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JEAN-BAPTISTE CLÉRY: Eyewitness to Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette's Nightmare Kindle Edition
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This book has the details that most treat as a brief intermission, of a few paragraphs, between the two 'interesting' acts - the hedonistic court and the gory executions. The royal family's imprisonment was lengthy and inhumane. It was also mired in sacrifice, chivalry and loyalty by those who chose to risk their lives for the family . There was no happy ending. The jail does not have the flash of Versailles. Hints of illicit liaisons give away to piety and humility. The sumptuous clothes, furnishings and jewels give way to rags and rotting straw for bedding.
This is not fiction. It is the true account of Jean-Baptiste Cléry. The details come directly from primary sources including journals, manuscripts, archives and letters. Cléry volunteered to go to the family in prison. He was the last person with the King in the months before his execution. He literally gave his life, his family's future and fortune only to sacrifice his last treasure, his reputation.
I thought I knew the story of Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, their children and the Princess Elisabeth. I was wrong. I have never read such a riveting and moving account and I could not stop reading. I was moved to read about their dignity as they prepared piously for death. I was warmed by the servants, strangers, family and friends who courageously risked or lost their lives while so many others turned away. I was horrified by the details of years of abuse and torture endured by innocent adults and children.
Cléry was the last servant allowed to stay with the family and was honored by the King. His reward was slander by jealous servants and aristocrats, rejection by the traumatized surviving Princess, and uncaring misuse by her Uncle Louis XVIII.
I am shocked Cléry was not absolved long ago. Will Bashor has given this man and his heirs justice. Bashor even sought out some of the remaining heirs of the French Royal Family. After reviewing his manuscript, they agreed to publically correct hundreds of years of slander and sloppy research by historians and gossips. Given the topic of Bashor's upcoming book, this story could have been buried in that larger work where the details would have been lost. Instead it is available on Kindle Prime and as a low cost purchase to ensure it has a wide audience. Other historians have not been so honourable.
If this is a sample of what we will see in Bashor's upcoming book on Marie Antoinette's last days, I can not wait. Luckily it was just announced as available to preorder on Kindle!