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The Lost King of France: How DNA Solved the Mystery of the Murdered Son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette Paperback – October 23, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British writer Cadbury (Terrible Lizard) sets out to unravel a historical mystery in this winning, highly readable account of the French Revolution and the fate of the dauphin, the son of the executed King Louis XVI. Cadbury dramatically relates how the French monarchy moved inexorably toward the abyss of 1789; she describes the seizure of the Bastille, the royal family's imprisonment in the Temple and the execution of the king and queen. But what became of their son? According to the official account, Louis XVII remained in solitary confinement in a filthy, vermin-infested prison cell, where he contracted tuberculosis and died at age 10 in June 1795; bizarrely, the physician who performed the autopsy literally, and fortuitously, stole the boy's heart. Yet millions believed that the prince had escaped, and over the years, hundreds came forward claiming to be the dauphin. Not until two centuries later, with advances in forensic science, was the mystery of Louis XVII's fate finally solved... Cadbury does an exemplary job describing the history, the mystery and the tragic fate of Louis XVII. 8 pages of b&w photos.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Absolutely stupendous . . . This is history as it should be. I can't praise it highly enough. It is stunningly written; I could not put it down. This is the best account of the French Revolution I have ever read. (Alison Weir, author of Henry VII: The King and His Court)

A wonderful book . . . Deborah Cadbury's fascinating account of a child victim of revolutionary brutality is a masterly synthesis of science and narrative history that provides a definitive solution to a celebrated mystery. Authoritative, lucid, and utterly absorbing. (Anne Somerset, author of Elizabeth I)

A first-class read---informative, entertaining, and a great, grand adventure. Most noteworthy. (Margaret George, author of The Autobiography of Henry VIII)

Unputdownable. Deborah Cadbury succeeds in conveying the human tragedy of this story more emotively than any other writer. Added to that, her book has the gripping pace of a thriller. I cannot recommend this too highly. (Maureen Waller, author of 1700: Scenes from London Life)

The Lost King of France is a fascinating and well-told story that reads with great interest and pleasure. My congratulations on a well researched work. (Ian Dunlop, author of Louis XIV)

An absorbing tale, combining sound history and modern science. The restrained description of the sufferings of the little prince from the officious sadism of the revolutionary officials serves only to add poignancy to his story. (John Hardman, author of Louis XVI: The Silent King)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (October 23, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312320299
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312320294
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 54 people found the following review helpful By E. A. Montgomery on December 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is as readable as any historical novel and far more interesting. Cadbury brings the shadowy image of Marie Antoinette's children fully to life with detail and emotional depth. Unlike most books on this topic, the parents are moved firmly to the background, coming forward only to illustrate their influence on the children and their lives. I learned more in this fast paced enjoyable read than I have in half a dozen 'scholarly' books on the period. The Lost King's resolution may not surprise you, but it's a rewarding read that immerses you as fully as an epic film. One of the finest histories I've read on any subject and more emotionally affecting than most fiction. You will not be able to forget this family or view them in the same fashion again. A true must read.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book provides what Antonia Frazer's biography of Marie Antoinette does not -- more about the children, more about the aftermath of Marie Antoinette's death. I thought this book would repeat much of Frazer's but, in fact, it enriches Frazer's work. And, except for some melodramatic flourishes, I think it is better written. Though I usually read 2 or 3 books at a time and can easily jump from one to the other, I could not put this book down until I finished it.
I wish there had been more to this volume. The DNA passages sometimes feel 'padded' and the 'mystery' element seems somewhat contrived. Who cares! It was so engrossing that I neglected everything this afternoon so that I could finish this book.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By ilmk on October 31, 2002
Format: Hardcover
It is a rare piece of historical non-fiction that is so gripping it becomes a one-sitting read, as Deborah Cadbury's book does. As Alison Weir's comments on the hardback edition state, it is: `stunningly written'.
The book opens with a present day mystery of a heart that is purported to be that of Louis XVII of France - the boy-king - that is (dis)proved by DNA. Rather than giving us the answer immediately the author then tells the story of the downfall of the French Monarchy at the hands of the sans-culottes and the leaders of the French Revolution. Told from the royal perspective, centering on Marie Antoniette, Louis XVI, Louis-Charles (Dauphin and future Louis XVII) and their other immediate family and associates, we are given a story full of immense pathos, where the royal family - clearly depicted as undone by previous French royal excesses and a failing economy - are treatedly brutally at the hands of the revolutionaries. Marie Antoniette is depicted as a naïve young woman of excess, then as a great mother, ultimately as aa Queen of France whose suffering reflects much of the Revolution. Louis XVI is presented as a monarch whose stoical steadfastness to uphold the good of his country costs him the constitution and ultimately his life, Louis-Charles as a boy wise beyond his years - clearly intimated as potentially a great french monarch.
The first part of the book is taken up with the history of the french royal family from the moment Maria-Antonia of Austria marries the young Dauphin and follows them as they are vilified, blamed and ultimately killed for the problems assailing France.
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74 of 88 people found the following review helpful By A. Carrozza on January 2, 2006
Format: Paperback
Whenever I hear people speaking of the "triumph" or "glory" of the French Revolution I want to scream! There was nothing wonderful about these horrible years that ruined France. The greatest proof is in how cruelly they treated the Royal Family. I have read numerous books on the French Revolution, but this one seems to give the most personal insight into what the conditions in the Temple prison were like for Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Princess Marie-Therese, but most especially, the horribly inhuman indignities inflicted upon the poor dauphin, Louis-Charles, King Louis XVII. It is sad to see how people could be so cruel, and to see what injustices were inflicted on a seven-year-old boy in the name of justice. Far more than finally solving the mystery of Louis XVII, it also gives a vividly clear insight into where the revolution went wrong, and of how evil will eventually destroy itself. A history and a "whodunit" rolled into one - I couldn't put it down! Marvelous - and sad - reading!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A. Woodley on September 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Yet again, huge applause for Deborah Cadbury here, proving her amazing book Terrible Lizard, was not just a fluke. IN this she follows the story of what happened to the boy king Louis XVII of France. A child when his parents Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette went to the guillotine in the French Revolution. The boy king was kept locked up in appalling conditions, solitary confinement with constant maltreatment. By 1795 he was silent, unable to speak, and that same year he died. Therein lies the beginning and end of this book for almost immediately the rumours that the boy who died in that cell was not the King, but an imposter.

Deborah Cadbury, intrigued by this mystery, who died in that cell? and what of all the imposters who harassed the Kings sister until her death, were they really the King returned from exile? Or were they also imposters? This would be a very short book if that was all that Cadbury wrote of. However Cadbury provides us with an excellent background from Marie-Anotnia leaving her Hapsburg home in Austria and arrival in France as Marie-Antoinette, the teenage wife-to-be of the heir to the French throne.

The reasons for the French revolution, the downfall of the house of Bourbon in France, the terrible end of the boy king in his lonely pest-ridden cell and then the rise of the swathe of counterfeit King Louis XVII's and their legal battles over the centuries - indeed right into the 1950's when the last great court battles were fought in France by the main pretenders to the French Throne.

Ironically the last court battle was fought the same year that Crick and Watson discovered the double helix model which is DNA which was finally to prove the veracity of the claim.
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