I feel the universe is going to fall on me,"" Louis XVI said upon becoming king. And so it did. Cronin, author of Louis X1V,...

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LOUIS AND ANTOINETTE

I feel the universe is going to fall on me,"" Louis XVI said upon becoming king. And so it did. Cronin, author of Louis X1V, Napoleon Bonaparte (1972) and several other ornate, flowery historical excursions has excelled himself in this simpering biography of the king and queen who were swept away by the French Revolution. Antoinette at her execution was, we learn, ""overcome by exhaustion and began to tremble in all her limbs""; her ""last thoughts were of her children."" Louis hoped that his execution would ""heal the divisions between Frenchmen"" -- a Christ-like sacrifice which would redeem his maddened people. From the day Louis became king, he wanted to be loved by the populace whom he naively continued to trust long after they had become a howling, bloodthirsty mob. When the Revolution was hard upon him, Louis made ""extraordinarily liberal"" concessions which ought to have been ""a delight"" to the ordinary citizen. ""But no,"" their lust for the heads of aristocrats and their need to humiliate royalty was not to be appeased by mere political reforms. Cronin's understanding of the Convention and the behavior of the sans culottes is minimal: he thinks they displayed frightful manners -- hooting, jeering and shouting obscenities at delicate, hapless Antoinette. This is a familiar kind of tear-jerker history, brimming over with the sufferings of a dignified, hardworking and terribly well-meaning king and a pretty, childlike queen who just happened to rule in the wrong time and place.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 1974

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Morrow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1974