Forget the beautiful, smiling, pleasure seeking queen forever dancing at some glittering, magnificent ball.
Meet the other Marie Antoinette in this novel – the harrowing account of Marie Antoinette’s imprisonment – based on the memoirs of those who witnessed Marie Antoinette’s ordeal. Discover the agonies which tested the queen to the limit, and revealed the courage at the heart of this once thoughtless woman.
Meet the diehard revolutionaries dazzled by this once beautiful queen and share their daring plans to rescue her.
Please join me in welcoming Margaret Anne MacLeod to The Book’s the Thing today. Read her post below, then be sure to stop by her website to watch a video about the book or to purchase a copy.
If you’d like a chance to win a copy – please leave the author a comment below. I will choose one commenter at random on 2/22/19.
“I begged Chaumette to let me rejoin my mother.”
My novel, Marie Antoinette: the Courageous End relates the last year of Marie Antoinette’s turbulent life, after her palace was stormed by the Parisians in August 1792. The Parisians had stormed the palace because they had finally decided that the awesome Austrian and Prussian armies marching on France, threatening to turn back the clock, destroy the newly won rights of the people, and restore an absolute monarchy – had been secretly invited into their country by the king. Despite the king’s repeated protestations to the contrary, the revolutionaries were right.
Marie Antoinette and her husband had gambled all on the hope that the hated German armies would arrive in Paris before the revolutionaries organised themselves into an effective opposition, but it was a gamble that failed. The triumphant revolutionaries imprisoned Marie Antoinette, her husband Louis XVI, and her son and daughter. Then they set about organising a last minute and desperate defence of their country.
Marie Therese, Marie Antoinette’s daughter, was eventually the sole survivor of the family’s harsh imprisonment. She was a quiet, sensitive young girl, who had endured many traumas during the three years of Revolution and was to endure many more once her father was deposed and imprisoned.
For example, after the trial of Louis XVI, Marie Therese accompanied the rest of the family for the last agonising meeting with her adored father, before he was guillotined, during which the cries of the family “were so loud and piercing that they could be heard outside the walls of the prison”. Afterwards, she fainted clean away and had to be carried back to her room. As for Marie Antoinette, after years of torment, her health began to decline after the death of her husband, and the fourteen year old Marie Therese, anxious about her mother, now slept in the same room as her mother. She could keep an eye on both her mother and her young brother, because the fearful Marie Antoinette kept her darling, sickly little eight year old boy beside her.
But that situation did not last long. The revolutionaries were informed that there was a royalist plot to rescue Marie Antoinette and her son – now a boy king – from the prison. They decided to act. They arrived at Marie Antoinette’s room and declared that they had orders to lock up the child in a separate room. Marie Antoinette: “was initially rooted to the spot when she heard this cruel directive, then she roused herself, circling her son’s bed, defending it from the guards as they swore and threatened her and her children.”
After an hour of this torment, Marie Antoinette, exhausted by her struggle, had to concede defeat. She did not have the strength to dress the child – his sobbing sister had to do so. However, once the child was dressed, the shivering Marie Antoinette took her little boy into her arms, well aware that it would be for the last time, before handing him over to the guards, asking them to take care of her precious boy.
Only weeks later, the guards returned during the night (the revolutionaries never seemed to sleep) and hustled Marie Antoinette off to another prison. She would never see either of her children again. However, only ten days later, a brave guard, Michonis, distressed that Marie Antoinette did not have a change of linen, and touched by her constant pleas to bring some linen from her first prison, risked his life to go back to the Temple Tower Prison, knowing that the guillotine was only a whisker away. Marie Antoinette seized this opportunity to write a poignant last note to her daughter, in an attempt to reassure her:
I am writing to you, my dear child, to tell you that I am well. I love you both with all my heart.
Marie Therese, however, knew that her mother was not at all well. She was – unsurprisingly – suffering desperately at being away from her children for the first time in her life. Marie Therese knew this because some kindly guards occasionally gave Marie Therese news about her mother. The princess knew that her mother had been moved to the dampest, foulest dungeon in the prison. She also knew that the queen was observed at all times by guards, stationed all day and all night in her cell. Fortunately, Marie Antoinette’s new warden, Madame Richard, was a warm-hearted woman and, although terrified of a quick trip to the guillotine if she irritated Fouquier-Tinville, the public prosecutor, had a screen moved into the queen’s cell to protect her from the gaze of the guards when she had to answer the call of nature. Afterwards, the queen would have juniper berries burnt in the cell, to clear the air.
Marie Therese, Marie Antoinette’s daughter, was distraught at being separated from her mother. For years after her mother was removed from her, Marie Therese pleaded with the officials:
“I begged Chaumette [another public prosecutor, on his frequent inspection visits to her room in the Temple Tower], to let me rejoin my mother. ‘That is not my decision,’ he answered.”
For two and a half years the teenager begged to be transferred to the same prison as her mother – unaware that her mother had been guillotined long before. She did not find this out until shortly before she was finally freed from her solitary imprisonment, on her seventeenth birthday. On that day, she was also informed that her little brother, after a harrowing captivity, during which he had been beaten and had been threatened with an agonising trip to the guillotine, was finally freed from his daily agony by his merciful death.
Unsurprisingly, Marie Therese, Marie Antoinette’s much-loved daughter, never recovered from her cruel imprisonment. She always seemed to have a sadness about her, for the rest of her long, joyless life.
Margaret Anne MacLeod