Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette (Young Royals)

The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette (Young Royals)

Carolyn Meyer
Historical Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Harcourt Children's Books, 2010   ISBN: 978-0152063764

For as long as she can remember, Antonia has lived with the knowledge that one day she will have to marry a man she has never met to help solidify a political relationship between her country, Austria, and another country. Now the time has come, and she is getting ready for her marriage to the dauphin of France. Antonia is taught how to speak French, her teeth are painfully straightened, she is taught how to walk, how to dance, and the rules of etiquette that she will be expected to know. She is even forced to change her name from Antonia to Marie-Antoinette.

Then, at last, after months of preparations, the young fourteen-year-old princess travels across Europe to begin her new life with her new husband in the palace of Versailles. She quickly discovers that life in Versailles is nothing like her life in her mother’s palaces in Austria. She finds the rules of etiquette stifling, and her painfully shy husband does nothing to help her feel more at home. Matters are made worse by the fact that Louis-Auguste refuses to do what needs to be done so that Marie-Antoinette can get pregnant and hopefully give France and heir to the throne. Until she starts having babies, the court or the people of France will not accept Marie-Antoinette.

Frustrated and lonely, Marie-Antoinette decides to do as she pleases. She spends a fortune on her clothes and accessories, and loses enormous sums of money gambling in the evenings with her friends. Then, at last, Marie-Antoinette and her husband (who is now the king of France) start to have children. All should be well, but the people of France are angry and it is not long before the rumbles of revolution echo across the land.

Marie-Antoinette is often portrayed as being a wicked and heartless person. In this carefully researched and sensitively written book, Carolyn Meyer shows her readers that though Marie-Antoinette was stubborn and unwise, she was not really a bad person. As a child and then a young woman, Marie- Antoinette was not taught about leadership and politics. In fact, she could barely write, and read very slowly. She was taught that her purpose was to be decorative and to have children. She did these things to the best of her ability, supporting her husband to the end, and doing her best to protect her children. Naïve and thoughtless she most certainly was, but cruel she was not.

Beautifully written from the point of view of Marie-Antoinette, and then from the point of view of her daughter, this is fascinating book that fans of historical fiction will find captivating.