Between The Lines: The Bad Queen by Carolyn Meyer

Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France, is terribly misunderstood and constantly judged in every aspect of her life. In the public’s eyes, she never suffers, probably doesn’t even know what the word means. She grew up as a princess and moves on to be Queen. Her life is filled with luxury and privilege.

But what the people don’t know is the scrutiny she is under from her mother, her brother, the emperor and even them public. She cannot make a mistake without someone knowing about it. Her looks must be absolutely perfect before the King of France agrees to the marriage with his grandson. Everything she does has to please the public, but what if that means sacrificing her happiness?

Being born into royalty means Marie has the luxury, or others might say handicap, of not having to make her own decisions. Her mother decides whom she is to marry. Her ladies choose her outfits. People tell her where to be at what time, what to look like and how to present herself. Like most people, she wants to choose her husband. Marry for love, not status. But her opinions and desires are not considered, brushed away like a bit of dust on the shoulder. She is to marry the Dauphin of France, Louis XVI, whether she likes it or not.

Once in France, now the Dauphine, Antoinette does not know what to do with herself. Imagine being stripped of all you know, your family, country, belongings, everything, and having to start a new life in a foreign country where everyone expects perfection from you. Louis would not dare to speak five words, let alone acknowledge her. But she is sweet and patient. She slowly gains her husband’s trust by becoming friends with him and pushing no further.

The court life is extremely stressful, and sometimes just too much for the poor, young Queen once Louis becomes king. She desires to have a place to herself, where the etiquette rules will be thrown out the window. France is already in debt from the King Louis XIV’s neglect. But all the new king wants to do is please his wife and work in his workshop. He will give her any amount of money to make her happy, even if it means increasing taxes on the public. While the Queen enjoys gambling and escaping from palace life in her little chateau with her friends, France’s economy is slowly crumbling to pieces. The people of France are enraged and starving, and they blame their Queen for everything.

Most of the accounts of history that we have collected are one-sided, biased opinions. There are always two sides to a story, and we seldom hear the other side of history. For example, how did Britain feel when the “colonies” rebelled. In Carolyn Meyer’s book, “The Bad Queen,” we get a look at the other side of Marie Antoinette’s story - her side. We learn the reasons behind her excessive spending and what was going through her powdered head as France came crumbling around her. All girls will be able to sympathize with the young Dauphine-to-be-Queen and, sometimes, might even want to step into her shoes. Was Marie-Antoinette really a bad queen or did we just hear the bad side of the story?

Have you read “The Bad Queen?” Discuss your thoughts on the book below.

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