Becoming Marie Antoinette
Ballantine, 2011 (2011)
Reviewed by Elizabeth Crowley
en year old Antonia was stunned when her mother announced that her hand in marriage had been requested for Louis Auguste, the dauphin of France. As the daughter of the Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, Archduchess Antonia knew she must wed some day, but never imagined it would be before her older sisters.
s marriage negotiations begin, Antonia's person is scrutinized under a microscope. Before she can seriously be a contender for the title of dauphine of France, several deficiencies must be corrected. Her grasp of the French language is deplorable. Her knowledge of history, geography, and literature are considered less than desirable. As for Antonia's person, only a complete transformation can ever hope to make her worthy of the future king. Antonia must undergo a tedious and humiliating makeover before she can proceed to the unwanted marriage which will take her far away from her beloved Austria.
irst and foremost, Antonia must sit through endless hours with a French tutor, who attempts to drill the French language into her. The French Ambassador also declares that Antonia's teeth are crooked, her forehead too prominent, and her manner of carrying herself unacceptable. In order to fix her teeth, Antonia is subjected to a full day with a dentist who painfully applies braces to them. Her forehead problem is addressed by changing her hairstyle into the French fashion. While her mother and the French Ambassador are thrilled with the change in Antonia's appearance, her swollen mouth and her painfully tight and ridiculous hairstyle leave her in tears.
fter endless hours of grooming, tutoring, and even coaching by French actors, Antonia's portrait is finally sent to King Louis XV and the dauphin. Empress Maria Theresa is overjoyed when she receives word that Antonia's portrait was accepted, but two years will pass before Antonia sets foot on French soil. Before Archduchess Antonia leaves her home country forever, she must say goodbye to two sisters: one she loses to smallpox and the other is sent off to marry the king of Naples. Even after her engagement is legitimized, Antonia's tutoring in all things French continue as she is forced to learn complicated French dances. Antonia must also become a master of boring card games which French royalty and nobility enjoy.
hen Antonia finally arrives in France, she reconciles herself to her fate. But when she meets the dauphin, she realizes that not only does he not show any interest in her, but her presence seems to repulse him. The marriage between Louis Auguste and Antonia (who is now called Antoinette) becomes the topic of much gossip in the French court when their union is not consummated after three years. Marie Antoinette must also coexist with the King's mistress, Madame Du Barry, who becomes a dangerous rival.
uliet Grey paints an accurate portrait of the art of making a queen. Readers will see Marie Antoinette in a whole new light as this first episode in a trilogy takes readers from her carefree days in Austria into Europe's most perverse court.
Becoming Marie Antoniette
is a sympathetic and engaging read that presents the French queen in a manner seldom found in other novels. Readers will love the way in which Marie and Louis Auguste's relationship is transformed from an unwanted marriage into a tender friendship. Anyone interested in French history will savor every page.
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