This biography of the sweet-natured, loyal and tragic Princess Marie Louise of Savoy, who on marriage to Louis Alexandre de Bourbon-Penthièvre became the Princesse de Lamballe, is a welcome addition to Pen & Sword’s expanding Georgian-era history list. Geri Walton is a popular US blogger (who also tweets as @18thcand19thc) and has an interest in all aspects of social and political history.
The Princesse’s life is presented chronologically: her birth and early marriage (by proxy), her early widowhood (her husband died of a venereal disease when the princess was 19), her long-standing friendship with Marie Antoinette (they were accused of being lesbian lovers) and the appalling manner of her death.
During the revolution, the princess was confined in the Tuileries and later in the Temple with Louis and Marie Antoinette until she was removed to be interrogated and imprisoned in a grim prison called La Grand Force and eventually put before a tribunal. When she was ordered to swear that she loved ‘liberty and equality’ but hated ‘all kings and queens’ she refused to renounce the King and Queen and was unceremoniously thrown to a waiting mob, who tore her to pieces and put her head on a spike. She was one of the first to die in what was later called the September Massacres.
This is a sad story vividly told. Walton’s style is accessible and she is good at explaining the tensions between factions at the Bourbon court: the jealousies and antipathies between courtiers, all vying for the attentions of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. Along the way, we meet figures such as Madame de Genlis and madame de Polignac and many others. There are also interesting details such as the princess’s trip to England, during which she visited William Herschel’s Great Forty Foot telescope in Slough.
Marie Antoinette’s Confidante: The Rise and Fall of the Princesse de Lamballe by Geri Walton