Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Blog Tour Guest Post: Charlotte and Marie Antoinette by Laura Purcell, author of Queen of Bedlam

Please join me in welcoming historical fiction author Laura Purcell to Let Them Read Books! I was privileged to work with Laura on an early version of her debut novel, Queen of Bedlam, the moving story of George III’s madness and the women whose lives it destroyed, and I am so very thrilled to have her here today as she tours the blogosphere in celebration of its publication by Myrmidon Books! She's got a great post for us today on Queen Charlotte and her rival, Marie Antoinette. Read on, and enter for a chance to win a copy of Queen of Bedlam!

Charlotte and Marie Anoinette
by Laura Purcell

Dickens begins The Tale of Two Cities with a humorous description of England and France in the year 1775. He refers to the royal couple of France as “a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face”, whereas in England we have “a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face.” So continues the long established dismissal of Queen Charlotte in preference of Marie Antoinette. But were these royal ladies really the opposites popular history suggests: one beautiful, one plain; one spendthrift, the other frugal? They may have more in common than you think.

Both came to the throne at a similar age; Charlotte at seventeen, Marie at eighteen, although she had been married for four years by the time she inherited. Each bride was inexperienced, clinging to a beloved dog. But while Charlotte’s canine Presto was welcome with opened arms, accompanying her to official occasions, Marie’s pug Mops was considered unfit and sent back to Austria (I understand dog and owner were reunited in later years). Dogs were deeply important to both queens throughout their lives, treated almost as children.

The rigours of court life were tough on each girl. Marie faced a maze of endless etiquette, whereas Charlotte was tucked away under the censorious eye of her mother-in-law. It’s generally assumed that Charlotte settled happily into her retired life, but her letters to her brother show she was far from content. She writes: “I find that the solitary and retiring life which I lead is not made for me. Having admitted this I assure you I shall not ignore my duty… I always tell myself that the sacrifice I have made is not a misfortune, and how many people more dignified than I … must continue to endure their lot.” Each queen made herself a little paradise to escape from court life: Marie, the Petit Trianon, Charlotte her cottage at Kew and later Frogmore.

Although Charlotte was often mocked for penny-pinching, she had a taste for fine dress and jewellery like Marie Antoinette. An artist even attended Charlotte at her dressing to advise on the placement of diamonds in her hair. Charlotte never reached the heights of scandal Marie experienced with the affair of the diamond necklace, she did run into trouble over her love of precious gems. During George III’s illness, she quarrelled violently with her son over the custody of the King’s jewels.

Both queens had a talent for the visual, enjoying dress, decorating and the design of gardens. These mutual interests led to a friendship by correspondence – the queens were “pen-pals”. Their relationship must have been sorely tried by France’s support of the American rebels, but there is no sign that Charlotte resented Marie Antoinette. When the revolution began in France, Charlotte was upset to learn her friend would have to attend a thanksgiving ceremony. “What a bitter potion is hers. I pity both the King and her, and wish anxiously… to extricate them from their great horrible distress.” Upon hearing of Marie Antoinette’s execution, Charlotte cancelled all plans to celebrate the anniversary of her own coronation.

Charlotte had a fair share of stones and shoes thrown at her when revolutionary fever rocked the globe, but nothing on the scale poor Marie Antoinette faced. There is some evidence to suggest, though, that she would have approached such ordeals with similar, if not quite equal, courage. Charlotte showed the true grit of her character by holding the throne through the chaos of her husband’s many illnesses and her son’s unpopularity. She weathered the birth and raising of fifteen children, enduring the terrible pain of outliving three. She was made of stern stuff.

I have a great admiration for both these tragic queens, who strove to do their duty in a time of social upheaval. Charlotte sacrificed her happiness, and Marie Antoinette her life, clinging to the crown. Although they never met, it’s nice to know they could offer mutual support and friendship through their correspondence.

Thanks, Laura! Great post! I love that historical fiction reminds us that these larger-than-life queens were real women facing situations that we can all relate to. 

This giveaway is closed and the winner has been selected.
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Wanna win your own copy of
Queen of Bedlam?
Simply leave a comment on this post,
and you're entered!

This giveaway is open to residents of the US and UK and ends at 11:59pm Tuesday, July 8, 2014. Winner will be selected a random.
Thanks, and good luck!

Queen of Bedlam is on a blog tour!

About the Author

Laura Purcell lives in Colchester, the oldest recorded town in England. She met her husband working in Waterstones bookshop and they share their home with several pet guinea pigs.

Laura is a member of the Historical Novel Society, The Society for Court Studies and Historic Royal Palaces. She has recently appeared on the PBS documentary The Secrets of Henry VIII’s Palace, talking about Queen Caroline’s life at Hampton Court.

Laura’s novels explore the lives of royal women during the Georgian era, who have largely been ignored by modern history. Her debut Queen Charlotte was originally self-published as God Save the King, receiving excellent reviews as an Amazon bestseller in biographical fiction.

You can find out more about Laura and read her history blog at www.laurapurcell.com.  You can also follow her on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.


  1. This book sounds so interesting. The cover is intriguing. Thanks for the post and giveaway.
    Campbellamyd At gmail dot com

  2. Enjoyed this post, interesting to consider that these two queens had a relationship through correspondence. Thanks for the giveaway.

  3. Love the title - and the cover! This looks like a great summer read. Thanks for the giveaway!

  4. A fascinating historical. Thanks for this feature and giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  5. I am mad for historical fiction set in the 18th century (ie: Malcolm Bosse's "A Vast Memory of Love"). The time was straining toward modernism. Queen Charlotte faced hostility right the start, with the people shouting "Pug" at and her limited knowledge of English. Marie-Antoinette, I'm sorry, but she was asking for it. She had bad PR.

    I would love to win this book since my library doesn't have it and though I asked them to order it, by the time they do you probably will be on your next novel, so please enter me.

    Thank you, annfesATyahooDOTcom

  6. I would love to read about Queen Charlotte. Queen of Bedlam sounds great, please enter me in the drawing.
    mgifford01 @ snet.net

  7. This post piqued my interest for this novel even more! It seems like a delightful book and it has a fabulous cover!

  8. Very interested. I've never read about Queen Charlotte before, but have always wanted to. I read somewhere that she was called the "black queen" due to the possibility of some African blood in her ancestry. Did you find that to be true or mentioned in your research? Just intrigues me. tchevrestt(at)yahoo.com

  9. How interesting that the queens were pen-pals.
    mce1011 AT aol DOT com

  10. I have wanted to read this one since I first heard about this book as God Save the King. The new cover is wonderful. Queen of Bedlam is already on my TBR list. Looking forward to reading a book not about the Tudors or the War of the Roses!
    tmrtini at gmail (dot) com

  11. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to read this and it looks absolutely fascinating!Thanks for the giveaway!

  12. I wish this giveaway included Canada! This sounds like a great read.

  13. What a pleasure it would be to begin reading this! Thank you for the feature and chance to win. Cheers -- Kara

  14. One of my favorite aspects of historical fiction is the fact that it takes these larger than life people from history and not only shows them in all their glitz and glamour but shows the very real, very raw emotions that every person can relate to. It makes you realize that no matter who or what you were born to be all of us are human and flawed. Thanks for the post and I'm excited at the chance to win my own copy!

  15. It sounds like an amazing book, and very interesting. I love that it is a historical novel with a great cover. I would enjoy reading it. Thanks for having the giveaway.


  16. I love the sound of this book! Love stuff like this!

    1. my email addy is vikingprincess1976@yahoo.com. SORRY!

  17. This book is on my TBR list. Thanks for the giveaway!

  18. I love this post comparing the two queens. Thanks for the chance to win! Libraryofmyown at gmail dot com

  19. I would love to win. Sounds like a great book!


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