When my children are reading historical fiction, I brace myself for the questions. Every little detail comes under scrutiny, and they expect that I can pull the facts out of my head. Thank God for Wiki.
Sharon Stewart’s “The Dark Tower”, also published as “The Princess in the Tower”, is the re-created journal of Marie Therese Charlotte de France, Daughter of Louis XVI, King of France, and Marie Antoinette, Queen of France.
What separates this book from so many of the diary type, historical novels being published today, is that Stewart had at her disposal Marie Therese’s personal diary. While her management of the story produced an interesting product, (and being exposed to a deal of children’s literature, I count that a blessing), it was disappointing that she chose to make the character of Marie Therese petty and churlish.
It was also telling that in contrast to Marie Therese’s own testimony, Stewart had deliberately chosen to represent her as having lost her faith in God. At one point in Stewart’s tale, Marie Therese has determined to no longer pray to a God who could allow the suffering she is experiencing. Quite a liberty on the part of an author, in particular when it is not so much a use of literary license to pad out a bare bones account, but a deliberate departing from recognized historical fact for no apparent reason.
In an interview, Stewart states that when she first read of the horror this girl endured (her entire family executed, and herself imprisoned from the time she was 11, until she was 17 years old) she wondered how had this girl survived with her health and sanity intact? My suggestion would be that she did not have the petty, selfish nature of the girl depicted in Stewart’s version, but in contrast, was firm in character, with an unshakable faith in God.
These words were inscribed on the wall of her cell, during the time of her captivity;
“Marie-Thérèse is the most unhappy creature in the world. She can obtain no news of her mother; nor be reunited to her, though she has asked it a thousand times.” “Live, my good mother! whom I love well, but of whom I can hear no tidings.” “O my father! watch over me from heaven above, life was so cruel to her.” “O my God! forgive those who have made my family die.”
In “The Dark Tower”, Stewart chose to leave out the reference to God forgiving those who had murdered her family, presumably as this offers a contrary view to the impression she creates earlier of Marie Therese’s attitude toward God.
!t is historically born out that Marie Therese remained a devout Catholic throughout her life, spending her last years in “walking, reading, praying and sewing” and on her approaching death, was known to ask God to shower His blessings on France.
So while the story of this “forgotten princess” is indeed a worthy subject for examination, the very choicest parts have been removed and distorted. What could be finer than to see a character able to bear such horrors and atrocities, while still maintaining an ability to forgive?
While I don’t believe every story needs to provide an outstanding moral example to the reader, it seems a crime to remove such a thing, when it was naturally occurring.