IN THE SHADOW OF THE EMPRESS: The Defiant Lives of Maria Theresa, Mother of Marie Antoinette, and Her Daughters by NANCY GOLDSTONE
Out of the thrilling and tempestuous eighteenth century comes the sweeping family saga of the beautiful Maria Theresa, a sovereign of extraordinary strength and vision, the only woman ever to inherit and rule the vast Habsburg empire in her own name, and three of her remarkable daughters: the lovely, talented Maria Christina, governor-general of the Austrian Netherlands; the spirited Maria Carolina, the resolute queen of Naples; and the youngest, Marie Antoinette, the glamorous, tragic queen of France, perhaps the most famous princess in history.
Each of these women’s lives was packed with passion and heart-stopping suspense. Maria Theresa inherited her father’s thrones at the age of twenty-three and was immediately attacked on all sides by foreign powers confident that a woman would to be too weak to defend herself. Maria Christina, a gifted artist, who alone among her sisters succeeded in marrying for love, would face the same dangers that destroyed the monarchy in France. Resourceful Maria Carolina would usher in the golden age of Naples only to then face the deadly whirlwind of Napoleon. And, finally, Marie Antoinette, the doomed queen whose stylish excesses and captivating notoriety have masked the truth about her husband and herself for two hundred and fifty years.
Among the new and controversial arguments in the book are Nancy Goldstone’s assertions that Louis XVI, the husband of Marie Antoinette, was autistic, which explains many characteristics of his behaviour and suggests a reason why their marriage was not consummated for seven years. She also asserts that the Dauphin, Marie Antoinette's son, was not the son of Louis XVI but in fact was the son of her lover the Swedish Count Fersen.
Beginning with the birth of Maria Theresa in 1717 and ending in 1814 with the death of her daughter Maria Carolina, the queen of Naples, the story spans the War of the Austrian Succession, the Seven Years’ War, the Enlightenment, the American Revolution, the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon. IN THE SHADOW OF THE EMPRESS also features a secondary cast of outsized personalities: the hilariously unscrupulous Frederick the Great; Louis XV and his exquisite mistress, Madame de Pompadour; the brilliantly lacerating philosopher Voltaire; the stalwart George Washington; and even the love-struck Admiral Nelson and his consort, the bewitching Lady Hamilton.
IN THE SHADOW OF THE EMPRESS explores the remarkable legacy of a female ruler whose significance and accomplishments have been overlooked for centuries. Unfolding against an irresistible backdrop of brilliant courts from Vienna to Versailles, embracing the exotic lure of Naples and Sicily, this epic history of Maria Theresa and her daughters is a tour de force of desire, adventure, ambition, treachery, sorrow, and glory.