Book review and giveaway: Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days

Will Bashor

on Tour

March 13-24



Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days:
Prisoner No. 280 in the Conciergerie

(history – nonfiction)

Release date: December 1, 2016
at Rowman & Littlefield

392 pages

ISBN: 978-1442254992

Website | Goodreads

In Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days, Bashor’s aim is to document Marie-Antoinette’s last days of imprisonment in the fairest way, helping readers find sense between numerous conflicting accounts, without taking part. He does it brilliantly and I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as much as I did the previous one by the author, on Marie-Antoinette and her hairdresser.

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Confessions of Marie Antoinette: review. I love France #67



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Confessions of Marie Antoinette
(Marie Antoinette #3)


Juliet GREY

Release date: tomorrow, September 24, by Random House/Ballantine

464 pages

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this book as an egalley for free from  the publisher
via Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer,
and the thoughts are my own.

onfessions of Marie Antoinette

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

     Books on France          hf-reading-challenge-2013   2013 Ebook Challenge


rating system

As I read the first volume of this trilogy, Becoming Marie Antoinette, then the second, Days Of Splendor, Days of Sorrow, I thought I had to read the last one: Confessions of Marie Antoinette.

My favorite of all three remains the first. Though it sounds like the author read my review of the second: in the third volume, there are far less French words used, and with fewer mistakes as well. There are still some, but not as many as to make me list them as I did in my 2nd review!

In this book, we are just before and during the French Revolution, and eventually the arrest and death of both Louis and then Marie Antoinette.

I’m very divided about this book. I do acknowledge that the author seemed to have done a lot of serious research about her main character. But sometimes I had the feeling she wanted to crammed in all the information she had found, and it didn’t seem she was too successful at integrating these data in the novel format.

I guess there’s also a good sense of urgency and suspense, though having studied over and over again these events in history classes, I could not feel any effect of surprise.

Not sure the character of Louison, a young sculptress witness to the events, was all that necessary, at least the way she was presented. When she appeared in the story, I could not but think of how Michelle Moran used another artist, Madame Tussaud, to draw her majestic painting of the French Revolution. Madame Tussaud was at the heart of the story, stuck between royalists and revolutionaries, therefore telling the story from her point of view was pure genius. Louison here is not enough present to make her a significant voice.

The art of historical fiction is very difficult, and I have run into fantastic writers recently, so I guess I’m getting very choosy, and I expect a perfect merge of data into a novel form, not suddenly a few pages that look like my French history text books.

Also, if I consider the whole trilogy, I’m not sure I’m in the presence of the same character. People evolve, definitely, but I did not feel any smooth transition between the superficial Marie Antoinette of the 2nd volume and the mother so loving towards her children in the third.

Again, I may be comparing Juliet Grey to too high a standard, as I remember the amazing evolution of the character of Cromwell between the first and second volumes by Hilary Mantel. But, hey, if someone is able to do it at perfection, it IS possible to attain and repeat, maybe.

Having visited La Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette was held a prisoner at the end of her life, made some scenes very real to me. My friend guide at the Basilica of Saint Denis, where she has been reburied, (have you seen my pictures of this gorgeous church?) even told me that every week, some devotees bring red roses to put on her tomb!

So whether this book really tells Marie Antoinette’s confessions or not, she is still dear to the heart of many people!

Conciergerie 1

secretary officeThe secretary office . He kept a record of all the belongings of the prisoners as they entered

Marie Antoinette’s cell has been reconstituted:

Marie-Antoinette's cell 1As you can see, she was under the constant vigilance of a guard, after she tried to escape – she almost made it!
Juliet has many pages on these guards and Marie Antoinette in her cell.

Marie-Antoinette's cell 2I wrote a special post on La Conciergerie, with more pictures, and more details on its history.


 Confessions of Marie Antoinette, the riveting and sweeping final novel in Juliet Grey’s trilogy on the life of the legendary French queen, blends rich historical detail with searing drama, bringing to life the early years of the French Revolution and the doomed royal family’s final days.

Versailles, 1789. As the burgeoning rebellion reaches the palace gates, Marie Antoinette finds her privileged and peaceful life swiftly upended by violence. Once her loyal subjects, the people of France now seek to overthrow the crown, placing the heirs of the Bourbon dynasty in mortal peril.

Displaced to the Tuileries Palace in Paris, the royal family is propelled into the heart of the Revolution. There, despite a few staunch allies, they are surrounded by cunning spies and vicious enemies. Yet despite the political and personal threats against her, Marie Antoinette remains above all a devoted wife and mother, standing steadfastly by her husband, Louis XVI, and protecting their young son and daughter. And though the queen and her family try to flee, and she secretly attempts to arrange their rescue from the clutches of the Revolution, they cannot outrun the dangers encircling them, or escape their shocking fate. [Goodreads]


Juliet Grey

Juliet Grey
has extensively researched European royal history
and is a particular devotee of Marie Antoinette.
She and her husband divide their time
between New York City and southern Vermont.




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I love France #21: La Sainte-Chapelle


I plan to publish this meme every Thursday.
You can share here about any book
or anything cultural you just discovered related to France, Paris, etc.

Please spread the news on Twitter, Facebook, etc !
Feel free to grab my button,
and link your own post through Mister Linky,
at the bottom of this post.


After the gloomy post on La Conciergerie last week, I promised you something more uplifting.

Statue of Louis IX

La Sainte-Chapelle (French pronunciation: [la sɛ̃t ʃapɛl], The Holy Chapel) is the only surviving building of the Capetian royal palace on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris, France. It was commissioned by King Louis IX of France to house his collection of Passion Relics, including the Crown of Thorns – one of the most important relics in medieval Christendom.

Begun some time after 1239 and consecrated on the 26th of April 1248, la Sainte-Chapelle is considered among the highest achievements of the Rayonnant period of Gothic architecture. Although damaged during the French revolution and heavily restored in the 19th century, it retains one of the most extensive in-situ collections of 13th century stained glass anywhere in the world.

La Sainte-Chapelle has been a national historic monument since 1862.

The most famous features of the chapel, among the finest of their type in the world, are the great stained glass windows, for whose benefit the stone wall surface is reduced to little more than a delicate framework. Fifteen huge mid-13th century windows fill the nave and apse, while a large rose window with Flamboyant tracery (added to the upper chapel c.1490) dominates the western wall.

Despite some damage the windows display a clear iconographical program. The three windows of the eastern apse illustrate the New Testament, featuring scenes of The Passion (center) with the Infancy of Christ (left) and the Life of John the Evangelist (right). By contrast, the windows of the nave are dominated by Old Testament exemplars of ideal kingship/queenship in an obvious nod to their royal patrons. The cycle starts at the western bay of the north wall with scenes from the Book of Genesis (heavily restored). The next ten windows of the nave follow clockwise with scenes from Exodus, Joseph, Numbers/Leviticus, Joshua/Deuteronomy, Judges, (moving to the south wall) Jeremiah/Tobias, Judith/Job, Esther, David and the Book of Kings. The final window, occupying the westernmost bay of the south wall brings this narrative of sacral kingship right up to date with a series of scenes showing the rediscovery of Christ’s relics, the miracles they performed, and their relocation to Paris in the hands of King Louis himself.

Thanks to my touristic guide friend, it was fascinating to see how King Louis had reinterpreted Scripture and inserted himself in the Biblical genealogy and events, as can be seen if you look closely at every stained glass windows.

The reliquary with the Crown of Thrones

The dominant colors represent the King and… his wife? No, she’s barely present. But his mother, Blanche of Castile, is omnipresent – the symbol being the castle, for her name.


And one of my favorite element there: the ceiling, as symbol as the heavens and their glory:



If you link your own post on France,
please if possible
include the title of the book or topic in your link:
name of your blog (name of the book title or topic).