She emerged to an uncertain future: an orphan, exile, and focus of political plots and marriage schemes of the crowned heads of Europe. Throughout, she remained stubbornly loyal to France and to the Bourbon dynasty of which she was part. However, the horrors she had witnessed and been a victim to would haunt her for the rest of her life.
Many believe to this day that the traumatized princess was switched with her "half sister" and spirited away to live as "the Dark Countess", leaving the impostor to play her role on the political stage of Europe. Now, 200 years later, using handwriting samples, DNA testing, and a cache of Bourbon family letters, Susan Nagel finally solves this mystery.
Nagel tells a remarkable story of an astonishing woman, from her birth, to her upbringing by doting parents, through to Revolution, imprisonment, exile, Restoration, and, finally, her reincarnation as saint and matriarch.
©2008 Susan Nagel; (P)2008 Books on Tape
Painter, musician, bibliophile...
The life of Marie Thérèse de France, or "Madame Royale," as she would be known, is brought to life in this fascinating biography. Nagel takes us from our heroine's birth as an adored and pampered "Daddy's girl" to her unspeakable experiences during the revolution, then into adult life, her travels in exile, and her marriage to Louis-Antoine, duc d'Angoulême. There is never a dull moment in this well-researched, beautifully written biography of a subject who has too often been forgotten.
For those who have studied the Bourbon monarchy and the revolution, most of what is written up to Chapter 10, "Two Orphans," may be a review. However, it is essential background in such a biography. It will be accessible to those who are new to the subject, although it would be helpful if the audio had a PDF download of the geneaology charts included with the hardcover to help one keep track of the labrynthine royal inter-relationships.
Nagel makes a strong case against the "Dark Countess theory." The Dunkelgräfin as she is known in her German home, was the comtesse des Ténèbres, around whom controversy continues to the present day. It was said she was substituted for Madame Royale, and her unusually secretive and eccentric behavior masked her true identity.
Whatever one might conclude about Madame Royale, one would have to have a heart of stone not to grieve for any person of any station who would have lived through such tumult and terror. For me, Nagel revivified a memorable and heart-breaking character who will stay with me for a very long time.
Also recommended: "The Lost King of France: How DNA Solved the Mystery of the Murdered Son on Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette" by Deborah Cadbury.
author of Lowcountry Legend's series
I know little about the French Revolution being a geeky anglophile, but I certainly did learn a lot from this book since I just came in knowing that the monarchs had lost their heads. I didn't know that they had a child to survive the terror, but they did. Although I found out it very hard to relate to the whole divine right of king's thing, I did see why it had worked at one time and why it failed.
No but that is not to be considered a negative reaction, although I enjoyed listening to it I like to move onto other biographies or nonfiction titles. So many so little time!
For me when her mother had to leave her young children to face her death not knowing what fate awaited her children. As tender and loving a mother as she was that had to be the worst kind of torture.
I think her mother. MA showed herself to be very perceptive in knowing how, with her Austrian background, that many elements in French society including her own husband's family were willing to vilify her to use the enraged and irrational masses to gain popularity. She taught her children to be mindful of others which many parents aristocratic or peasant did not do and yet she and her husband paid for their lives unfortunately living in such a political whirlwind they could not control or defend themselves against.
I believe because of her influence and her father's Marie Therese was able to overcome the terrible experiences of her youth to remain a decent and caring human being and not use it as an excuse to hate when to the reader she almost deserved to after the treatment she witnessed . Inspiring to all of us as to true "Christian" witness which is difficult for any to live up to but few of us experience the horrors she did. By reading it it makes you feel a little ashamed at not trying harder.
It was very good but I knew it was long and wanted to enjoy it over a week or so.
If you like biographies or history it is very good, I am picky about narrators and was afraid at the start she was too stilted ( I am Irish and my accent gets mistaken for a Brit so it wasn't that, and my family lived there) but she was very good and I enjoyed her reading thoroughly. Her french pronunciation of names or quotations was perfect.
European history professor specializing in English history 1870-1939.
An excellent book, and one dealing with the Bourbon side of the political upheavals in France from the 1780s through the rise of Napoleon III. While I was listening to this book, I happened to be teaching a history course on the French Revolution and Napoleonic Era, as well as spending a little time in Paris. The account led me to revisit many locations connected to the 1789 French Revolution and the Terror, and it gave these locations increased signifance. In addition, The narration is very well-done.
As an enthusiastic reader of history, a biography of Marie Therese is an engaging idea-- to find out what happened to the last child of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette during such a tumultuous time in European history? It would be difficult to make such a story uninteresting. Unfortunately, this audiobook struggles with both her historical irrelevancy and lack of personal voice. Upon fleeing France, Marie Therese's life becomes a plodding series of background roles in the shadow of marginally significant male relations.
There are some potentially interesting tidbits of information that other narratives of this era don't cover, mainly details of the royalist and emigre groups scattered across Europe, which are glossed over in favor of listless summaries of Marie Therese's dry marital negotiations.
There is also a rather tedious ongoing recounting of the "Black Countess," some unnamed woman rumored to be the actual Marie Therese who occasionally pops up in the narrative, but whose presence in the book goes nowhere.
I actually listened to this audiobook twice, because I could not remember much after the first listen, and I desperately wanted this story to be engrossing. Ultimately it wasn't. As a historical work, it's difficult to maintain interest in a figure with no agency who is also on the wrong side of history, for whom the most anyone seemed to be able to say about her was that she carried herself well in public . As a biography, it might has been saved by any insight into her responses to the trauma and uncertainty of her life, because surely she had an incredibly rich inner experience, but apparently her letters are not available so the book is primarily a summary of fawning second hand accounts.
There is only a disappointing glimmer of the book that might have been, not all of which is the fault of the author, but also the challenges of available material.
People who like a lot of details about the period and family.
Steady, clear, and appropriate.
Very detailed. If it was a bit shorter, I would have rated this a lot higher. I couldn't even finish it!
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