?Gripping?providing new insights into a misunderstood and tragic figure.”?Washington Times After the execution of L ouis XVI and Marie Antoinette, their young daughter, Marie-Thérèse, remained imprisoned. Released on her seventeenth birthday, she faced an uncertain future. Rumor spread that the traumatized princess had switched places with an illegitimate half sister, to live out her days as the mysterious ?Dark Countess.” Now, two hundred years later, Susan Nagel finally solves this mystery, creating a brilliant new biography of a remarkable woman who both defined and shaped an era.
Susan Nagel is the author of Mistress of the Elgin Marbles and a critically acclaimed book on the novels of Jean Giraudoux. She has written for the stage, screen, and scholarly journals. She is a professor of humanities at Marymount Manhattan College and lives in New York City.
In December 1795, at midnight on her seventeenth birthday, Marie-Thérèse, the only surviving child of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, escaped from Paris’s notorious Temple Prison. To this day many believe that the real Marie-Thérèse, traumatized following her family’s brutal execution during the Reign of Terror, switched identities with an illegitimate half sister who was often mistaken for her twin. Was the real Marie-Thérèse spirited away to a remote castle to live her life as the woman called ?the Dark Countess,” while an imposter played her role on the political stage of Europe?
Two hundred years later, using handwriting samples, DNA testing, and an undiscovered cache of Bourbon family letters, Nagel finally solves this mystery. She tells the remarkable story in full and draws a vivid portrait of an astonishing woman who both defined and shaped an era. Marie-Thérèse’s deliberate choice of husbands determined the map of nineteenth-century Europe. Even Napoleon was in awe and called her ?the only man in the family.” Nagel’s gripping narrative captures the events of her fascinating life from her very public birth in front of the rowdy crowds and her precocious childhood to her hideous time in prison and her later reincarnation in the public eye as a saint, and, above all, her fierce loyalty to France throughout.
?Capture[s] the peculiar humanity of her subject as she evolved from princess to prisoner to decorous matron.”?The New York Times Book Review
?Gripping . . . providing new insights into a misunderstood and tragic figure and showing us the real human buffeted by all those historical crosscurrents.”?Martin Rubin, The Washington Times
?Masterly and compelling . . . a triumph.”?Tina Brown, author of The Diana Chronicles
?Taking one of those fascinating lives that have remained too long untold, Susan Nagel''s Marie-Therese is a well-researched, entertaining and often poignant biography that recreates royalty, terror, tragedy, revolution, and restoration with verve and vividness.”?Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Young Stalin and Stalin: The Court of the Red Star
?If there is a more fascinating or unbelievable life than the one led by Marie-Therese-Charlotte, Marie Antoinette''s sole surviving child, I certainly am not familiar with it. In this lively, gripping new biography, Susan Nagel recounts Marie-Therese-Charlotte''s roller-coaster itinerary from a revolutionary prison, where she spent three years of her girlhood, to the throne of Restoration France, where she reigned for a mere twenty minutes. Royal orphan and republican bete noire, the subject of fervent monarchist adoration and the object obsessive conspiracy theories, this princess emerges in Nagel''s telling as one of the nineteenth century''s most captivating heroines. A must-read for lovers of French history and royal biography alike.”?Caroline Weber, author of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
?This highly detailed, exhaustively researched, often riveting account will appeal especially to all those readers who’ve immersed themselves in the many recent books about Marie Antoinette.”?Booklist (starred review)
?This is a fascinating, readable, and engrossing book that should interest general readers and scholars alike. Nagel, known for her work in unraveling historical mysteries, tells the story of Marie-Antoinette''s only surviving child. The first major biography of Marie-Therese, it details her very public birth, the horrific suffering she endured in prison during the revolution, and the personal and political roles she assumed following her release in 1795. Here the story of ?Madame Royale’ morphs into a mysterious one, because since the 19th century rumors have abounded of an identity swap that enabled the princess to live obscurely as a reclusive ?Dark Countess’ in a remote German castle. Nagel attempts to solve this intriguing puzzle, using archival sources, family letters, handwriting analysis, and the latest scientific tools with DNA evidence to piece together the true fate of a woman whom she sympathetically presents as a loyal daughter of France and an honorable symbol and representative of the Bourbon line. The skillful use of maps, chronological and genealogical charts, and historical narrative provides context for readers.”?Marie Marmo Mullaney, Library Journal (starred review)
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