A captivating novel of rich spectacle and royal scandal, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow spans fifteen years in the fateful reign of Marie Antoinette, France's most legendary and notorious queen.
Paris, 1774. At the tender age of eighteen, Marie Antoinette ascends to the French throne alongside her husband, Louis XVI. But behind the extravagance of the young queen's elaborate silk gowns and dizzyingly high coiffures, she harbors deeper fears for her future and that of the Bourbon dynasty.
From the early growing pains of marriage to the joy of conceiving a child, from her passion for Swedish military attach� Axel von Fersen to the devastating Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Marie Antoinette tries to rise above the gossip and rivalries that encircle her. But as revolution blossoms in America, a much larger threat looms beyond the gilded gates of Versailles--one that could sweep away the French monarchy forever.
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May 15, 2012
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Excerpt from Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey
Queen of France
^Twelve Years Earlier &
May 8, 1774
to: comte de mercy-�argenteau, ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the court of versailles:
My Dear Mercy,
I understand that the death of my sovereign brother is imminent. The news fills me with both sorrow and trepidation. For as much as I account Antoinette's marriage to the dauphin of France among the triumphs of my reign, I cannot deny a sense of foreboding at my daughter's fate, which cannot fail to be either wholly splendid or extremely unfortunate. There is nothing to calm my apprehensions; she is so young, and has never had any powers of diligence, nor ever will have--�unless with great difficulty. I fancy her good days are past.
^La Muette, May 21, 1774 &
"My condolences on the passing of His Majesty, Your Majesty."
"Your Majesty, my condolences on the death of His Majesty."
"Permit me, Votre Majest�, to tender my deepest condolences on the expiration of His Majesty, Louis Quinze."
One by one they filed past, the elderly ladies of the court in their mandated mourning garb, like a murder of broad black crows in panniered gowns, their painted faces greeting each of us in turn--�my husband, the new king Louis XVI, and me. We had been the sovereigns of France for two weeks, but under such circumstances elation cannot come without sorrow.
Louis truly grieved for the old king, his late grand-�p�re. As for the others, the straitlaced prudes--�collets-�mont�s, as I dubbed them--�who so tediously offered their respects that afternoon in the black-�and-�white tiled hall at the hunting lodge of La Muette, I found their sympathy--�as well as their expressions of felicitations on our accession to the throne--�as false as the blush on their cheeks. They had not loved their former sovereign for many decades, if at all. Moreover, they had little confidence in my husband's ability to rule, and even less respect for him.
"Permettez-�moi de vous offrir mes condol�ances. J'en suis desol�e." I giggled behind my fan to my devoted friend and attendant Marie Th�r�se Louise de Savoie-�Carignan, the princesse de Lamballe, mimicking the warble of the interminable parade of ancient crones--�centenarians, I called them. "Honestly, when one has passed thirty, I cannot understand how one dares appear at court." Being eighteen, that twelve-�year difference might as well have been an eternity.
I found these old women ridiculous, but there was another cause for my laughter--�one that I lacked the courage to admit to anyone, even to my husband. In sober truth, not until today when we received the customary condolences of the nobility had the reality of Papa Roi's death settled upon my breast. The magnitude of what lay before us, Louis and me, was daunting. I was overcome with nerves, and raillery was my release.
The duchesse d'Archambault approached. Sixty years of rouge had settled into her hollowed cheekbones, and I could not help myself; I bit my lip, but a smile matured into a grin, and before I knew it a chuckle had burbled its way out of my mouth. When she descended into her reverence I was certain I heard her knees creak and felt sure she would not be able to rise without assistance.
"Allow me, Your Majesty, to condole you on the death of the king-�that-�was." The duchesse lapsed into a reverie. "Il etait si noble, si gentil . . ."
"Vous l'avez detest�!" I muttered, then whispered to the princesse de Lamballe, "I know for a fact she despised the king because he refused her idiot son a military promotion." When the duchesse was just out of earshot, I trilled, "So noble, so kind."
"Your Majesty, it does not become you to mock your elders, especially when they are your inferiors."
I did not need to peer over my fan to know the voice: the comtesse de Noailles, my dame d'honneur, the superintendent of my household while I was dauphine and my de facto guardian. As the youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, I had come to Versailles at fourteen to wed the dauphin; and had been not merely educated, but physically transformed in order to merit such an august union. Yet, there had still been much to learn and little time in which to master it. The comtesse had been appointed my mentor, to school me in the rigid rituals of the French court. For this I had immediately nicknamed her Madame Etiquette, and in the past four years not a day had gone by that I had not received from her some rebuke over a transgression of protocol. Just behind my right shoulder the princesse de Lamballe stood amid my other ladies. Our wide skirts discreetly concealed another of my attendants, the marquise de Clermont-�Tonnerre, who had sunk to her knees from exhaustion. I heard a giggle. The marquise was known to pull faces from time to time and kept all of us in stitches with her ability to turn her eyelids inside out and then flutter them flirtatiously.