Marie Therese, Child of Terror

  • by Susan Nagel
  • Narrated by Rosalyn Landor
  • 18 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In December 1795, on the midnight stroke of her 17th birthday, Marie-Therese, the only surviving child of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, fled Paris' notorious Temple Prison. Kept in solitary confinement after her parents' brutal execution during the Terror, she had been unaware of the fate of her family, save the cries she heard of her young brother being tortured in an adjacent cell.She emerged to an uncertain future: an orphan, exile, and focus of political plots and marriage schemes of the crowned heads of Europe. Throughout, she remained stubbornly loyal to France and to the Bourbon dynasty of which she was part. However, the horrors she had witnessed and been a victim to would haunt her for the rest of her life.Many believe to this day that the traumatized princess was switched with her "half sister" and spirited away to live as "the Dark Countess", leaving the impostor to play her role on the political stage of Europe. Now, 200 years later, using handwriting samples, DNA testing, and a cache of Bourbon family letters, Susan Nagel finally solves this mystery.Nagel tells a remarkable story of an astonishing woman, from her birth, to her upbringing by doting parents, through to Revolution, imprisonment, exile, Restoration, and, finally, her reincarnation as saint and matriarch.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Essential reading for students of Bourbon history

The life of Marie Thérèse de France, or "Madame Royale," as she would be known, is brought to life in this fascinating biography. Nagel takes us from our heroine's birth as an adored and pampered "Daddy's girl" to her unspeakable experiences during the revolution, then into adult life, her travels in exile, and her marriage to Louis-Antoine, duc d'Angoulême. There is never a dull moment in this well-researched, beautifully written biography of a subject who has too often been forgotten.

For those who have studied the Bourbon monarchy and the revolution, most of what is written up to Chapter 10, "Two Orphans," may be a review. However, it is essential background in such a biography. It will be accessible to those who are new to the subject, although it would be helpful if the audio had a PDF download of the geneaology charts included with the hardcover to help one keep track of the labrynthine royal inter-relationships.

Nagel makes a strong case against the "Dark Countess theory." The Dunkelgräfin as she is known in her German home, was the comtesse des Ténèbres, around whom controversy continues to the present day. It was said she was substituted for Madame Royale, and her unusually secretive and eccentric behavior masked her true identity.

Whatever one might conclude about Madame Royale, one would have to have a heart of stone not to grieve for any person of any station who would have lived through such tumult and terror. For me, Nagel revivified a memorable and heart-breaking character who will stay with me for a very long time.

Also recommended: "The Lost King of France: How DNA Solved the Mystery of the Murdered Son on Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette" by Deborah Cadbury.
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- Die Falknerin "Painter, musician, bibliophile..."

Even with all my European history

Would you listen to Marie Therese, Child of Terror again? Why?

No but that is not to be considered a negative reaction, although I enjoyed listening to it I like to move onto other biographies or nonfiction titles. So many so little time!

What was one of the most memorable moments of Marie Therese, Child of Terror?

For me when her mother had to leave her young children to face her death not knowing what fate awaited her children. As tender and loving a mother as she was that had to be the worst kind of torture.

Which character – as performed by Rosalyn Landor – was your favorite?

I think her mother. MA showed herself to be very perceptive in knowing how, with her Austrian background, that many elements in French society including her own husband's family were willing to vilify her to use the enraged and irrational masses to gain popularity. She taught her children to be mindful of others which many parents aristocratic or peasant did not do and yet she and her husband paid for their lives unfortunately living in such a political whirlwind they could not control or defend themselves against.
I believe because of her influence and her father's Marie Therese was able to overcome the terrible experiences of her youth to remain a decent and caring human being and not use it as an excuse to hate when to the reader she almost deserved to after the treatment she witnessed . Inspiring to all of us as to true "Christian" witness which is difficult for any to live up to but few of us experience the horrors she did. By reading it it makes you feel a little ashamed at not trying harder.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It was very good but I knew it was long and wanted to enjoy it over a week or so.

Any additional comments?

If you like biographies or history it is very good, I am picky about narrators and was afraid at the start she was too stilted ( I am Irish and my accent gets mistaken for a Brit so it wasn't that, and my family lived there) but she was very good and I enjoyed her reading thoroughly. Her french pronunciation of names or quotations was perfect.

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- D. McIntyre "bookaddict"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-04-2008
  • Publisher: Books on Tape