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The Lost King of France: How DNA Solved the Mystery of the Murdered Son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

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In 1793, when Marie-Antoinette was beheaded at the guillotine, she left her adored eight-year-old son imprisoned in the Temple Tower. Far from inheriting the throne, the orphaned boy-king had to endure the hostility and abuse of a nation. Two years later, the revolutionary leaders declared the young Louis XVII dead, prompting rumors of murder. No grave was dug, no monument In 1793, when Marie-Antoinette was beheaded at the guillotine, she left her adored eight-year-old son imprisoned in the Temple Tower. Far from inheriting the throne, the orphaned boy-king had to endure the hostility and abuse of a nation. Two years later, the revolutionary leaders declared the young Louis XVII dead, prompting rumors of murder. No grave was dug, no monument built to mark his passing. Soon thereafter, the theory circulated that the prince had in fact escaped from prison and was still alive. Others believed that he had been killed, his heart preserved as a relic. The quest for the truth continued into the twenty-first century when, thanks to DNA testing, a stolen heart found within the royal tombs brought an exciting conclusion to the two-hundred-year-old mystery. A fascinating blend of royalist plots, palace intrigue, and modern science, The Lost King of France is a moving and dramatic tale that interweaves a pivotal moment in France's history with a compelling detective story.


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In 1793, when Marie-Antoinette was beheaded at the guillotine, she left her adored eight-year-old son imprisoned in the Temple Tower. Far from inheriting the throne, the orphaned boy-king had to endure the hostility and abuse of a nation. Two years later, the revolutionary leaders declared the young Louis XVII dead, prompting rumors of murder. No grave was dug, no monument In 1793, when Marie-Antoinette was beheaded at the guillotine, she left her adored eight-year-old son imprisoned in the Temple Tower. Far from inheriting the throne, the orphaned boy-king had to endure the hostility and abuse of a nation. Two years later, the revolutionary leaders declared the young Louis XVII dead, prompting rumors of murder. No grave was dug, no monument built to mark his passing. Soon thereafter, the theory circulated that the prince had in fact escaped from prison and was still alive. Others believed that he had been killed, his heart preserved as a relic. The quest for the truth continued into the twenty-first century when, thanks to DNA testing, a stolen heart found within the royal tombs brought an exciting conclusion to the two-hundred-year-old mystery. A fascinating blend of royalist plots, palace intrigue, and modern science, The Lost King of France is a moving and dramatic tale that interweaves a pivotal moment in France's history with a compelling detective story.

30 review for The Lost King of France: How DNA Solved the Mystery of the Murdered Son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

  1. 4 out of 5

    Grumpus

    Outstanding!. . . A real-page turner. . . Full of intrigue. All of the positive cliché book review words apply to this one. The book’s title is a bit of a misnomer. I thought the majority of the book was going to be dedicated to DNA testing and how it was employed to settle the mystery of what happened to Louis XVII, the eight-year-old son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. However, this topic was brilliantly covered in just the last 50 pages, bringing together the main characters and solving the Outstanding!. . . A real-page turner. . . Full of intrigue. All of the positive cliché book review words apply to this one. The book’s title is a bit of a misnomer. I thought the majority of the book was going to be dedicated to DNA testing and how it was employed to settle the mystery of what happened to Louis XVII, the eight-year-old son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. However, this topic was brilliantly covered in just the last 50 pages, bringing together the main characters and solving the mystery. The majority of the book sets the background of Europe and the arranged marriage between the French king and the Austrian archduchess, Maria-Antonia. It was interesting to learn of their early impressions of each other and how from that strange beginning their love developed. Then came children. Then came rumors. Then came revolution. Then came imprisonment. Then came death and, finally came the mystery. I was particularly affected by the way the Revolutionists treated the young dauphin, Louis XVII. It still breaks my heart to think about it even now as I write this. In fact, I had to stop reading the book several times and pause to think of more pleasant thoughts before continuing. Maybe this hit home for me as I could truly personalize it with 2 eight-year-olds of my own. This is a HIGHLY recommended good read for those who like history, drama, intrigue, or forensics.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Yozzie Osman

    I bought this book at a charity shop because I was interested in the French Revolution and I hadn't seen much written on Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI's youngest child. I expected it to be a standard piece of historical non-fiction, but I was pleasantly surprised- it was so much more than that. An excellent book that had me hooked from the first page to the last, as engrossing as it is heartbreaking. Reading about the final years of this royal family was fascinating but upsetting; the atrocitie I bought this book at a charity shop because I was interested in the French Revolution and I hadn't seen much written on Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI's youngest child. I expected it to be a standard piece of historical non-fiction, but I was pleasantly surprised- it was so much more than that. An excellent book that had me hooked from the first page to the last, as engrossing as it is heartbreaking. Reading about the final years of this royal family was fascinating but upsetting; the atrocities committed against the family, especially Louis-Charles, are frighteningly brutal and had quite an effect on me as a reader- I cried when reading about the horrendous treatment of the innocent dauphin. Deborah Cadbury has written a remarkable and original account of the French Revolution that I would strongly recommend to history lovers and non-history lovers alike. Well-researched and well-written, it is a devastating but riveting story.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jenett

    Just finished this this morning. The book is basically answering the question "What happened to Louis-Charles Capet, son of Louis XVI of France". The answer is well worth a book-length discussion: the introduction sets up the fact that they're going to look at what new technology (specifically DNA through the maternal line) might be able to tell - but then goes off on a really rather well done explanation of exactly what happened - and why there's confusion in the first place. Short version: When Just finished this this morning. The book is basically answering the question "What happened to Louis-Charles Capet, son of Louis XVI of France". The answer is well worth a book-length discussion: the introduction sets up the fact that they're going to look at what new technology (specifically DNA through the maternal line) might be able to tell - but then goes off on a really rather well done explanation of exactly what happened - and why there's confusion in the first place. Short version: When Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were imprisoned in the French Revolution, they had two surviving children: Marie-Therese (who was fourteen when imprisoned and lived into old age), and Louis-Charles (who was 8 when imprisoned.) There is good evidence that Louis-Charles was seriously abused during his imprisonment (after his parents were executed), but there were also long-standing myths that he'd escaped, somehow, rather than dying. However, post-revolution, there were also multiple people claiming to be the long-lost prince. The book does a really good step by step on what happened, what the external evidence is (historical record, etc.) in a nice chronological format, concluding with the actual scientific record of a preserved heart believed to be Louis-Charles'. Very readable, though occasionally a little confusing due to the large number of people mentioned/involved. (I sort of wished for a "who's who" short list.)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Aurélien Thomas

    In 2000 was solved one of the greatest and controversial mystery in modern history: it was finally proven that Louis-Charles, the son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, the heir who would have inherited the throne of France had the country remained a monarchy, DID died in 1795, in the Temple prison, alone and abandoned, with no one to care. He hadn't escaped. There was no child-substitute involved. No royalist plot having succeeded in taking him away. No conspiracy theory. No; nothing. The Dauph In 2000 was solved one of the greatest and controversial mystery in modern history: it was finally proven that Louis-Charles, the son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, the heir who would have inherited the throne of France had the country remained a monarchy, DID died in 1795, in the Temple prison, alone and abandoned, with no one to care. He hadn't escaped. There was no child-substitute involved. No royalist plot having succeeded in taking him away. No conspiracy theory. No; nothing. The Dauphin, at barely ten years old, had fallen victim of the Revolution too, like his mum and dad, and leaving only his sister alive. Full stop. Full stop, but such conclusion wasn't easy to reach! Deborah Cadbury retraces here the adventurous, shocking, and rocambolesque odyssey it all was just to close such a case. And gosh! What a riveting read that is! First, here's a terrible story of child abuse. From the storming of Versailles by rioting women to his death of tuberculosis in a cold damp cell where he was left to rot in solitary confinement, we follow the harrowing biography of a child who, not only must have been terrified of the violence surrounding him, but, also, had then to endure despicable torments at the hands of fanatics revolutionaries. The author, here, does great. Telling of brutality and unthinkable cruelty melted upon that poor boy must have been, I guess, a slippery task. Indeed, it could have been very easy to wobble in pathos and tear jerking! Yet, if it can be very emotional (child abuse is always stirring…) she sticks to the facts and remains quite balanced. The souvenirs of Hue and Cléry, the valets of the royal family; various accounts of prison guards, doctors, and other politicians who actually met the boy in his cell; the narrative of Marie-Thérese, his older sister, about their emprisonnement; the minutes and reports from the General Council of the Commune... She relies only on first hand testimonies, not royalists propaganda that would be so much en vogue afterward, and so, being thus picky and critical, it all makes for a trustworthy read away from the sensationalism so familiar with such topic! It is, then, a great insight into the French Revolution. The little prince's fate is indeed put here into perspective, laid against the chaotic political landscape of the time, which allow for a better grasp of why this child was nothing more than a burdening pawn, fatally tied up to shattering events way beyond his control, let alone understanding. 'The appalling treatment of the boy mirrored the growing brutality in the rest of France as the Terror was increasing its grip.' It is, finally, a great story of scientific triumph; one where genetics will be put at the service of history to end all the wild claims (at times frankly ridiculous!) according to which the boy had escaped, and his descendants, heirs to the throne of France, still alive! The authors here exposes and debunks, at times tongue-in-cheek, the various impostors that tried to pass off as Louis XVII. She recounts also the incredible journey through time of the Dauphin's heart, from the hands of a 18th century doctor who had stolen it during the boy's autopsy up to those of 20th century scientists looking for mtDNA in order to assert its authenticity. History, adventure, fraud, farce and science... Here's a thrilling page turner leading to, at long last, a conclusive account. Brilliant!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    This is another book recommended by a GR friend and is simply fascinating. It follows the life of Louis-Charles, son of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and the mystery surrounding his fate. Imprisoned in the infamous Temple Tower after his parents were guillotined, he was kept in solitary confinement in horrific conditions and the question of his fate has haunted historians. Rumors have abounded that he was rescued, a substitute child took his place and that Louis-Charles was spirited away b This is another book recommended by a GR friend and is simply fascinating. It follows the life of Louis-Charles, son of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and the mystery surrounding his fate. Imprisoned in the infamous Temple Tower after his parents were guillotined, he was kept in solitary confinement in horrific conditions and the question of his fate has haunted historians. Rumors have abounded that he was rescued, a substitute child took his place and that Louis-Charles was spirited away by Royalist sympathizers. Over the years, many pretenders appeared.....some very believable. This book pretty much answers the question through the use of modern science (DNA) and I will leave it to your judgement as to what really happened to this sad little boy who would have reigned as King Louis XVII of France. Highly recommended.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Simone

    This was a great book! It provided a good overview of the life of Louis & M.A. and the events of the French Revolution without getting bogged down into a dry and boring litany of names and dates - Deborah Cadbury kept it interesting the entire way through. Up until now, all I knew about the history of the French Revolution ended with the execution of Marie Antoinette and the instauration of the French Republican Calendar. I knew nothing about her children and their fate. Poor little Louis died in This was a great book! It provided a good overview of the life of Louis & M.A. and the events of the French Revolution without getting bogged down into a dry and boring litany of names and dates - Deborah Cadbury kept it interesting the entire way through. Up until now, all I knew about the history of the French Revolution ended with the execution of Marie Antoinette and the instauration of the French Republican Calendar. I knew nothing about her children and their fate. Poor little Louis died in such miserable circumstances your heart just breaks for the innocent child – the mystery of whether or not he secretly survived was a fascinating one and I am glad I read a book that provided a definitive scientific answer to that question.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Susan Liston

    This probably deserved more stars, it's very easy to read. If this was one's first foray into the story of Louie XVI and Marie Antoinette it would be a good starting point, but otherwise the first half at least of the book is a recap. Which is also fine, except that story disturbs me a lot and as my nerves are fragile at the moment it wasn't what I was hankering to read. There is fabulous research here about the many many Louis XVII pretenders, but just as with Anna Anderson who claimed to be An This probably deserved more stars, it's very easy to read. If this was one's first foray into the story of Louie XVI and Marie Antoinette it would be a good starting point, but otherwise the first half at least of the book is a recap. Which is also fine, except that story disturbs me a lot and as my nerves are fragile at the moment it wasn't what I was hankering to read. There is fabulous research here about the many many Louis XVII pretenders, but just as with Anna Anderson who claimed to be Anastasia Romanov, she wasn't! They weren't! So I don't know how much time I want to donate to them. There is also a lot of technical DNA stuff which you can skip, sssh, just don't tell anyone. The final story of the heart is indeed, what I read this book for, so that made it worthwhile overall.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I would have liked this book a lot more if it was my first time reading about the fall of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. However, I've read so much about this time period that most of the book was a drawn out re-hashing of information I already know well. It took 200 pages to get to the part I wanted to read: how DNA solved the mystery of the murdered son of Louis XVI! Which is the title of the book! And that part felt rushed compared to the plodding pace of the rest of the book! I must concede, I would have liked this book a lot more if it was my first time reading about the fall of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. However, I've read so much about this time period that most of the book was a drawn out re-hashing of information I already know well. It took 200 pages to get to the part I wanted to read: how DNA solved the mystery of the murdered son of Louis XVI! Which is the title of the book! And that part felt rushed compared to the plodding pace of the rest of the book! I must concede, however, that if you are only going to read one book about the French Revolution and how it affected the royal family, this would be a good one.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Caidyn (he/him/his)

    I've had this book on my TBR for ages. I've always been fascinated by the French revolution and the fate of that monarchy (mainly because of Marie Antoinette), so this book was destined for me, really. I found it to be a pretty quick, informative read. I liked the focus on Louis-Charles and the general history of his life, death, pretenders, and, finally, the DNA test that proved he did die as history tells it. Definitely a read for those interested in this era!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    A very fascinating read! ~ The 'Lost King of France' revolves around a time that can be described as a web of heartache, disaster, and destruction for the royal family. In high school, as you learn about the story of the French Revolution- who seems more innocent? The "evil" royal family who squeezes any trace of livelihood from the people, or the people? I know what you're thinking: The people, duh! However, it's not as it seems. As I read on, I realized something. What I was taught about the Fr A very fascinating read! ~ The 'Lost King of France' revolves around a time that can be described as a web of heartache, disaster, and destruction for the royal family. In high school, as you learn about the story of the French Revolution- who seems more innocent? The "evil" royal family who squeezes any trace of livelihood from the people, or the people? I know what you're thinking: The people, duh! However, it's not as it seems. As I read on, I realized something. What I was taught about the French Revolution did not form based on the perspectives of both sides. I was only learning from one side- the people's. Not one second was I able to recall learning anything about what the royal family had to endure. It was all about the people when I was first introduced to the French Revolution. Sure, the public had many good intentions when they became the revolutionaries. As the Revolution went on, however, the public turned into something else, something so sinister you wouldn't believe it until you read about it. Deborah Cadbury did a great job of outlining everything from the royal family's perspective. I wasn't expecting another lesson on the French Revolution, but, after all that I learned, I'm so glad I got one. This book changed my entire view on the French Revolution and its people. I can clearly say that both sides of the Revolution have their faults. It is true that Marie Antoinette spent loads and loads of cash every single day. She took advantage of her new life, and she made sure to make everything around her to her liking. However, when her kids were born, she cuts back on her spending and shows off such a loving, motherly characteristic that you're prone to consider forgiving her. By that time, though, the people were already storming down the Versailles. I couldn't have imagined the horrors that the royal family went through from then on. They stuck together, however, like a family. Everything that the royal family suffered, all the taunts and torture the people around them brought, all the killings of their beloved, and all the times they were imprisoned and separated from one another, the royal family still stayed together. It's tragic that Louis-Charles had to endure the most of it, in the end. I was a little skeptical of relearning what I already knew about the French Revolution, but, turns out, I didn't know half of it. Learning the heart-breaking story of the royal family made me even more eager to see the results of the mystery of Lous-charles,aka Louis the seventeenth. This was such a new read for me- I've never read anything like this: And I love it! (: The only reason I didn't finish this sooner is because it's summer and I'm feeling lazy(it's the only time I can afford to be lazy, so I'm making the most of it!) Overall, The Lost King of France, a story prone to evoke that emotional turmoil deep in your heart, will keep you on your toes till' the very end! A read that deserves to be read~

  11. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    This was an amazing book. I don't understand some of the reviews I read about the book complaining about how misleading the title was. They expected it to be about using DNA to solve if he was the missing prince or not, but I don't see anything in the title to make me think that the scientific process of using DNA to identify a body would be a huge part of the book. I think those people are just whiners. Other reviews gave the book a low rating because it didn't cover enough new areas on the Fre This was an amazing book. I don't understand some of the reviews I read about the book complaining about how misleading the title was. They expected it to be about using DNA to solve if he was the missing prince or not, but I don't see anything in the title to make me think that the scientific process of using DNA to identify a body would be a huge part of the book. I think those people are just whiners. Other reviews gave the book a low rating because it didn't cover enough new areas on the French Revolution (because they've read a lot of books on the subject already). This sounds like a stupid reason to fault a book for unless the book expressly promised to cover new ground. If I've read 10 biographies on Hitler and decided to read one more, I don't fault the 11th book because I've already read about the same events 10 times. This book was fascinating to me. I am not well-read on the French Revolution, and I was surprised to feel sympathetic to the Royals. I expected them to be rich jerks who trampled on the common man. There were plenty of things they did that made me roll my eyes or think people were justified in being pissed off at them, but then I read about the terror and thought, holy crap that got out of hand. When I learned about this in school, it was portrayed like it was more organized. The textbooks made it seem like people went out and killed the upper class who they had grievances with. This book made it sound like there were a bunch of mobs going around killing anybody associated with the upper class or who even looked like them. As an American it made me compare it to the American Revolution and wonder at the differences. I think maybe it is because the enemy of the American Revolution was across an ocean while the French were living amidst their enemy. Regardless, the French common people sure came across as a vicious and violent people. Anyways, the story of the young Dauphin really kept me intrigued and I felt really sorry for the horrors that were inflicted on him. The book wasn't quite as interesting once it started tracking all of the people who claimed to be the Prince. I would've preferred to have this section slimmed down. Last note: I was laughing really hard when the author was describing how King Louis the XVI would have sex with Marie-Antoinette at the beginning of their marriage. He would come to her bed with a strong erection, enter her, lay on top of her for two minutes, and then leave. I'm still laughing.

  12. 4 out of 5

    'Aussie Rick'

    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 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. Her head was twisted onto a pike and taken to the Tower; her naked body was dragged through the streets..." Overall this is a great story and for me a page-turner. Even if you have read extensively on the French Revolution I am sure you will still appreciate the account in this book and find many things to still surprise you.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This is one of the best non fiction books I've read this year. It was compulsively readable. I knew the basics of the French Revolution, but this really painted a vivid picture of that period and the horrific treatment of the dauphin. I had no idea that there was such a conspiracy over what happened to the dauphin. It was a tragic story, we humans are capable of such depravity in the name of politics.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kate Forsyth

    I have spent the last two years reading every book I could find on the French Revolution, as that is the setting of my novel-in-progress, The Blue Rose. It is such a fascinating period of history, I’ve really loved being deeply immersed in it. Most people know the broad outlines of the story: the opulent royal court at Versailles, the uprising of the starving peasants, the storming of the Bastille, and the tragic deaths of King Louis XVI and his flamboyant queen Marie-Antoinette under the mercile I have spent the last two years reading every book I could find on the French Revolution, as that is the setting of my novel-in-progress, The Blue Rose. It is such a fascinating period of history, I’ve really loved being deeply immersed in it. Most people know the broad outlines of the story: the opulent royal court at Versailles, the uprising of the starving peasants, the storming of the Bastille, and the tragic deaths of King Louis XVI and his flamboyant queen Marie-Antoinette under the merciless blade of the guillotine. Many people do not know that the royal prince, known as the Dauphin in France, automatically inherited the throne of his father upon his execution. Only eight years old, Louis XVII was kept imprisoned in a dank old medieval prison called the Temple tower. Two years later, he was declared dead. Some believed he had been murdered, others that he had died from abuse and neglect. Still others whispered that he had been rescued, smuggled out from his prison and a dying beggar-boy left in his place. As time passed, it was these whispers that began to grow. There was no grave, no monument. And when the monarchy was restored in France, several young men stepped forward and claimed to be the true heir. The reigning monarch, Louis XVIII, the brother of the guillotined king, dismissed such claims but pretenders to the throne continued to win supporters. Almost one hundred years after the Dauphin is said to have died, Mark Twain has a con-man in Huckleberry Finn claiming he is the missing ‘dolphin’. And two hundred years later, scientists have tested an old mummified heart – said to have been cut from the Dauphin’s chest by the doctor conducting the autopsy in the Temple tower – to try and prove, once and for all, if the boy-king died in his filthy prison or escaped, as so many people believed. It’s an utterly intriguing account of a tempestuous period in human history, and how modern-day science can be used to solve ancient mysteries. I loved it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bob Schnell

    Riveting history looking at the French Revolution from the royal side. Add some modern day science to clear up a mystery or two and you have a really good read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rachel England-Brassy

    A classic ‘whoishe?’, with page turning thrills and horrors backed by painstaking research and science. I was this had been possible when I was studying the French Revolution, as the portrait painted to me of Marie-Antoinette was biased, based largely on revolutionary propaganda. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to all interested in history.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ghost of the Library

    Death, the ultimate taboo? Upon the death of a person within our circle of friends or family, our response to such a situation varies greatly and can sometimes even incur in the ignoble action of not matching a society's cultural expectations of how one should respond. When that death is that of a child, symbol of innocence and all things good in the world, our response takes on an additional meaning/significance that - religious beliefs aside - can sometimes make one feel guilty. Strangely that is Death, the ultimate taboo? Upon the death of a person within our circle of friends or family, our response to such a situation varies greatly and can sometimes even incur in the ignoble action of not matching a society's cultural expectations of how one should respond. When that death is that of a child, symbol of innocence and all things good in the world, our response takes on an additional meaning/significance that - religious beliefs aside - can sometimes make one feel guilty. Strangely that is how i felt upon reading this book - even if the child has been dead for centuries and the mindset that caused such a gruesome finale to such a young life needs to be seen from a detached historical point of view. About Marie Antoinette and her family, the end of the monarchy and the very bloody french revolution, much has been written and i recall from a very early age - history nerd that i have always been - hearing the many fantastic tales told of her young son and his possible fate, dictated by politics and other even "lesser" constraints of the time. I used to enjoy imagining as a kid that he had somehow made it through those horrible years of confinement and torture and, even if under an assumed identity, had lived a long and good life - and then adulthood took over, along with other readings about this period and somehow i guessed he hadn't made it after all. This book chronicles his brief life on earth and the myth surrounding his death(?) in an absolutely fascinating way, that is a testament to the author's talent and ends up being a fitting tribute to a life cut too short. Deborah Cadbury draws from many ...many... previously published sources and puts up a final history of the young boy and the most tumultuous period of french history, that would end up having everlasting consequences in french society (to this day i risk saying). This is a very easy, from a readers point of view, and engaging read - although at times that sense of guilt from enjoying a book that is about a child's very ugly death did arise, i frankly couldn't put it down. The last part when the scientific part of the discovery regarding the young boys fate is explained may make for a somehow harder read, given the number of more technical terms, but its well worth it. Highly recommend this for anyone interested in french/European history - or just someone who happened to grow up with a grandfather obsessed with mysteries such as this...and who passed that gene along :) Happy readings and a happy new year to all!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Marti

    What do you get when you combine a spiraling national debt; a legislative assembly controlled by a 1% who refuse to pay tax; and a crop failure? Perhaps we will learn soon enough. [Remember this book was written in 2002]. This was the situation that Louis XVI found himself powerless to control or do anything to alleviate. Thus, the mildest Bourbon King was seen to be an unspeakable tyrant because, while they did not have the internet, they had lots of sleazy pamphleteers publishing all kinds of " What do you get when you combine a spiraling national debt; a legislative assembly controlled by a 1% who refuse to pay tax; and a crop failure? Perhaps we will learn soon enough. [Remember this book was written in 2002]. This was the situation that Louis XVI found himself powerless to control or do anything to alleviate. Thus, the mildest Bourbon King was seen to be an unspeakable tyrant because, while they did not have the internet, they had lots of sleazy pamphleteers publishing all kinds of "fake news" which was eagerly devoured by the 99% (Marie Antoinette never actually said "Let them eat cake" though she did flaunt her wealth early on). I actually felt bad for the family because they certainly paid a high price for the greed of their predecessors and contemporaries. All of this is touched upon, even though the story is really about the efforts to determine the identity of the real Dauphine (aka Louis XVII) who -- so it was believed -- died in prison aged ten years old. However, as is the case in the aftermath of revolutions, things get muddled and urban legends get started. Like the story of Anastasia, there were many who believed that the Prince was smuggled out of The Tower and a dying consumptive child substituted (since most of the guards who were on duty when he died had not seen the real Dauphin before he was placed in solitary confinement). And like Anastasia, there was no shortage of cranks who later claimed to be the real McCoy (but a few were believed by many in the Royal Family's inner circle who claimed no one else could have known certain details). The book ends with a convincing and almost certain resolution to the mystery, detailing how the DNA was collected and from where. However, most of the book tells the harrowing story of what the family had to endure as captives, first in the Tuleries and then in "The Tower." It feels very immediate because the source material is taken not only from Marie Antoinette's daughter Marie Therese's recollections (she was only surviving member of the immediate family), but various governesses and other close friends who shared the misery. A real page turner.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Hans Nijs

    A historical real-life story of the horrific fate of Louis-Charles of France. Although it is about history, this book takes you in it's pages as if it is a literaire roman. I felt really sorry for the fate of this young boy and his family. After reading this book, I visited the place where he was burried after his death. He has a small tombstone, overgrown with moss, at the yard of a small church in a far away corner in Paris, where no tourists or other people come. It is a real tragedy, as was h A historical real-life story of the horrific fate of Louis-Charles of France. Although it is about history, this book takes you in it's pages as if it is a literaire roman. I felt really sorry for the fate of this young boy and his family. After reading this book, I visited the place where he was burried after his death. He has a small tombstone, overgrown with moss, at the yard of a small church in a far away corner in Paris, where no tourists or other people come. It is a real tragedy, as was his fate. The 2nd part of the book, about the pretenders vould fascinate me less, and I skipped most of it. The real tragic aftermath of the pretenders where the emotions of Marie - Thérèse, the elder sister of the boy. She could escape the Terror in France and loved abroad. Many times people wrote her letters or told her that they where here brother. It is sad, because she was confused beczuse she tought her brother had died in prison. Eventually, she refused to see any pretendent, and stopped opening letters adressed to her.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Page Wench

    Utterly fascinating. I've read a lot about Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution, so the first one-third or so of the book was an overview of a history I knew well. However, I find new details every time I read about the same subject because every author and every approach is different. The remainder of the book focused on the heart-wrenching details of Louis XVII's treatment during his imprisonment in the Temple, the fruitless investigations to find concrete evidence of his death or escape Utterly fascinating. I've read a lot about Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution, so the first one-third or so of the book was an overview of a history I knew well. However, I find new details every time I read about the same subject because every author and every approach is different. The remainder of the book focused on the heart-wrenching details of Louis XVII's treatment during his imprisonment in the Temple, the fruitless investigations to find concrete evidence of his death or escape, the many pretenders to the French throne and, finally, the DNA testing. Well-written, well-documented, organized book that I would recommend to anyone interested in the French Revolution, no matter what else they've read on the subject.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Delving into the history of the imprisonment of the royal family during the French Revolution, this book exposed me to many details I was not familiar with. While full of details, it is written with more of an engaging, story feel that reads almost like fiction. Be prepared that most of the book is history, and only the last chapter deals with the subtitle of how DNA solved the mystery. I think the book builds perfectly to that resolution, because you really, really care about the outcome at tha Delving into the history of the imprisonment of the royal family during the French Revolution, this book exposed me to many details I was not familiar with. While full of details, it is written with more of an engaging, story feel that reads almost like fiction. Be prepared that most of the book is history, and only the last chapter deals with the subtitle of how DNA solved the mystery. I think the book builds perfectly to that resolution, because you really, really care about the outcome at that point.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    I usually never enter a book I am currently reading, but this one was on my "ro read" shelf, and I just had to get to it, being one who loves "la belle France." This book is a magnificent, well-researched, and compelling history. I can't wait to finish it and be back to say more. I have been to Versailles several times, and, even though I thought I throughly underststood what happened there, I found out so much more. I still say, "vive la France!"

  23. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I loved this book about the final years of Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution and the fate of her family. It weaves meticulous historical detail into a mystery thriller of what happened to her children after she faced the Guillotine in 1795.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anusha kumar

    this is an really emotional book! you'll surely cry after reading this one!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Bierle

    A startling and tragic book about the lost prince of France and how his story was rediscovered with the help of modern science.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Fascinating and I'm glad it had a final and satisfactory ending that doesn't leave you wondering.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Deborah Cadbury's thoroughly well-researched book surrounding the life and death of the Dauphin, later Louis XVII of France was an engaging read. Her introduction was well-rounded and comprehensive, covering in concise detail exactly where the book was headed. It did include information about the Dauphin's parents, King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, surrounding their early life and their early marriage, but this did not feel superfluous. While I thought I knew a lot about the Boy-King, this bo Deborah Cadbury's thoroughly well-researched book surrounding the life and death of the Dauphin, later Louis XVII of France was an engaging read. Her introduction was well-rounded and comprehensive, covering in concise detail exactly where the book was headed. It did include information about the Dauphin's parents, King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, surrounding their early life and their early marriage, but this did not feel superfluous. While I thought I knew a lot about the Boy-King, this book surprised and informed me in a way that did not come across as overly academic, but easily understood. Her written expression was fantastic, although it did take me a little while to get used to it! This was a great book - 4.5 stars!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Zosi

    Fascinating-hard to put down, heartfelt and concise. No matter how saddening the outcome may be, it’s always good to see historical ‘mysteries’ put to rest and historical personages to Rest In Peace, especially through advances of modern science.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    The mystery is introduced and then a lengthy backstory is given. At first I thought I'd rather just just read about modern day investigations, I read enough accounts of the revolution, but I really enjoyed the author's perspective. It did last longer than I would have liked. Desperate people did terrible, terrible things. Those same people were some of the most influential politicians in the birth of modern democracy and the shaping of America. It's tragic to see good intentions on all sides cor The mystery is introduced and then a lengthy backstory is given. At first I thought I'd rather just just read about modern day investigations, I read enough accounts of the revolution, but I really enjoyed the author's perspective. It did last longer than I would have liked. Desperate people did terrible, terrible things. Those same people were some of the most influential politicians in the birth of modern democracy and the shaping of America. It's tragic to see good intentions on all sides corrupted by fear, anger, and hunger. It's a cautionary tale not often taught. Everyone 'knows ' Marie Antoinette told the poor to eat cake, the royals partied it up and had affairs. They deserved everything they got. Right? That's the narrative I was always told, and then you read almost every part of that description is wrong. A silly foreign girl went from worshipped to grieving mother, and nobody cared. The king tried, by most accounts a good man and father. His was a family slaughtered without need, and history never learned. 129 years later the same pattern unfolded in Russia. The parallels are eerie: A foreign bride seen as a lavish spender, a devoted husband and father, sickly heirs, beautiful princesses, and a DNA mystery. It's as if coming to it's senses, humanity realises in their frenzied push they went too far, and fall to the same fairytale with hope of redemption. A bloodline not erased, but hidden. Is a revolution that resorts to killing children, but brings about change justifiable? No, I don't think so. I think many others would agree, but I doubt many know it's happened. We're taught in school about the forward thinking, revolutionary French, but we never hear about the out right torture and sexual abuse inflicted on a little child. It's absolutely disgusting what happened. And what followed, the pretenders who hounded his sister dor years in hopes of an inheritance. Their descendents that still do, it's shameful. For once a narrative focused on the children didn't turn into an excuse to write about their mother, thank goodness. The genetics is not discussed in as much depth as I'd like, but it was still an emotional read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    This book was well-researched and I appreciate that an abundance of sources are noted should one feel compelled to delve deeper into the historical accounts and documentation (including those clearly based upon fabrications). It is clearly written and easy to understand, though there were many times in which grammatical errors actually did detract from the story being relayed. In some cases, this could be due to translations whereas in others, it was probably just a mistake. I enjoyed that this This book was well-researched and I appreciate that an abundance of sources are noted should one feel compelled to delve deeper into the historical accounts and documentation (including those clearly based upon fabrications). It is clearly written and easy to understand, though there were many times in which grammatical errors actually did detract from the story being relayed. In some cases, this could be due to translations whereas in others, it was probably just a mistake. I enjoyed that this book went through the key parts of history required for the reader to appreciate the depth and meaning of this mystery to the fullest. I found myself a bit bored in the beginning --not due to familiarity with history, but because I was expecting something much different. I was expecting a book that read much like a scientific essay, and though this did read almost like an essay, I found that it did have a somewhat emotional aim and I was disappointed when the writer's own opinions seemed to guide the reader's feelings/opinions. All in all, I liked the book. It wasn't amazing and, at times, I almost stopped reading, but I am glad that I did not give up because it did get much better. I think the only "confusing" thing for me was just the amount of names --some of which probably could have been omitted without any change to the story itself. The best thing about this book is that the answer is revealed and the reader is left with little doubt as to its accuracy. As I neared the end, I was quite afraid that this would be another historical mystery that speculates and leaves the reader with plenty of conjecture, but no evidence pointing to a clear resolution. I was greatly relieved whilst reading the final chapter(s). It's a good book if you enjoy historical intrigues and have little knowledge or want to know more about this particular story from France's history, but I imagine that one with much knowledge surrounding this story might be a bit bored --especially if you already know the answer!

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