The Lost King of France: The Tragic Story of Marie-Antoinette's Favourite Son Paperback – 1 Aug 2003
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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’See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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'.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
excellent account of most interesting affair in late 18 and early 19 century history .Well researched . A historical detective story which keeps you guessing till the end.Published 9 months ago by cb
An interesting book for those interested in European history and royalty. The subtitle ‘How DNA Solved the Mystery of the Murdered Son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’ makes it... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Nimrod
A great historical story and has become one of my favourite books.Published 15 months ago by Shirley
VERY WELL WRITTEN AND FULL OF FACTS OF THE LIFE OF THE ROYALS IN FRANCE
AT THIS TIME
A superbly researched and masterly written book, I would recommend it to anyone who has even the mildest
interest in history. Read more
When we were taught history at school, we were told that no-one really knew what happened to the Dauphin and that the dead boy in the Temple prison may not have been he but a... Read morePublished on 4 April 2013 by Margaret Pell