it well. I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in history. Buy this book on Amazon.
Thanks to Marcia at The Printed Page for generously sending this book to me!
Or, would you like to win a copy? I have an ARC of this book that I will be happy to give away to one winner. The rules are easy:
- Leave a comment on this post telling me about your favorite part of history. That will earn you one entry. You must leave a comment or I won’t know that you’ve entered.
- For another entry, blog about this contest and link back to me!
- Comment by Wednesday, August 20th, at 11:59 pm EST. I’ll draw a winner on Thursday, August 21st.