Synopses & Reviews
Historical fiction of the highest order, The Queen's Lover
reveals the untold love affair between Swedish aristocrat Count Axel Von Fersen and Marie Antoinette.
The Queen's Lover begins at a masquerade ball in Paris in 1774, when the dashing Swedish nobleman Count Axel Von Fersen first meets the mesmerizing nineteen-year old Dauphine Marie Antoinette, wife of the shy, reclusive prince who will soon become Louis XVI. This electric encounter launches a life-long romance that will span the course of the French Revolution.
The affair begins in friendship, however, and Fersen quickly becomes a devoted companion to the entire royal family. As he roams through the halls of Versailles and visits the private haven of Petit Trianon, Fersen discovers the deepest secrets of the court, even learning about the startling erotic details of Marie Antoinette's marriage to Louis XVI. But the events of the American Revolution tear Fersen away. Moved by the colonists' fight for freedom, he is one of the very first to enlist in the French contingent of troops that will fight for America's independence.
When he returns, he finds France on the brink of disintegration. After the Revolution of 1789 the royal family is moved from Versailles to the Tuileries. Fersen devises an escape for the family and their young children &mdash Marie-Therese and the Dauphin Louis-Charles — whom many suspect to be Fersen's son. The failed evasion attempt eventually leads to a grueling imprisonment, and the family spends its excruciating final days in captivity before the King and Queen face the guillotine.
Grieving his lost love after he returns to his native Stockholm, Fersen begins to sense the effects of the French Revolution in his own homeland. Royalists are now targets of the people's ire, and the carefree, sensuous world of his youth is fast vanishing. Fersen, who has been named Grand Marshal of Sweden, is incapable of realizing that centuries of tradition have disappeared, and he pays dearly for his naivete, losing his life at the hands of a savage mob that views him as a pivotal member of the aristocracy.
Scion of Sweden's most esteemed nobility, Fersen came to be seen as an enemy of the homeland he loved. His fate is symbolic of the violent speed with which the events of the 18th century transformed European culture. Expertly researched and deeply imagined, The Queen's Lover offers a fresh vision of the French Revolution and of the French royal family, as told through the love story that was at its center.
"Du Plessix Gray, who was a finalist for a Pulitzer for 1998's At Home with the Marquis de Sade: A Life, delivers a French Revolution-era tale of love, treachery, and death, reminiscent of Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther. This well-researched historical follows Count Axel von Fersen, a Swedish nobleman, as he meets a young Marie Antoinette, falls in love, is swept away to war in America, and returns to the Continent to discover the patrician world he once knew — and those he loved within it — facing imminent ruin. Structured as the memoirs of the late von Fersen, as compiled (with occasional supplementary chapters) by his sister Sophie, the drama of the story is mediated (and slightly diminished) by the form. However, the emotional tumult of the count's strained affair with Marie Antoinette, as well as the cultural unrest in America, Sweden, and France, are nevertheless bold and moving. Fans of history — both true and fictional — will revel in du Plessix Gray's vivid evocation of turbulent times, though readers accustomed to in-the-moment action may lament the narrative remove of the faux memoir. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Set against the backdrop of royal opulence and revolution, du Plessix Gray's richly detailed chronicle of love and loss provides startling insight into the complex and tragic inner life of the iconic and controversial French queen Marie Antoinette." Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War
"The story of the strange, then sad, then finally tragic life of Marie Antoinette has been told many times, but never with more humane feeling and historical point than Francine du Plessix Gray does in her new novel. Seen from the startling point of view of the Queen's Swedish lover, Count Axel von Fersen, The Queen's Lover makes a familiar story newly poignant, and, without ever being pedantic, places that story in a broader context of European politics, too often missed." Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon
"The Queen's Lover is a thrilling book. It has everything — suspense, intrigue, love, luxury, tragedy, and romantic and familial love. It tells a familiar story from a new point of view." Edmund White, author of Jack Holmes and His Friend
"In The Queen's Lover, Francine du Plessix Gray brings her peerless narrative gifts to bear on one of history's all-time greatest love stories: the secret romance between Marie Antoinette and Count Axel von Fersen. Set against the backdrop of the French monarchy's cataclysmic fall, the affair between the doomed queen and the dashing Swede is at once an achingly tender tale of two lovers and a tragic story of unspeakably brutal, broad-based societal change. With a historian's eye for evocative contextual detail and a novelist's ear for the lyricism of 'le grand amour,' Gray weaves an unforgettable portrait of a couple whose lives were transfigured by love...and shattered by revolution." Caroline Weber, author of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
“Set against the backdrop of royal opulence and revolution, du Plessix Gray’s richly detailed chronicle of love and loss provides startling insight into the complex and tragic inner life of the iconic and controversial French queen Marie Antoinette.”
—Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War
“The story of the strange, then sad, then finally tragic life of Marie Antoinette has been told many times, but never with more humane feeling and historical point than Francine du Plessix Gray does in her new novel. Seen from the startling point of view of the Queen’s Swedish lover, Count Axel von Fersen, The Queen’s Lover makes a familiar story newly poignant, and, without ever being pedantic, places that story in a broader context of European politics, too often missed.”
—Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon
“The Queen’s Lover is a thrilling book. It has everything—suspense, intrigue, love, luxury, tragedy, and romantic and familial love. It tells a familiar story from a new point of view.”
—Edmund White, author of Jack Holmes and His Friend
“In The Queen’s Lover, Francine du Plessix Gray brings her peerless narrative gifts to bear on one of history’s all-time greatest love stories: the secret romance between Marie Antoinette and Count Axel von Fersen. Set against the backdrop of the French monarchy’s cataclysmic fall, the affair between the doomed queen and the dashing Swede is at once an achingly tender tale of two lovers and a tragic story of unspeakably brutal, broad-based societal change. With a historian’s eye for evocative contextual detail and a novelist’s ear for the lyricism of ‘le grand amour,’ Gray weaves an unforgettable portrait of a couple whose lives were transfigured by love . . . and shattered by revolution.”
—Caroline Weber, author of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
“Well researched… bold and moving. Fans of history—both true and fictional—will revel in du Plessix Gray’s vivid evocation of turbulent times.”
– Publishers Weekly
“Readers will pay closest attention to how and in what situations Fersen views the queen—but also, and not incidentally, to his reactions to the king. He sees through the former’s reputation for emptiness and the latter’s for dullness to give us a balanced view of what transpired within the mirrored halls of Versailles. By also making us privy to all his political escapades back in his native Sweden, and there were plenty, the story broadens into a wider picture of European monarchy in transition.”
– Booklist (starred review)
“The author has expertly re-created the world of the French royal family, depicting them in print as they once existed in life: lighthearted, calculating, and complex. Gray’s subtle treatment of her characters allows them to come alive in this creative account of the French royal family and the French Revolution.”
– Library Journal
“If you liked Antonia Fraser’s Marie Antoinette or Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall — if you admired Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s close lens in The General in His Labyrinth — you will be richly rewarded by du Plessix Gray’s amalgam of history and drama.
Read it for its insights on Versailles; read it for its eye-opening glimpses into an equally venal Stockholm. But read it, when all is said and done, for its heartbreakingly wistful romance."—Marie Arana, The Washington Post
“The voice of history rises up out of the pages of [this] persuasive new novel. [A] lively, incredibly readable, definitely R-rated version of the life and death of Marie Antoinette.” – Alan Cheuse, NPR
“Ms. Gray has created fully developed, flawed and complex characters in a way that would probably not have been possible within the confines of biography. [She] conjures up a world she knows well, in riveting detail. [The Queen’s Lover is] a feat of research and imagination.”—Moira Hodgson, The Wall Street Journal
“Don’t remember anything about the French Revolution from high school? This is one of those books where you’ll learn – or relearn – history effortlessly, as du Plessix Gray spins the affair of Marie Antoinette and a Swedish count into riveting drama.” – Entertainment Weekly
“[A] triumph of scholarship and storytelling... a remarkable book.”—Daily Beast
Through the untold love story between Marie Antoinette and Swedish aristocrat Axel von Fersen, acclaimed author Francine du Plessix Gray weaves history with romance in a captivating novel that also offers a fresh vision of the French Revolution.
Paris, 1774. The dashing nobleman meets nineteen-year-old Marie Antoinette at a masquerade ball. As their relationship deepens at Versailles, Fersen discovers the court’s secrets, even the startling erotic details of Marie Antoinette’s marriage. But this intimacy is disrupted when he leaves to join the American Revolution. When he returns in 1783, he finds France on the brink of disintegration. After the Revolution of 1789, the royal family is moved to the Tuileries and suffers increasingly harsh captivity. After a failed attempt to liberate them, Fersen goes home to Sweden where he soon meets his own tragic end: his fate is symbolic of the violent pace with which of the eighteenth century’s events transformed European culture.
About the Author
FRANCINE DU PLESSIX GRAY is a regular contributor to The New Yorker
and is the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction, including Simone Weil
, At Home with the Marquis de Sade: A Life
, Rage and Fire
, Lovers and Tyrants
, and Soviet Women
. She is most recently the author of the memoir Them: A Memoir of Parents
. She lives in Connecticut.