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The vibrant, sprawling saga of Empress Maria Theresa—one of the most renowned women rulers in history—and three of her extraordinary daughters, including Marie Antoinette, the doomed queen of France.
Out of the thrilling and tempestuous eighteenth century comes the sweeping family saga of beautiful Maria Theresa, a sovereign of uncommon strength and vision, the only woman ever to inherit and rule the vast Habsburg Empire in her own name, and three of her remarkable daughters: lovely, talented Maria Christina, governor-general of the Austrian Netherlands; spirited Maria Carolina, the resolute queen of Naples; and the youngest, Marie Antoinette, the glamorous, tragic queen of France, and perhaps the most famous princess in history.
Unfolding against an irresistible backdrop of brilliant courts from Vienna to Versailles, embracing the exotic lure of Naples and Sicily, this epic history of Maria Theresa and her daughters is a tour de force of desire, adventure, ambition, treachery, sorrow, and glory.
Each of these women’s lives was packed with passion and heart-stopping suspense. Maria Theresa inherited her father’s thrones at the age of twenty-three and was immediately attacked on all sides by foreign powers confident that a woman would to be too weak to defend herself. Maria Christina, a gifted artist who alone among her sisters succeeded in marrying for love, would face the same dangers that destroyed the monarchy in France. Resourceful Maria Carolina would usher in the golden age of Naples only to face the deadly whirlwind of Napoleon. And, finally, Marie Antoinette, the doomed queen whose stylish excesses and captivating notoriety have masked the truth about her husband and herself for two hundred and fifty years.
Vividly written and deeply researched, In the Shadow of the Empress is the riveting story of four exceptional women who changed the course of history.
About the Author
Nancy Goldstone is the author of six previous books including Daughters of the Winter Queen: Four Remarkable Sisters, the Crown of Bohemia, and the Enduring Legacy of Mary, Queen of Scots; The Rival Queens: Catherine de' Medici, Her Daughter Marguerite de Valois, and the Betrayal that Ignited a Kingdom; The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc; Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe; and The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and Sicily. She has also coauthored six books with her husband, Lawrence Goldstone. She lives in Del Mar, California.
“Rich storytelling… humane and balanced portraits… In the Shadow of the Empress is elegantly written, in a brisk style that plays to Ms. Goldstone’s strengths in portraiture and the theatrical set-piece. The author deftly interweaves the ups and downs of Maria Theresa’s running contest with Frederick with the vicissitudes of her life as Europe’s most prolific procreator.”—A. Wess Mitchell, Wall Street Journal
“A vivid exploration of four female royals who altered the course of history.”—People
“In this entertaining and thoroughly researched book, you’ll get a new perspective on these women who changed the course of history.”—Nina Garin, San Diego Union Tribune
“A virtuoso performance, Goldstone at the peak of her creative abilities… The interlocking lives of these formidable women are played out against a turbulent century of social unrest, revolution and war… the depth of her research and the acuity of her insights are outstanding.”—Gerard DeGroot, The Times (UK)
“If you like biography, if you like history, this wonderful tome is for you. Deeply researched, In the Shadow of the Empress is written with a light hand and occasional humor.”—Ana Daniel, East Hampton Star
"A fascinating saga... Adding wry humor to her lucid narrative, Goldstone clarifies the era’s complex politics and pinpoints how these commanding women helped give shape to modern Europe. This mesmerizing history isn’t to be missed.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A panoramic history of 1700s Europe… Goldstone vividly depicts a resplendent, glittering milieu. Her fast-paced, populous narrative teems with gossip, court intrigue, and head-spinning political machinations… A colorful collection of dynamic, prodigiously researched portraits.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Compelling and redefining… [An] expert account of the lives of the extraordinary Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa and three of her most illustrious daughters, Maria Christina, Maria Carolina, and Marie Antoinette. Goldstone employs colorful secondary-source accounts and strong, character-driven narration to present fresh insights into the personalities, attitudes, gifts, and fatal flaws of this family of powerful, now legendary women.”—Jasmine Liu, Booklist
“Meticulously researched… A dizzying and dazzling foray into the intricacies of 18th-century European history… A masterful look at a long-gone era.”—Marie M. Mullaney, Library Journal
“Nancy Goldstone has the amazing ability of taking on huge subjects and turning very complicated stories into a thrilling and coherent narrative. Her deep knowledge of the period, her clear-eyed empathy for her subjects, and her effortless style make for a riveting, entertaining, and enlightening book.”—Anka Muhlstein, author of The Pen and the Brush: How Passion for Art Shaped Nineteenth-Century French Novels
“Maria Theresa is a study in contrasts. She was an extraordinary female power in a man’s world, the creator of a vibrant and warm family life from which daughters were farmed out to the highest-paying prince, and a bold leader brought to her knees by insecurity and fear. Goldstone pulls all the messy, human incongruities of a pugnacious late eighteenth-century Europe together into a page-turner of a book.”—Kara Cooney, author of When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt
“Engrossing historical storytelling, filled with suspense, tantalizing mysteries, intimate family drama, and details of terror, cruelty, courage, and passion, set in the revolutionary cauldron of eighteenth-century Europe.”—Adrienne Mayor, author of The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World
“Brilliant, delightful, and fun! Centered on the remarkable Austrian empress Maria Theresa and her diverse brood of daughters, this book reveals events engineered by these intelligent and powerful women in all their complexity, ingenuity, and, ultimately, fatal error. Chock full of penetrating modern insights into the psychological failings that bedevil the human condition.”—Kirstin Downey, author of Isabella: The Warrior Queen