• In the Shadow of the Empress

  • The Defiant Lives of Maria Theresa, Mother of Marie Antoinette, and Her Daughters
  • By: Nancy Goldstone
  • Narrated by: Emma Newman
  • Length: 23 hrs and 8 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (81 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The vibrant, sprawling saga of Empress Maria Theresa - one of the most renowned women rulers in history - and three of her extraordinary daughters, including Marie Antoinette, the doomed queen of France.

Out of the thrilling and tempestuous 18th century comes the sweeping family saga of beautiful Maria Theresa, a sovereign of uncommon strength and vision, the only woman ever to inherit and rule the vast Habsburg Empire in her own name, and three of her remarkable daughters: lovely, talented Maria Christina, governor-general of the Austrian Netherlands; spirited Maria Carolina, the resolute queen of Naples; and the youngest, Marie Antoinette, the glamorous, tragic queen of France, and perhaps the most famous princess in history.

Unfolding against an irresistible backdrop of brilliant courts from Vienna to Versailles, embracing the exotic lure of Naples and Sicily, this epic history of Maria Theresa and her daughters is a tour de force of desire, adventure, ambition, treachery, sorrow, and glory.

Each of these women’s lives was packed with passion and heart-stopping suspense. Maria Theresa inherited her father’s thrones at the age of 23 and was immediately attacked on all sides by foreign powers confident that a woman would to be too weak to defend herself. Maria Christina, a gifted artist who alone among her sisters succeeded in marrying for love, would face the same dangers that destroyed the monarchy in France. Resourceful Maria Carolina would usher in the golden age of Naples only to face the deadly whirlwind of Napoleon. And, finally, Marie Antoinette, the doomed queen whose stylish excesses and captivating notoriety have masked the truth about her husband and herself for 250 years.

Vividly written and deeply researched, In the Shadow of the Empress is the riveting story of four exceptional women who changed the course of history. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2021 Nancy Goldstone (P)2021 Little, Brown & Company

Critic Reviews

"Rich storytelling… humane and balanced portraits… In the Shadow of the Empress is elegantly written, in a brisk style that plays to Ms. Goldstone’s strengths in portraiture and the theatrical set-piece. The author deftly interweaves the ups and downs of Maria Theresa’s running contest with Frederick with the vicissitudes of her life as Europe’s most prolific procreator.”—A. Wess Mitchell, Wall Street Journal

"A vivid exploration of four female royals who altered the course of history.”—People 

"Entertaining and thoroughly researched… you’ll get a new perspective on these women who changed the course of history.”—Nina Garin, San Diego Union Tribune 

What listeners say about In the Shadow of the Empress

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Awful narration!

Quite possibly the worst narration I’ve ever heard in my life. I turned it off and walked 5 miles in silence because I couldn’t stand another word. Gladstone is a brilliant and slyly hilarious historian, but Newman reads this like a fairytale to an audience of infants. Mawkish, sing-song, melodramatic. Hy.Per.E.Nun.Cee.Ate.Ed.

So disappointed, but happily switching to the print version.

6 people found this helpful

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Great Book, Awful Narration

A fine book, but I cannot recommend this narration. Emma Newman's weak speech and incoherent dramatics--her tendency to place too much emphasis on one part of a sentence only to find herself pausing and trailing weakly with the rest of it--makes this elegantly-crafted book sounded stilted at best and unintelligible at worst. Goldman's narrative style is exquisite, but I never got a chance to really focus on it, since I was too busy trying to mentally reassemble all of the sentences that Newman mangled. On top of that, her unnecessary vocal acrobatics--leaping between shrill high tones and low vocal fry from one syllable to the next--became grating almost immediately.

3 people found this helpful

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WOW! Enchanting…

Seldom do I read a book of any length over 10 hours without taking a rest from it or wishing it were nearly finished. This wonderful, detailed, and complex history over 23 hours kept me enthralled and hoping it would never end. This result is due to Ms. Goldstone’s careful and thoughtful writing style (& research) and, equally, to the precise and even comforting narration by Emma Newman. The melodious and perfectly understandable reading made me look up Ms. Newman’s other narration work (and writing) to continue hearing her voice.

This is indeed a complex work which I can recommend heartily to anyone interested in the Hapsburgs or 18th century history. Thoroughly enjoyable and worth your time and investment!

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interesting

Skips around a bit, but does it well with keeping the multiple threads of the history in concurrent time with each other.

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Such a sad story

Renewed respect for MT who survived as best she could in very difficult times.

An aside note: Austrian pastries were spread throughout Europe as the chefs traveled with the girls to their new homes

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Terrible, terrible narration

Fantastic story, very well written, kind of book you can’t put away. Unfortunately, the performance is terrible. The narrator makes all sorts of ridiculous affectations and intonations and the nasal quality it attributes to many characters it’s also very unpleasant.

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Well done

Enjoyed it tremendously. Story was historically accurate . Will read more from the author. Narrator was good.

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Fascinating and Amusing Biography

I really enjoy Nancy Goldstone’s biographies. She does an excellent job with her research while writing in an amusing, almost snarky manner. I laughed out loud at some of the snide asides placed in the footnotes.

I’ve always been fascinated by Maria Theresa of Austria so this biography immediately caught my eye. It was a bonus that it included three of her daughters: Maria Christina, Maria Carolina, and Maria Antoinetta (Marie Antoinette). I enjoyed some of the back stories on incidental characters throughout the book particularly Maria Theresa’s nemesis Frederick the Great. What a piece of work he was! There was an excellent and great use of letters and accounts that added a lot to the story of these women’s lives. I was a bit annoyed in one section where several unnamed British women were quoted frequently without any mention of their names. It was just weird to be quoting them, repeatedly, without discussing who they were. It was a strange way to approach it. Other than that, I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it!

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The remarkable story of Mary Terese

Truly inspire story of leadership and character .
I read some strongly worded criticism of Emma Newman reading which I founded unwarranted and unfair.

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Learned a lot and loved the scandall!!!

This was one of the most interesting biographies I have read! The author uses her literary skills to show the reader how maria therese influenced Europe and changed the world. The author was unbiased and addresses the negative side of her subject. I walked away with a greater knowledge of the haspburgs and would recommend this book to all.