The Lost King of France: A True Story of Revolution, Revenge, and DNA
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The Lost King of France: A True Story of Revolution, Revenge, and DNA

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  904 ratings  ·  107 reviews
Royalty, revolution, and scientific mystery---the dramatic true account of the fate of Louis XVII, son of Marie Antoinette, and an extraordinary detective story that spans more than two hundred years.

Louis-Charles, Duc de Normandie, enjoyed a charmed early childhood in the gilded palace of Versailles. At the age of four, he became the dauphin, heir to the most powerful thr...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 18th 2002 by St. Martin's Press (first published January 1st 2002)
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Grumpus
Outstanding!. . . A real-page turner. . . Full of intrigue. All of the positive cliché book review words apply to this one.

The book’s title is a bit of a misnomer. I thought the majority of the book was going to be dedicated to DNA testing and how it was employed to settle the mystery of what happened to Louis XVII, the eight-year-old son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. However, this topic was brilliantly covered in just the last 50 pages, bringing together the main characters and solving the...more
Yozzie Osman
I bought this book at a charity shop because I was interested in the French Revolution and I hadn't seen much written on Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI's youngest child. I expected it to be a standard piece of historical non-fiction, but I was pleasantly surprised- it was so much more than that. An excellent book that had me hooked from the first page to the last, as engrossing as it is heartbreaking. Reading about the final years of this royal family was fascinating but upsetting; the atrocitie...more
Jenett
Just finished this this morning. The book is basically answering the question "What happened to Louis-Charles Capet, son of Louis XVI of France".

The answer is well worth a book-length discussion: the introduction sets up the fact that they're going to look at what new technology (specifically DNA through the maternal line) might be able to tell - but then goes off on a really rather well done explanation of exactly what happened - and why there's confusion in the first place.

Short version: When...more
Amy
A very fascinating read! ~
The 'Lost King of France' revolves around a time that can be described as a web of heartache, disaster, and destruction for the royal family. In high school, as you learn about the story of the French Revolution- who seems more innocent? The "evil" royal family who squeezes any trace of livelihood from the people, or the people? I know what you're thinking: The people, duh! However, it's not as it seems. As I read on, I realized something. What I was taught about the Fr...more
'Aussie Rick'
This book provides the reader with a well-told and well-researched story of the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the French Revolution and the use of DNA to solve a 200-year mystery. I found it to be a moving account and a well told piece of history which was very enjoyable to read, so much so that I couldn't wait to get to the end of the book to find out did the DNA prove or disprove the story in the book of the tragic end of a little boy caught up in the Terror.

The author’s use of first...more
Jill Hutchinson
This is another book recommended by a GR friend and is simply fascinating. It follows the life of Louis-Charles, son of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and the mystery surrounding his fate. Imprisoned in the infamous Temple Tower after his parents were guillotined, he was kept in solitary confinement in horrific conditions and the question of his fate has haunted historians. Rumors have abounded that he was rescued, a substitute child took his place and that Louis-Charles was spirited away b...more
Lisa
I would have liked this book a lot more if it was my first time reading about the fall of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. However, I've read so much about this time period that most of the book was a drawn out re-hashing of information I already know well. It took 200 pages to get to the part I wanted to read: how DNA solved the mystery of the murdered son of Louis XVI! Which is the title of the book! And that part felt rushed compared to the plodding pace of the rest of the book!

I must concede,...more
Hans Nijs
A historical real-life story of the horrific fate of Louis-Charles of France.
Although it is about history, this book takes you in it's pages as if it is a literaire roman. I felt really sorry for the fate of this young boy and his family. After reading this book, I visited the place where he was burried after his death. He has a small tombstone, overgrown with moss, at the yard of a small church in a far away corner in Paris, where no tourists or other people come. It is a real tragedy, as was h...more
Elaine
I usually never enter a book I am currently reading, but this one was on my "ro read" shelf, and I just had to get to it, being one who loves "la belle France." This book is a magnificent, well-researched, and compelling history. I can't wait to finish it and be back to say more. I have been to Versailles several times, and, even though I thought I throughly underststood what happened there, I found out so much more. I still say, "vive la France!"
Lisasuej
An amazing book. I was a little hesitant to read this because I was concerned that it would be distressing to read about the mistreatment of a child. It was distressing, but the gruesome details weren't sensationalized, and certainly didn't take away from the story.

I found the presentation of the French Revolution extremely well-done. I was already somewhat familiar with the basic facts of that period of history, but the focus on exactly how it impacted the royal family, misguided as they were,...more
Wendy
Very interesting combo of history and genetics that sheds light on a long standing mystery.

I wish they had organized the section on the various royal pretenders a little better. I found the descriptions kind of confusing. There is an awful lot of back and forth ing, revealing events in terms of when they came to light as opposed to when they actually occurred. I think a strict chronology might have been easier to follow in many places.

Descriptions of what actually happened to Louis-Charles Wha...more
Diane
I loved this book about the final years of Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution and the fate of her family. It weaves meticulous historical detail into a mystery thriller of what happened to her children after she faced the Guillotine in 1795.
Anusha kumar
this is an really emotional book! you'll surely cry after reading this one!
Jesse
Wow. I feel like at the beginning of this book I was dropped into 1770 then fast-forwarded through 300 years. There is so much information skillfully packed into this book! Deborah Cadbury has the gift of relaying all the facts while still keeping the story interesting and the reader engaged. I initially picked up this book after I read Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, a YA fiction retelling of the plight of Louis-Charles (with an additional present-day storyline). After finishing it for the sec...more
Jocelyn
This is a great mix of historical fiction and modern science. The first third of the book is the story of the monarchy's experience during the French Revolution, told from their perspective. The story is based on memoirs of Marie Antoinette's daughter and ladies in waiting. I love this part of the book because normally you only hear the revolutionists' perspective of this time period in French history. It really makes you understand the difficulties, struggles, and mistakes of the royal family i...more
Evelyn Biden
Jul 15, 2011 Evelyn Biden rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone!
The Lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury completely blew me away. I've been interested in the French revolution for only the past few months, but have read my share of lengthy, wordy, heavy books that my library had in stock. This was the only book that I really, truly connected to. Combining letters and true accounts of the royal family's terrible experiences during the revolution led to an amazing novel. I cried when I read about the mistreatment of the poor Dauphin, Louis-Charles; I felt a...more
Krystle
While I was browsing the site and clicking on random books that looked interesting, I came across this, with the main entry having How DNA Solved the Mystery of the Murdered Son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette as its subtitle. The copy I found at my local library instead had the subtitle of A True Story of Revolution, Revenge, and DNA. Which makes much more sense to me now, since only the very last chapter (~8%) deals with modern-day DNA testing to clear up the mystery of Louis XVII's ultimate...more
Elena
I enjoyed Deborah Cadbury's "The Lost King of France," although I would never recommend reading it at night, unless stories of small children being brutalized help one to sleep. Cadbury has a dry, logical style which makes her descriptions of the royal family's descent into hell all the more horrifying. I was perturbed when she stated that Fersen and Marie-Antoinette were probably lovers, without giving any evidence, especially when she was careful to give evidence for everything else. Also, on...more
Cindy
Jan 11, 2009 Cindy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the French Revolution or forensic science
Recommended to Cindy by: Library Thing
This book wasn't what I expected, really. I guess I was focused on the subtitle - "How DNA solved the mystery of the murdered son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette." However, that was only about the last 1/4 of the book. The first part was all about the French Revolution and Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI.

Wow, some of this was tough to read. The details of what the Royal family endured were horrific. Just reading about the crazy mobs and their bloodlust was disgusting. A very sad insight into h...more
Mary Ann
The last, uncrowned king of France died alone, mute, and terrified in prison, a lost little boy whose "reeducation" at the hands of bloodthirsty revolutionaries had failed utterly.

Or did he?

This beautifully written book puts to rest the centuries-old mystery of what happened to Louis-Charles, son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the "orphan of the Tower." It's an almost unbelievable tale of brutality and torture, of forensic science, and of the depths to which people will stoop to protect th...more
Jodi
Just couldn't quite get into this historical, identity mystery as I could with Anastasia and the final days of the Russian Royal Family. Overall this was well done and interesting but it didn't grip me. Perhaps it is because the French Royal Family does not have the immediacy of the Russian with its connection to the present day British Royal Family—or the conspiracy theory of why it was in the best interest of the Duke of Edinburgh and his family to suppress the true identity of Anastasia (coul...more
Alicia
This is a fascinating, very well-written and documented account of a historical mystery. During the French Revolution, the royal family was imprisoned and Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette were publicly beheaded. But what happened to their son, the 8-year-old Dauphin? It's a harrowing story, especially concerning the torment of the young Dauphin. After several years of imprisonment, the revolutionaries announced his death, but there was no grave, and rumors spread that the Dauphin had esca...more
Mary
I knew very little about Marie Antoinette's children before reading this book. Found this very interesting and it only confirmed my belief in how cruel and vindictive the French were to the Royal Family based solely on birth and privilege. But to treat a child so horrendously! Frankly I hope the persons responsible are suffering due torment in a deservedly warm climate! But I admit I must read more about this subject.
Magid
Jul 02, 2007 Magid rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
I was really riveted by this book. In the first instance, it explained, methodically and clearly, a very complicated period in French history, which had always been a bit hazy for me. (For exmaple, I didn't know that in addition to the French Revolution we all know and love, there were actually two more revolutions in the nineteenth century.) Secondly, the book banished the usual romantic 'Scarlet Pimpernell' notions about the Revolution, and presented a much bleaker story of the child Dauphin,...more
Amber Lucas
This book truly showcases the extent that a country will go to in order to hide it's overwhelming guilt. The "lost kings" of France that appeared, the woman who was admitted to an insane ward, and the cover up of the government itself.
This story is tragic, heart-wrenching and frightening. The atrocities that were committed against an innocent, little boy will strike you to the core. A family completely torn apart and held in captivity in the name of freedom.

The author i felt was a bit dry. It s...more
Pat
This book is riveting. I had a faint knowledge of France's revolution. The author's detailed yet moving story of the country moving from a monarchy to a republic expanded it greatly. Yes, I knew about the guillotine and Marie Antoinette's self-centered ignorance of the people's plight. The author tells this story, but the real mystery is what happened to the 10-year-old Dauphine? Did he die in prison? Was he replaced by another sick boy and went on to live a long and fascinating life? I will adm...more
Sandy
History that reads like a mystery novel. The history of the French Revolution is told with a focus on the question of whether it was possible that the young dauphin, Louis-Charles, survived the terror that led his parents, King Louis XVII and Marie Antoinette, to the guillotine. Did he die after years of neglect and abuse in prison at the age of ten, or was he smuggled out and some other child substituted to be buried in the unmarked grave?

The story of the French Revolution is told in vivid deta...more
April
Very well written, but very hard to get through because of the intolerable abuse and cruelty that the King Louis XVI's son, Louis-Charles, experienced while in prison during the French Revolution. He died there, at age 10, believing that his mother was still alive. He didn't understand why he wasn't allowed to see her. She had died almost two years prior and no one told him.

His cruel treatment killed him. He died wasted away, covered in scabies and sores and full of tumors (probably from tuberc...more
HNC Library
Read by Six Book Challenger, Denise Erandio who said:

"A brilliant telling of the mystery surrounding Louis-Charles and his heart which has captivated people since the French Revolution. It not only tells the history of the unfortunate fate of the Royal Family of Louis XVI but also of the French Revolution and the terror that came with it. Although it sometimes sheds a rather sympathetic light on the royal family, it is a great book for a general audience."
Kim
An in-depth look at the captive boy-king and son of one of the most (in)famous French Queens of all. I was glued to this book from beginning to end. I knew a fair bit from other biographies, but this was the first time I was reading something devoted solely to young Louis XVII.

(view spoiler)...more
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Deborah Cadbury is an award-winning British author and BBC television producer specialising in fundamental issues of science and history, and their effects on modern society.
After graduating from Sussex University in Psychology and Linacre College, Oxford she joined the BBC as a documentary maker and has received numerous international awards, including an Emmy, for her work on the BBC's Horizon s...more
More about Deborah Cadbury...
Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makers Space Race: The Epic Battle Between America and the Soviet Union for Dominion of Space The Dinosaur Hunters Seven Wonders of the Industrial World Dreams of Iron and Steel: Seven Wonders of the Nineteenth Century, from the Building of the London Sewers to the Panama Canal

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