Friday, November 30, 2012

The Queen's Lover

The Queen's Lover is a 2012 novel written by Francine du Plessix Gray on the relationship between Axel von Fersen and Queen Marie Antoinette of France.

 Axel von Fersen first met, the then, Dauphine Marie Antoinette when they were both 18 at a masque ball in Paris. It was Fersen's first sojourn in Paris and he took full advantage of his stay in the most vibrant city in all of Europe, absorbing all the knowledge he could in sexuality and otherwise. He first learns about Marie Antoinette's, or Toinette as he called her, troubled marriage to Louis-August, about the first seven years of their marriage being unconsummated. When Fersen next sees Toinette, she is pregnant with her first child, Marie Therese. The two grow close to one another.

The Fersens come from a line of well bred, handsome courtiers. Axel von Fersen the Elder, much loved by all of his children, was best known as a politician and a Francophile one at that. Sophie, Axel's favorite sibling, entered into an unhappy marriage to Adolf Ludwig Piper but later found the love of her life in Evert Taube. After having fallen in love with Marie Antoinette, Fersen has determined that he will never marry as he can never be with the one he truly loves. The Swedish King that Fersen serves under is none other than Gustavus III of Sweden, whose great deeds as an Enlightened Despot were overshadowed by his long inability to consummate his marriage to his wife, Sophia Magdelena of Denmark that he required Adolf Frederik Munck to do it for him and beget the future Gustav IV of Sweden.

Eager to for action, Fersen signed himself up to help the French forces in the American Revolution. Upon his return, he and Marie Antoinette consummate their love for each other. Louis may or may not be aware of their affair but in any case, the King of France forms a deep friendship with the Swedish diplomat. Nine months after Fersen's visit to Versailles during a European tour with Gustavus III, Marie Antoinette gives birth to her second son, Louis-Charles, sparking Fersen to come to the conclusion that the boy might in fact be his.

Marie Antoinette's name is dragged through the mud after the Diamond Necklace Affair and the French people come to hate the woman that they once adored. The French Revolution began in the spring of 1789. In 1790, after the French royal family is moved to the Tuileries is Fersen forced to admit that the French monarchy was hopeless so long as the family was held captive in Paris. Despite his intense love for the Queen, Fersen finds comfort in other women and has many lovers on the side. Fersen is instrumental in the writing of the Brunswick Manifesto and played a leading role in the Flight to Varennes, which would have succeeded had things gone according to his plan. His beloved Marie Antoinette is executed on October 16, 1793.

Gustav III of Sweden dies on March 29, 1792 after being shot on the 16th. During the regency of the Duke Charles of S√∂dermanland, Fersen was in disgrace. Gustav IV Adolf reached his majority in 1796 and Fersen is welcomed back to court, just in time for Gustav's marriage to Frederica of Baden. Gustav IV is deposed in 1809 and the Riksdag begins searching for a King. A popular candidate for the position was the Danish Prince Charles August and when the new Crown Prince died suddenly in 1810, many people blame it on Axel von Fersen and his sister. Fersen is killed by the mob on June 20, 1810. A few months later, he is cleared of any suspicion in the prince's death.

I give this book a 1/5.While reading this piece of historical fiction, I felt that  Du Plessix Gray didn't really know what kind of book she was writing. The story is presented as Axel von Fersen's memoirs with snippets added in by his younger sister, Sophie Piper but was so detailed that it seemed more to me like a biography on Marie Antoinette. The many sex scenes in this novel is the only dramatic aspect in the book and even they are awkwardly detailed and out of place. The image of Axel von Fersen that Du Plessix Gray portrays is an unlikable character who constantly professes his love for a woman yet flagrantly cheats on her many times. There are far better historical fiction novels you can read on Marie Antoinette and Axel von Fersen and there are far better biographies on Marie Antoinette and Axel von Fersen. Don't waste your time on it.

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