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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

Bejeweled: A Review of The Royal Diaries: Marie Antoinette, Princess of Versailles by Kathryn Lasky

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases. Special shout out to New Zealand. I rarely see ya, but y’all have been popping off as of late.

Bears waving.
How's everyone doing today?

Break out the tiaras. Today is a special day. I found a blast from the past. Would all The Royal Diaries girlies please stand up!

Woman putting on a tiara.

I went to a used bookstore, and I found a gem. I found The Royal Diaries: Marie Antoinette, Princess of Versailles. She’s a lot different than I remember her, but I must admit I didn’t really understand any of The Royal Diaries series when I was kid. A lot of the history and political situations went over my head. But now that I am an adult who has studied European history and enjoys royal history, I have come back to the books I wanted to like but had no understanding of. So today, I shall review Marie Antoinette, Princess of Versailles and judge it based on historical accuracy, my understanding of the time period, and, you know, just generally review it.

Book cover of The Royal Diaries: Marie Antoinette, Princess of Versailles.

Synopsis time now. As always, a spoiler alert is in order. Long term readers know that I am amazing at spoiling an entire book; you’ve be warned. Although, I do have to say I don't do a horrible job at keeping the plot secret and unspoiled this time.

Anyway, our story begins with Marie Antoinette, still Maria Antonia at the time, being gifted the diary that we are reading. She is not yet engaged to Louis Auguste, AKA the future King Louis XVI of France, but her mother, Empress Maria Theresa, is trying very, very hard. Maria Antonia will become the Queen of France or Maria Theresa will die trying.

Obviously, Maria Antonia does become the next Queen of France and becomes the famous Marie Antoinette.

"Let them eat cake."
Who never said let them eat cake.

Maria Theresa gets her wish. This diary is a fictionalized, first-hand account of Marie Antoinette’s life starting from when she begins training to become Queen of France, her engagement to Louis Auguste, traveling to her new home, marriage, and the first few months of her life at Versailles. There is a lot this book covers.

I should note that this is indeed a fictionalized account of Marie Antoinette’s life with many historical inaccuracies. Kathryn Lasky, the author of today’s book, has stated: “I could fill in gaps that history books and primary sources might leave out.” While the overall story is true, many of the smaller details are fictionalized and the truth bent.

Let’s talk about those historical inaccuracies first. As this is children’s literature, the target audience isn’t going to pick up on them. As an adult who has briefly studied this time period, I picked up on some of those inaccuracies. I should note there are several accurate events included; the book isn’t fully inaccurate. But as I said, the target audience for these books are ten-year-olds who likely don’t know what’s true or false. But, surprisingly, I don’t mind the inaccuracies. I believe it’s important to get children to enjoy reading and The Royal Diaries was a series I was enthralled with as a kid despite not understanding the stories at large. I believe Kathryn Lasky fictionalized some parts of history in order to get children interested in the story and to keep them reading. So in that sense, the inaccuracies are a good thing; it’s always a good thing to get children reading so that’s why I don’t mind the inaccuracies all that much. But one can say that this book gives children an inaccurate view of history; that’s where I’d say the inaccuracies are a bad thing. But if this series is the catalyst for a young child’s interest in history and they then grow up to learn the truth about a time period, I’d say that’s a good thing overall.

Boy shrugging.
I sound so wishy-washy but oh well.

TL;DR, I don’t mind the historical inaccuracies if a child, AKA the target audience, is enjoying reading said book and it’s an entry point into learning about a different time period. Getting a child interested in reading and learning about history is never a bad thing, but children given this book should be told that not everything in the text happened or happened as written.

Now let’s turn to the characters. In real life, Marie Antoinette and Louis Auguste were extremely sheltered and generally unfit to rule; very much like how they’re presented in the book. I deeply appreciate that Marie was written to be this naïve young girl who was sheltered in a lavish palace far away from the harsh realities of the world for her entire life. She is neither villain nor hero. She is simply a child pushed into a situation/life she has no real knowledge of. The life she was living was predetermined for her and in turn made her into a naïve, vain person with no real idea of the world around her. Kathryn Lasky perfectly balanced her fictionalized version of young Marie to be a sympathetic character while still giving her flaws that are believable and can be seen as foreshadowing to her downfall decades later.

At 25-years-old, this book series carries a heavy amount of nostalgia that does sway my opinion in its favor. I still think this book is excellently written. Kathryn Lasky’s writing certainly transports me to a long ago time full of excess glamour and riches hiding an ugly truth. Sure, it has its faults but I whole-heartedly believe The Royal Diaries is a great book series for children to get into both reading and history and that is what they're intended for.

With that, I must bid you all adieu. Thank you for joining me today. I hope you all enjoyed this blast from the past. Let me know if you enjoyed today’s post because I’m thinking about reviewing some of the other entries in The Royal Diaries. You can let me know on Twitter, @RHRMLBlog, if you want me to do more Royal Diaries reviews and I’ll see y’all next week with another great review.

Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.

Bears waving.
See y'all then, bye!


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