Friday, June 4, 2010

Research for my novel, Hostage to Fortune, a romance set during the French Revolution

While researching the French Revolution for my historical romance, Hostage to Fortune, I discovered something interesting. It might be more myth than fact, but nevertheless fascinating. In 1793, the dauphin, Louis Charles became king in the eyes of the Royalists. After the dauphin was locked up in the Tower, did he survive? Lady Atkyns, a Drury Lane actress and a close friend of Marie Antoinette tried first to rescue the queen, but when that lady refused to leave her children, she made a promise to save the dauphin, which she tried desperately to keep. Her attempt to abduct Louis Charles from the Tower seems to have failed. But there is speculation that a mute boy was substitued for the young king, after he was removed and either murdered or allowed to live in obsurity with a peasant family. The mute boy was then held for the ten years he lived, hidden from the world. In 1821, a man appeared in London declaring he was the dauphin. This was summarily dismissed. In fact, there were forty candidates who came forward to declare themselves Louis Charles, under the Restoration. The most important of these pretenders were Karl Wilhelm Naundorff and the comte de Richemont. Naundorff's story rested on a series of complicated intrigues. According to him Barras determined to save the dauphin in order to please Josephine Beauharnais, the future empress, having conceived the idea of using the dauphin's existence as a means of dominating the comte de Provence in the event of a restoration. In this version, the dauphin was concealed in the fourth storey of the Tower, a wooden figure being substituted for him. Great fodder for a novel and of course I've used it.
For those interested, here's a link:
Donating jewellery for the cause, during the French Revolution.

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