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The Lost King of France: The Tragic Story of Marie-Antoinette's Favourite Son Paperback – 1 Aug 2003

4.7 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (1 Aug. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841155896
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841155890
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.6 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 125,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Even casual French history readers will notice a discrepancy in the numbering of their kings--Louis XVI goes to the guillotine in the French Revolution; Louis XVIII returns after the defeat of Napoleon. What happened to Louis XVII? That's the subject of Deborah Cadbury's The Lost King of France. Louis-Charles, heir to Louis XVI, automatically became king, in the eyes of French royalists, when his father was guillotined in 1793. He was, however, an eight-year-old boy and at the mercy of the Revolutionary government. Cadbury's vivid and sympathetic account of his imprisonment and the appallingly abusive treatment he received makes for painful reading.

In 1795 the boy king died, still in prison. Or did he? For decades afterward pretender after pretender to the throne appeared, claiming that he was the real Louis. He had been rescued and a substitute child had died in the hands of the revolutionaries. Some claimants were ludicrous. (One was a mixed-race Native American from New York.) Others were so convincing that their descendants still have supporters today. "Karl Wilhelm Naundorff" persisted with his claim to his deathbed and beyond. His gravestone boldly states that he was the son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.

In the second half of her book, Cadbury turns from the sad narrative of Louis the Seventeenth's apparently short life to the mystery of his claimed survival. Finally her book becomes a scientific detective story as the tools of modern DNA testing are used to pinpoint the identity of the boy who died in prison and to investigate the genetic make-up of Naundorff. As both the story of a tragic and short life and a record of how science solved one of the greatest puzzles in French history, The Lost King of France works brilliantly. --Nick Rennison


‘Outstanding…In providing such a vivid biography of Louis Charles’s life, the author has set a fine standard of scholarship. The action races forward with sumptuously judged pace equal to that of any top rate thriller.’ George Lucas, Financial Times

‘Beautifully structured and sympathetically narrated, Cadbury’s book benefits from having a subject that successfully brings together science, suspense and sentiment. Something for everyone, then.’ Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times

‘This tale reads like a Gothic novel of gloomy castles, dark deeds and false claimants and a cliffhanger ending with science as an added bounus. Gripping from start to finish.’ New Scientist

‘This is history as it should be. It is stunningly written, I could not put it down. This is the best account of the French Revolution I have ever read.’ Alison Weir, author of ‘Henry VIII, King and Court’

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book (like everything by D.C.) is a brilliant piece of writing, wonderfully written and thoroughly researched.
Being very interested in the French Revolution for many years I was intrigued by the title of the book and had to buy it, hoping to find some new facts, but actually was totally captivated by the story and the superb writing.
The first half of the book tells us a tragic and controversial story of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette before the Revolution. The second half is about the French Revolution and what happened to the King's family during this time. The central enquiry of the book is what happened to the child Louis XVII after he was imprisoned in the Temple following the French Revolution. It finishes with the long awaited result of how the young prince died, when through the use of modern genetics a conclusion is reached, which puts to an end two centuries of speculations about the royal line (which are profoundly investigated by the author in this book as well).
The book touched me deeply, often brining tears to my eyes. Though it is a well-research historical work, but it is written in such sympathetic manner that the tragedy and horrors that the little Louise-Charles, Marie Antoinette, Marie-Therese and Louis XVI were subjected to are absolutely heart-breaking. Even when I wasn't reading the book, I couldn't stop thinking about their suffering and terrible destiny.
The book as a whole is an absolute page-turner, which is unusual for this type of a book, but makes it even more worthwhile.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading Antonia Frasers 'Marie Antoinette' and Susan Nagels 'Marie Thérèse' I knew I had to read this book. From the other pieces of literature I had read I knew Louis Charles fate was a pitiful one. But this book brings the harsh reality of what the French Revolution meant to this little boy to life. The book gives a very detailed account of the circumstances surrounding the French Revolution, the events that lead the Royal Family to the Tower and their deaths (excluding Marie Thérèse who was the only prisoner to leave the tower alive) and the hunt for the real Dauphin, which spanned centuries.

It is a fascinating topic, the book is a real page turner. The revolutionaries were mere blood thirsty radicals. The treatment of this innocent little boy beggars belief. To basically entomb someone alive is what happened to Louis Charles, after he was abused, I'll treated and plied with alcohol in order to give damning evidence to secure his mother and aunts rendezvous with the guillotine.

The book was a wonderful read, very very sad and the use of todays technology settled the dispute of the centuries as to wether the little boy who died in the tower was actually the Dauphin. With speculation as to wether Louis Charles had escaped from the tower meant there were always going to be imposters ready to pretend to be him in order to enhance their own lives. Deboragh Cadbury takes the more plausible imposters in turn to record their claim to the title of Louis VXII. When the little boy in the tower died the autopsy that was undertaken by the doctor ended up with the extraction of the boys heart. The heart itself had a very eventful journey through time and finally in his century answered the question to 'who was the little boy who died in the tower'.
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Format: Hardcover
Deborah Cadbury's book simply cannot receive enough praise. It is easily one of the best books I have ever read, and I have been an avid reader since childhood - devouring Massie's biography of Nicholas II at the age of nine.
This book is totally compelling and I had it finished in just over one day. The sympathetic appraisal of the royal family's standing and the authors ability to add a humanising touch to all the historical personalities mentioned is breathtaking. What is particularly pleasing is the way in which "lesser" women of the royal family have their stories told as well - particularly Louis XVII's aunt, Elisabeth, and his sister, Marie Thèrèse.
The author cleverly links the life and legend of Louis XVII from his childhood at Versailles to the 21st-century tests to ascertain the truth of his death. Cadbury's finest narration comes from her harrowing descriptions of the royal family's imprisonment after the revolution and of the heartbreaking abuse inflicted upon Marie-Antoinette's son, Louis-Charles, better known to history as Louis XVII.
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Format: Hardcover
This book provides the reader with a well-told and well-researched story of the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the French Revolution and the use of DNA to solve a 200-year mystery. I found it to be a moving account and a well told piece of history which was very enjoyable to read, so much so that I couldn't wait to get to the end of the book to find out did the DNA prove or disprove the story in the book of the tragic end of a little boy caught up in the Terror.

The author's use of first-hand accounts throughout the book forcibly reminds us that the Terror was known as such for a reason. When citizens marched on the Tuileries:

"As people fled from the palace, anyone who had defended the king - or was even dressed like a noble - was mercilessly hunted down. One woman reported glimpsing through the blinds of a house 'three sans-culottes holding a tall handsome man by the collar'. When they had 'finished him off with the butt of a rifle', at least 'fifteen women, one after the other, climbed up on this victim's cadaver, whose entrails were emerging from all sides, saying they took pleasure in trampling the aristocracy under their feet'. During the day, over nine hundred guards and three hundred citizens became victims of the hysterical slaughter."

And again when describing what happened to Princesse de Lamballe:

"Dragged from her cell and hauled before a kangaroo court, when she refused to swear an oath against the queen she had been sentenced to death. There are differing accounts of her horrendous murder. According to some, she was raped before she was hacked to death, and then mutilated, with her genitalia and heart cut out and mounted on pikes. In other versions she was - mercifully - knocked unconscious before her death.
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