Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Author Gives A Great Account of History While Establishing His Own

Louis XVII Survived The Temple Prison: The DNA Proof
Author: Charles Louis de Bourbon
Publisher: Tellwell Talent, Victoria, B.C., 2016
                                                                     
Author Gives A Great Account of History While Establishing His Own
Having always had an interest in the history of royalty, when I got the chance to review this book, I jumped at it. I was not disappointed. It had all the intrigue one could ask for plus insights into life in France; the French Revolution; the interrelations of monarchs and governments across Europe; and a window into political cover-ups and corruption – thus helping readers realize that there is nothing new under the sun.
Charles Louis de Bourbon (CLB)’s book has another big thing going for it – it involves a real-life mystery: did Louis XVII die in prison after his father was executed or did he escape?  The author claims the latter and sets out to prove it.  If I were a betting man, I would certainly bet on his side after wading through his evidence.  Besides the book is also about Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI’s wife and after all, who wouldn’t want to learn more about her? There was much more to her than that infamous quote, “Let them eat cake!” we all remember from our high school history courses.
CLB tries hard to help us experience the life that Louis XVII lived (from Louis’ perspective) from the time he was a toddler to his death many years later. And CLB does that quite well. We learn about his early memories, life with his father, the temple jail, the escape, and life, near deaths, and death after that – all interspersed with Louis’ own attempts to reclaim his rightful position in France. We are also let in on the great hurts he received from various members of his family, not the least of which was his own sister.
From there, the story continues with accounts of the attempts to prove Louis did indeed escape alive and lived a long time afterward.  These were made by many in many lands. All of them to date still unsuccessful in getting that part of history properly corrected by the French government. The book also aids our understanding of inter-government diplomacy.
What I found somewhat unnecessary was the author’s insistence on seemingly interrupting the story he was writing by alternating chapters about his own life, especially his migration to Canada, his various business experiences including retail and real estate, and his hobby of sailing, including the details of his trips south along the Atlantic coast. I had agreed to read and review a book on a past French King or at least heir to the French Throne but discovered I could only do so if I reviewed the author’s personal life. But then I suppose, if you consider yourself royalty, you take every chance you get to leave your own legacy behind in writing when you have a captive audience. Having said that, CLB clearly deserves credit for his lifelong efforts of clearing the de Bourbon name and getting Louis XVII his rightful acknowledgment.
The book also contains some most interesting lessons. In one short paragraph, I realized how quickly one’s life could change. On the 8-year old royal’s confession, CLB writes, “Handwriting experts later testified that the signature was false or forced, and [Louis] wrote in his memoirs that they had forced his hand to sign it…. Many believed that this ‘confession’ was the cause for all the bad feelings that Marie Therese [his sister] held toward [Louis].Although not their own doing, this changed their relationship forever.
As I read the book, I thought it would benefit from a good edit. It sometimes sounds like it was written in a foreign language and then translated into English, and not always very successfully. In addition, because there are many places, titles and actual names used throughout the book, often more than once as the story unfolds, the book would benefit from an index at the back, and/or a list of characters well-defined at the front.  Finally, because the story includes several inter-marriages of families, a good old-fashioned family tree or two would add volumes to the reader’s understanding of the complex situation.
For those that are interested in the role that DNA plays in major court cases, Louis XVII Survived The Temple Prison provides an excellent and informative case study. That alone is worth the price of the book.
CLB also does a great job of highlighting more truths based on his experiences. For example, he comes to the conclusion that “Often with the media, it is not what they show but what they leave out that is important.” Welcome to a historical version of ‘fake news’.
He ends the book, after describing very recent and unanswered appeals to the French government, with this plea, “Again, they persecute us for 220 years. I am now asking all who vie for a place in government to promise they will finally let the truth come out 220 years later.”  I wish him every success.

·      Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, November 15, 2017, www.accordconsulting.com

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