The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette

Written by Carolyn Meyer
Review by Susan Higginbotham

Despite its gimmicky-sounding subtitle, The Bad Queen is a straightforward tale of Marie Antoinette from the time shortly before her marriage to the time shortly after her execution. (The chapters each bear the titles of the various rules imposed upon Marie Antoinette, e.g., “No. 1: Marry well.”) Most of the novel is told in the first person by the queen herself, but her daughter takes over in the last few chapters.

Meyer tells the story of the ill-fated queen in an accessible fashion suitable for her audience; the story is fast-moving and the prose modern without sounding slangy. Marie’s difficulty in consummating her marriage with Louis and her love affair with Axel von Fersen (here unconsummated) are handled tastefully. Meyer provides an author’s note and a bibliography.

The hazards in using the first person sometimes do become apparent here—I found myself wishing that the other characters had more depth. I also found it frustrating that the narration switched from mother to daughter when it did, as I would have preferred to hear the story of Marie’s last days through Marie herself. All in all, though, this is a moving and well-written introduction to Marie’s tragic story.