Library Journal: Starred Review
*"THIS IS A FASCINATING, READABLE, AND ENGROSSING BOOK THAT SHOULD INTEREST GENERAL READERS AND SCHOLARS ALIKE. NAGEL (COMPARATIVE LITERATURE, MARYMOUNT MANHATTAN COLL.; MISTRESS OF THE ELGIN MARBLES), 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 DURNG 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. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED."
"MASTERLY AND COMPELLING...A TRIUMPH!"
--Tina Brown, author of The Diana Chronicles
"A POWERFUL STORY TOLD WITH VERVE: A TRIUMPH!"
--Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire"
"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 OF 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
BOOKLIST (Feb 1 issue): STARRED REVIEW
*"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."
Read why Napoleon I, Emperor of the French called Marie-Therese, "the only man in the family."
In December 1795, on the midnight stroke of he seventeenth birthday, Marie-Therese, the only surviving child of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, fled Paris's notorious Temple Prison. Kept in solitary confinement after her parents' brutal execution during the Terror, she had been unaware of the fate of her family, save the cries she heard of her young brother being tortured in an adjacent cell.
Marie-Therese emerged to an uncertain future: an orphan, exile and focus of political plots and marriage schemes of the crowned heads of Europe. Throughout she remained stubbornly loyal to France and to the Bourbon dynasty of which she was a part.
The horrors she witnessed and had been a victim of would haunt her for the rest of her life. In fact, many believe to this day that the traumatized princess switched places with her 'half-sister' and lived the rest of her life in a remote castle in Germany while the imposter played her role on the political stage of Europe.
Using handwriting samples, DNA testing and Bourbon family letters, this mystery is finally solved.
From Susan Nagel:
People often ask me how a playwright and professor of Comparative Literature began a career as an historical biographer. When my daughter, Hadley, was three-years-old, I began to read her the American Girl Doll books. One day she asked, "Mommy, are there books like this for big girls?" When I discovered the fascinating story of Lady Elgin and learned that it had never been told, I knew that there were -- and there had to be more.
After the heart of Louis XVII was placed in the royal crypt in St. Denis, outside of Paris, I contacted a longtime friend, Prince Charles Henri de Lobkowicz, a direct descendant of Charles X and the duc de Berry. He had inherited a castle whose contents included family letters, portraits and locks of hair. Determined to learn the fate of Marie Antoinette's daughter, I began my journey. Little did I know, that road would take me from France to some of the most unlikely places throughout Napoleonic Wars, the Restoration and the rise of constitutional monarchy and the urban middle class in France as well as other western European nations.
I also learned that there were many who believed that the fate of Marie-Therese included a putative half-sister and that there was a mystery in a small town of Germany inextricably woven into the story that was the life of Madame Royale, daughter of King Louis XVI.