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The crown must yield to the people

Marie Antoinette trilogy continues

By Kathy Habel

For The Free Lance-Star

“DAYS OF Splendor, Days of Sorrow” is the second of a trilogy about Marie Antoinette and her husband, Louis XVI of France.  Author Juliet Grey begins the story with  punishment delivered to the woman instrumental in the fraudulent purchase of a diamond collar.  I believe that Grey chose this scene as a symbol of the troubled and star-crossed reign of two people ill-prepared for their role as monarchs of France.

Louis XVI has ascended the throne with Marie Antoinette at his side.  He spends his time hunting and working with his hands when he is not indulging his love for immense amounts of food.

“Toinette,” as she is nicknamed, indulges in her passion for clothes, jewels, and other accoutrements, becoming well-known for her extravagant hairstyles and

outlandish gowns.   She is determined to hold the spotlight in fashion and all that glitters. other excesses

The people of France resent their young foreign queen and nothing she does pleases them.  She parties long into

the night, spends exorbitant amounts of money and is accused of liaisons within the courtwith both men and women of the court.

The monarchs struggle to change the tonepublic’s perception, eventually having four children. which seems to change the direction the young queen has taken.  Both  try to economize and work to better the lot of their citizens.  But everything they do is seen in a negative light. Their courtiers plot against them.  Antoinette begins an affair with Axel  von  Ferson .  She tries to keep this a secret, but it is almost impossible in the public environment in which she must live.  The Affair of the Diamond Necklace drags her name further into the sewers of Paris.

The book ends with the death of the young heir to the throne. Even with this tragedy, the king and queen are not permitted to mourn in the manner that they wish and are forced to bend to the will of the court.   To appease the populace, they must sacrifice the people closest to them and They bend to the will of the National Assembly, hoping  that this will be enough to appease their enemies and keep the throne secure.

Juliet Grey tells a good story,  using her imagination to fill in the gaps of the official history.  Her story is filled with the pageantry of the times and provides a glimpse of a lavish and intrigue-filled period time in history.

Kathy Habel is a freelance reviewer  in Spotsylvania County.


By Juliet Grey

(Random House, $15, 448 pp.)


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