Monday, September 30, 2013

HFVBT: Confessions of Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey-Guest Post & {Giveaway} #ConfessionsOfMATour

GIVEAWAY WINNER - LINDA BROWER
 

Thank you so much for hosting me, Michelle. I am delighted to be here, being a book addict myself!

The third novel in my Marie Antoinette trilogy, Confessions of Marie Antoinette, spans the final years of her life, opening less than three months after the storming of the Bastille, with the October 5, 1789 Women’s March on Versailles. The mob, purportedly comprised of Parisian tradeswomen and poissardes (fishwives) was swelled with compatriots, whom many believed were sympathetic, anti-monarchist aristocrats—some of them armed men in disguise as poissardes, as well as women from the upper crust who harbored antiroyalist republican sentiments and thought it would be a lark to slog several miles through the mud and rain in a protest march alongside those who may really have been hungry.

Louis XVI was willing to hear their complaints, listening to a small delegation of market women at around dusk on October 5, and promising them that the following morning everyone would receive bread from the palace’s own storage facilities. But the rabble-rousers who had accompanied the mob on the march had no interest in negotiation or in resolving the plight of the poor. They wanted nothing short of the destruction of the monarchy; so all through the night they tiptoed from group to group camped outside Versailles to tell them that the king had lied to them, tricked them, had no intentions of feeding them; and, at the instigation of his horrible, greedy Austrian wife (who in fact had lived in France since she was 14, had never returned to her homeland, and was now in her mid-30s) intended to violently crush their rebellion. 

Consequently, at dawn on October 6th the mob stormed the palace, and made their way straight for Marie Antoinette’s bedchamber, decapitating the sentries in the Hall of Mirrors who were blocking their way to her rooms. Not finding the queen, who had fled in the nick of time, making her way within an inner maze of corridors to one of the king’s rooms, the vengeful mob ransacked and willfully destroyed the room.

Unsure how to proceed, Louis XVI’s ministers offered conflicting advice. The king himself appeared overwhelmed by events. He had trusted the delegation representing the marchers. He never for a moment imagined that women could be so brutal, so fierce, so murderous.

The marquis de Lafayette, in happier days a courtier at Versailles and a military attaché for France in the American colonies, has turned his coat more than once. Having recently attached himself to the Revolution, the events of the October 1789 march on Versailles have caused him to question the good faith of the marchers and the ideals of the Revolutionaries. Hastening to the palace, in charge of an army he can no longer control and whose allegiance to the crown he can no longer vouch for, the marquis takes it upon himself to counsel the sovereigns to appease the mob in a last ditch effort to save their lives.

“C’est moi! Lafayette!” The voice indeed belongs to the commander of the Garde Nationale. The general bursts into the king’s bedchamber as though he has been shot from the mouth of a cannon.

“There is no controlling them any longer, Majesté,” he says, without bowing to the king. “I threw my hat upon the ground before them, pulled open my coat and bared my breast”—he illustrates his words by grabbing his lapels—“and dared them to kill me on the spot. They have already murdered two of the royal bodyguard, Your Majesty. Lieutenants de Varicourt and Deshuttes.” Lafayette lowers his bare head; his hat, embellished with the revolutionaries’ detestable tricolor cockade, remains in his hands. “I am genuinely sorry,” he says. “A general is supposed to know his troops, but I did not expect this. ‘I do not wish to command cannibals!’ I told them. ‘If you wish to take the lives of the gardes du corps, then take mine as well.’ My dare turned the tide, for the next moment, they cried, ‘Vive le roi! Vive la Nation!’ ”

More of the bandits have gathered outside our windows. “The king! “The king! We wish to see the king!” they roar, demanding that he appear on the balcony. Louis looks to Lafayette. After nineteen years of marriage I know my husband well enough to see that he fears the rabble, aware that they have both betrayed and abused his trust. After meeting with the delegation of market women, moved particularly by the poor young sculptress who had fainted from hunger in his presence, he had ordered the grain stores to be opened and bread disseminated among the sodden hordes, but their storming of the château at daybreak had prevented his plan from being brought to fruition. With the greatest effort, Louis surmounts his trepidation, not wishing to appear craven in the presence of his brother and Lafayette. I wonder whether the pair of them enjoy his trust as well, for neither merits my confidence.

The king throws open the mullioned doors and rushes onto the balcony. Raising his arms, he cries, “My good people, your sovereign craves your mercy—not merely for myself, but for my faithful defenders.” He refers to our pair of unfortunate bodyguards who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. They were brave young men with families. “Let no more blood be shed on this or any other day.”

After hearing a resounding cheer, followed by, “The queen! The queen on the balcony,” “Allons, mes enfants,” I say, taking each of the children of France by the hand. “We will greet our subjects as a family.”

The crowd grows ominously silent as if a dark cloud has passed over their heads. “The Queen alone!” shouts a single voice, high and shrill. “No children!” My shiver passes all the way through my arms into the small warm hands of my son and daughter. At the sight of so many fearsome people with their weapons raised against us, the children both burst into tears. Madame de Tourzel appears at the window and I usher them indoors, safely into her care.

Below me, a sea of angry faces wear frowns that only moments before were smiles prepared to welcome their king. A cry pierces the morning air announcing that I am an agent of Austria. “Just look how she’s dressed!” the woman adds, and not until this moment do I realize what she means. From where they stand my striped silk lévite appears to be yellow and my hat is of course black—the colors of the Hapsburgs. The plume in my hat is the white of the Bourbons and the point where it is affixed is embellished with a black cockade, an emblem worn proudly by France’s aristocracy.

Among the thousands of poissardes and market women are a fair number from other walks of life, and I venture a guess that a good many are shop girls, although some of them are arrayed more expensively, if not flamboyantly. Demimondaines. Streetwalkers from the area around the Palais Royal, I assume. Yet others, similarly dressed in gowns of fine white muslin, with tricolor scarves artfully draped like banners across their chests or tied like bandeaux about their curled and powdered locks, convey the impression of wealth. The salons of Paris have been emptied of intellectual women seeking an adventure. These petites bourgeoises stand before me, amid their inferiors, including women who troll the coffeehouses and arcades, wearing without irony the same type of gown that just a few years ago the entirety of France derided me for favoring. My gaulles, the chemises à la Reine, were described as the ultimate luxury for their fragility, and now they are the frock of choice for these harpies who claim them as the ideal garment to denote classical purity and simplicity, a denouncement of the trappings of wealth by the gown’s distinct lack of embellishment.

I am shocked by the harridans’ brazenness, but mask my emotion from my enemies. They will not know what I am thinking, will not so much as see my lip tremble, or my eyes dart about. It is one of the virtues of a queen. This is what being regal is. Instead, with every ounce of will, I endeavor to transform their hatred to love by acknowledging them and giving credence to their right to assemble here. Despite the fact that they have cried out for my blood. Despite the fact that they have demanded in great detail various parts of my body as though I were a calf they were driving to the slaughterhouse.

And so I sink to my knees in a deep court curtsy, inclining my head in a show of profound humility. The roar diminishes to a murmur. And when I rise, I lay my arms across my bosom and raise my eyes heavenwards, offering a prayer to God to spare my husband and children as well as myself. Out of the corner of my eye I spy a man in the crowd raising a musket to his shoulder and peering over the barrel. I can even see him squint as he takes aim at my breast and I pray with greater fervor. The crowd falls silent. Will this would-be assassin pull the trigger?

But when the moment comes, he cannot bring himself to commit regicide in the presence of thousands of witnesses; he is unprepared to become a martyr to the Revolution.

It seems to take an eternity, but he lowers his musket. My armpits are wet with perspiration. For another few moments the mob remains hushed, but then the spell is broken by one, then two, then a chorus of ragged cries of “Vive la reine!” Soon the courtyard reverberates with resounding applause. I shut my eyes and thank heaven, and a moment later, am sensible of someone beside me. Lafayette has stepped through the doorway onto the balcony. With tremendous deference he makes a great show of raising my hand, bringing it to his lips and kissing it as the approbation continues.

“Madame,” he murmurs, for my ears alone, “what are Your Majesty’s personal intentions?”

I am no fool. “I know the fate that awaits me,” I reply softly. “But my duty is to die at the king’s feet and in the arms of my children.”

With one hand the general raises my arm to indicate that we are united, while with his other, he calls for silence. “Men and women of France, the queen has been deceived,” he tells them. At this, one cannot hear so much as a hairpin fall. “But she promises that she shall be misled no longer. She promises to love her people and to be attached to them as Jesus Christ was to His Church.”

The applause crescendos again, to cries of “Vive la reine! Vive le général!”

My cheeks are now wet with tears. The people think they are tears of shame.

But before the clapping peters out, a lone voice shouts, “The king to Paris!” Within seconds, dozens of others have taken up the call, transforming it into a chant, and once more I am frightened. “To Paris! To Paris!” they cry. His hand on my elbow, Lafayette guides me inside. The crowd’s admiration is so fleeting that shots are once again being fired from the courtyard. I shudder and look to Louis to see what he thinks we should do next, but he is deep in conversation with Monsieur Necker. Necker’s wife and daughter Germaine, Madame de Staël, are in the king’s bedchamber as well, witnesses to the scene on the balcony just now.

I approach Madame Necker. “They are going to force us to go to Paris with the heads of Messieurs Deshuttes and de Varicourt on pikes at the head of the procession, just to prove that our bodyguards are useless. We are prisoners of the people, now.” I glance at the Provences, Monsieur and Madame. For they, too, will be compelled to accompany us to the capital; if the mob is to be appeased, the entire royal family must depart Versailles. Marie Joséphine looks terrified, her complexion more green than usual. But my beau-frère’s sangfroid is admirable, unless of course he has no reason to be afraid.

The comte de Saint-Priest is shaking his head. If only we had fled to Rambouillet as he had urged, we would not be in such a predicament.

Out of Général Lafayette’s earshot, Louis confides in his family. “I feel we must go,” my husband says heavily, his voice barely above a whisper. “Although I have never been fond of wagering, if I were to stake one bet this day it would be that my cousin has something to do with this attack. If I—if we—do not acquiesce to the people’s demand, there is a chance they will try to place the duc d’Orléans on the throne in my stead. There will be no more shedding of blood; the Salle des Gardes is already red and reeking with the sacrifice of two brave souls and many more guards are dead and injured.”

My husband rises from his armchair and makes his way back to the balcony. Addressing these vicious insurgents as his friends, he tells the mob, “I will go to Paris with my wife and children. I confide all that I hold most dear to the love of my good and faithful subjects.”

They have won. And so they cheer him.

We are lost.

About the book
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Ballantine Books
Paperback; 464p
ISBN: 0345523903

Confessions of Marie Antoinette, the riveting and sweeping final novel in Juliet Grey’s trilogy on the life of the legendary French queen, blends rich historical detail with searing drama, bringing to life the early years of the French Revolution and the doomed royal family’s final days.

Versailles, 1789. As the burgeoning rebellion reaches the palace gates, Marie Antoinette finds her privileged and peaceful life swiftly upended by violence. Once her loyal subjects, the people of France now seek to overthrow the crown, placing the heirs of the Bourbon dynasty in mortal peril.

Displaced to the Tuileries Palace in Paris, the royal family is propelled into the heart of the Revolution. There, despite a few staunch allies, they are surrounded by cunning spies and vicious enemies. Yet despite the political and personal threats against her, Marie Antoinette remains above all a devoted wife and mother, standing steadfastly by her husband, Louis XVI, and protecting their young son and daughter. And though the queen and her family try to flee, and she secretly attempts to arrange their rescue from the clutches of the Revolution, they cannot outrun the dangers encircling them, or escape their shocking fate.


About the Author
Juliet Grey is the author of Becoming Marie Antoinette and Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow. She has extensively researched European royalty and is a particular devotee of Marie Antoinette, as well as a classically trained professional actress with numerous portrayals of virgins, vixens, and villainesses to her credit. She and her husband divide their time between New York City and southern Vermont.

For more information please visit www.becomingmarie.com. You can also find Juliet Grey on Facebook.


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Watch for my review coming up tomorrow!

GIVEAWAY:
One copy of Confessions of Marie Antoinette to a winner in the U.S. only. Please leave a comment and be sure to leave a way for me to contact you if you win (email address, Twitter handle, etc). Last day to enter is Monday, October 14 at 11:59pm CST. Good luck!

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7 comments:

I apologize for word verification, but I turned it off and had close to 50 spam comments within 12 hours (nobody has time for that) so I had to turn it back on. Sorry!

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  1. In spite of the tragedy of this era, I am fascinated by the French Revolution and the fate of the royal family. Thanks for the giveaway.
    lcbrower40(at)gmail(dot)com

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  2. I was able to visit Versailles a few years ago while I was in Paris and it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Reading about Marie Antoinette and her tragic life brings back memories of Versailles, and, despite the sadness of this era, I love reading about it. Thanks for the giveaway and guest post by Juliet Grey!

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  3. Oops...forgot this: MaryKate dot Sullivan711 at gmail dot com

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  4. This sounds like a good book to read.
    CABWNANA1@bellsouth.net

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  5. Thanks for the giveaway!
    kim_cree@yahoo.com

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  6. Thanks for the giveaway!! I'm very excited about this one!


    lafra86 at gmail dot com

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  7. I think this one looks so good so I'd love to be entered. Our trip to Versailles wasa highlight of our trip to France a few years ago.
    stacybooks at yahoo

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