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Madame Campan shares her experiences of life in the Royal Court of Marie Antoinette, in the years preceding the Queen's execution amid the carnage of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.
As perhaps the most preferred servant and lady-in-waiting in the French court, Henriette Campan was in a fine position to observe and comment on the affairs of the court. As a close confidante of Marie Antoinette, she offers readers insight into the Queen's character, revealing a nuanced person whose reputation for arrogance and disdain is perhaps undeserved.
In this detailed and eloquent account of one of the most tumultuous places and periods of European history, we are thrust into the palaces and opulence of the court. Daily life, from administration of the Kingdom to various meetings and discussions between guests and courtiers, allows Campan to build a compelling atmosphere.
Much of the biography is occupied not with the upheaval of the era, but of the characters and behaviors of the aristocracy in France. We hear of how Louis XVI and various other nobles conducted themselves and ruled, what their traits were and how the brewing discontent among the population gradually turned from a matter of minor concern, to a major crisis, to spelling the end of the French monarchy.
It is in this book's later chapters that arguably the most drama ensues; the executions, first of the king and later of Marie Antoinette itself, are described by Campan. The final, unhappy months of Antoinette's life are remembered by her most trusted and preferred servant: Campan describes the emotions of the Queen as her fortunes decline amid the chaos and drama of political upheaval.