Friday, October 22, 2010

A New Novel about Louis XVII

There is a new novel which deals with the dauphin Louis-Charles and his sufferings in the Temple. According to author Jennifer Donnelly:
I knew, as most people do, that during the French Revolution Louis and Marie Antoinette were imprisoned and eventually guillotined by the revolutionaries. What I didn’t know, was that after the king and queen were executed, their children were kept in prison. Marie-Therese would survive her imprisonment and would be released in 1795. Eight-year-old Louis-Charles was not so lucky.

As heir to the throne, he was seen as a threat by the revolutionaries. It was rumored that powerful people were plotting to free the child and rule in his name. To prevent this, Robespierre and his crew essentially had Louis Charles walled up alive. He was kept in a small dark cold cell. Alone. Without enough food or a fire. He became sick. And he went mad. And eventually he died. At the age of ten.

Needless to say, this article really upset me. I couldn’t stop wondering how the idealism of the revolution devolved into such cruelty. I went to bed thinking about it and woke up thinking about it. I recognized the feeling – it’s how I feel when a book is starting inside me. But I couldn’t act on that feeling because I had other books due at the time. Nonetheless, the story stayed with me. Time moved on. I finished the other books. And I had a child. Which changed my life in many wonderful ways.

In one not so wonderful way, I somehow lost my protective shell. The one that enables us to hear a horrible story on the news and still go on with our lives. When my daughter came along, suddenly every news story about an abused child destroyed me. As a new mother, I knew what a child was in a way that I had not before. I knew how fragile and innocent children are. And that someone could hurt them, that they could starve in a famine, or be injured by a bomb….well, I could not understand that and I couldn’t bear it and I wondered, as I never had before, what kind of world is this that allows it? And how do we live in it?

These questions were haunting me and I had to find answers. So I set about trying to do that the only way I know how, by writing a story. I remembered that article I’d cut out of the Times. That small heart in its glass urn took on a new and symbolic meaning for me. What happened to Louis Charles was unspeakable, and yet, I felt that if I could face it and grapple with it, it might help me find my answers.
More about Louis-Charles and his ordeal, HERE.
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8 comments:

Dymphna said...

I don't think I could bear to read it. What happened to little Louis is so horrible it's impossible to forget. The only bright spot is the knowlege that the poor little one's soul flew to heaven when his ordeal was over.

elena maria vidal said...

I know, I can barely write about. So awful....

Matterhorn said...

Such a beautiful child...

lara77 said...

It is a tribute to the human heart that people when touched by certain historical events are moved beyond the "normal" reactions. Elena Maria, you knew there was another side to the lives of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette that the history books were not telling; we felt your compassion through your words. I believe that is probably how Jennifer Donnelly responded. An incident or incidents so horrible and unjust it must be told in a new light. Thank God there are the good people in the world who try to balance the evil so prevalent in our society.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, M.!

Thanks, Lara! I have not yet read the book but her words about the Dauphin were true to the mark!

Mistress said...

I'm very interested in this book. I'm glad she has taken onthisvery difficult story.

ham1299 said...

I just read Revolution last week, and was just astonished about the story about that poor, sweet child! I hadn't ever heard of Louis-Charles before. Definitely paints the French Revolution in a much different light. So, so awful. My heart breaks just thinking about it. (My oldest child is about to turn 8, so that likely affects my reaction, I'm sure.)

Unknown said...

Auther Jennifer is absolutely right....I could feel the pain and suffering Louis XVII and other war, famine ravaged children go trhough since I had my own child. My heart goes out to all the suffering children in this world and really feel ashamed about a society which allows this to happen