“I look up now into the oval mirror and see barely a trace of the mud-splattered girl tearing through the woodland on her horse, or the barefoot girl wading at Schonbrunn… I have become what Mama set out for me to be. Majestic. A Dauphine and eventually a Queen.”
So writes the headstrong 13-year-old Maria Antonia–future Queen of France–in her diary on October 23, 1769. In this engrossing addition to the Royal Diaries series (Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor, Cleopatra VII: Daughter of the Nile), Kathryn Lasky invents a diary of the young Marie Antoinette in 1769–the year she is to be married off to Dauphin Louis Auguste, eldest grandson of the French king Louis XV. Arranged marriages were common in that day and age–as the Empress Theresa (of the Holy Roman Empire of the Germanic Nations) sought to consolidate power among nations by marrying off her children. Thus, the future of Austria and France falls upon Maria Antonia’s young shoulders.
To prepare her for this awesome responsibility, she must be trained to write, read, speak French, dress, act… even breathe. Things get even more grim as she is shipped off to the court of Versailles and introduced to her puffy, awkward future husband and confronted with the court’s ridiculous customs. Marie–an opinionated and insightful young woman–mocks the court of “impeccable etiquette and manners” that makes up nasty rhymes about those they hate, but panics when her hair is mussed. Lasky has done an excellent job of creating a very human character in the young Marie Antoinette–one whom young readers will want to learn more about. Fortunately, her story is given plenty of context with an epilogue describing the history of the young Queen after 1769, a historical note offering an 18th-century context, a Habsburg-Bourbon family tree, and various portraits of the royal family. (Ages 9 to 13) –Karin Snelson