Much has been written about Marie Antoinette, whose ascent to power-and steep downfall during the French Revolution-is legendary. But BECOMING MARIE ANTOINETTE offers a fresh perspective on Marie Antoinette’s young life, a topic mostly overlooked by historians until now. In this elegant and entertaining novel, Juliet Grey looks beyond the crown to the sacrifices a young, spoiled girl was compelled to make long before she could become the queen of France who would leave an indelible mark on history.
Marie Antoinette’s young life was a long series of hurdles. She sailed over a few of them with grace and equanimity. But some she stumbled over. Among vivid scenes in the Austrian imperial court in Vienna and the gilded splendor and manicured gardens of Versailles, we learn that Maria Antonia’s relationships with everyone from her cold ambitious mother to her awkward teenage husband, were fraught with a dramatic tension all their own.
In 1766, ten-year-old Austrian archduchess Maria Antonia learns that she is to one day wed the heir to the throne of France, its dauphin Louis Auguste. But she is far from ready to embrace her glittering destiny. Raised alongside her numerous siblings by the powerful and politically ambitious Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Maria Antonia undergoes a startling makeover before leaving her homeland at the age of fourteen to marry the awkward teenage boy who will one day become king of France. This grueling transformation includes sharp and painful orthodontia, four-hour hairstyling sessions, and lessons in perfecting the “Versailles Glide,” the elegant mode of traversing the magnificent halls of the French château. These historically accurate details bring this remarkable, often rocky and emotionally arduous coming-of-age story to fresh and vivid life. Out of her element and out of her depth, the teenage dauphine, naïve, homesick and unloved, must learn to navigate her way through the French court, a labyrinth of glamour and treachery, never sure whom to trust. The novel ends on May 10, 1774, the day that Louis XV, the grandfather of Marie Antoinette’s husband breathes his last. A bright and glorious future await Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, now king and queen of France.