Book number: 94364 Product format: Hardback Author: NANCY GOLDSTONE

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Bibliophile price £12.00
Published price $32

Maria Theresa was the first Holy Roman Empress to rule in her own right. Her father, Charles VI, changed the law so that she could do so, and in 1740 at the age of 23, pregnant with her fourth child, Maria Theresa became Empress of the vast Habsburg empire, with lands covering the modern Germany, Syria, former Czechoslovakia and part of the Netherlands. She immediately had to face an alliance between her neighbours Protestant Prussia and Catholic France as the War of the Austrian Succession got under way, and faced by a coalition against her, Maria Theresa played them off against each other, offering territory in her efforts to persuade one of them to break the alliance. Frederick of Prussia was willing to do so in return for Silesia, but wanted it kept secret. By 1757 she felt she was winning. Meanwhile her daughters Maria Christina ("Mimi"), Maria Carolina ("Charlotte") and Marie Antoinette had made dazzling marriages to European royalty, though the latter ended very badly. This book examines in depth the extent to which the fate of each of the daughters was influenced by the battles and family relationships between each other and with their mother. After attracting the lesbian attentions of her sister-in-law Isabella of Parma, Mimi fell in love with her cousin Albert of Saxony. At first she was thwarted by dynastic considerations, but the sudden death of her father paved the way. She became governor-general of the Austrian Netherlands. Maria Carolina, "Charlotte", was married by proxy to the King of Naples following the death of one sister and disfiguration from smallpox of another, and found the intimacy of marriage an unhappy experience, but she gained Ferdinand's confidence by pretending to love him, and quickly became the effective ruler of Naples. Marie Antoinette was also married by proxy, at the age of 14, to the King of France and her marriage, like her sister's, was made problematic by the unreliable character of her husband, who was to become Louis XVI. Glamorous and ambitious, she became the most famous princess in history. As the country's financial crisis cemented hostility to the ruling family, the French Revolution got under way. Marie Antoinette's sister Mimi had to flee Brussels, but Marie Antoinette's husband left it too late and the royal family was captured as they headed for rural France. The backdrops are the brilliant courts of Vienna to Versailles, the exotic lure of Naples and Sicily. 616pp, colour photos, maps.

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ISBN 9780316449335

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