'A story of a simple but straightforward woman, caught up in the complications of the French Revolution' Economist
Madame de la Tour du Pin was born Henrietta-Lucy Dillon in Paris in 1770. An aristocrat, she spent her youth surrounded by wealth and luxury. In regular attendance at Marie Antoinette's Sunday courts, she was, by her own account, 'outstanding in any gathering', rivalling even the Queen in beauty.
At the age of 16 she is given curtseying lessons by her dancing master and is hastily married to the future Marquis de la Tour du Pin. A life of pleasure-seeking and extravagance begins, but is rudely cut short by the storming of the Bastille.
Written for her only surviving child, this intimate record of her life recounts the terrible fate that awaited all those who attended the Court of Louis XVI during the years of the French Revolution. Throughout France appears the terrifying silhouette of a rival Madame - Madame Guillotine - and, because of her beauty, Madame de la Tour du Pin is frequently prey to the now deadly compliment of being mistaken for the Queen.
When the king is executed, she flees Paris to travel round France, only to discover that her many properties have been plundered. When it becomes too dangerous to remain on native soil she leaves for Holland - thence to America and to England - in search of a new life, but her heart remains in Paris, whither eventually she returns, a dispossessed emigre.
Written with great intelligence, compassion and wit, the Memoirs of Madame de la Tour du Pin provide us with a uniquely female perspective on the French Revolution. It is a valuable historical document, made all the more affecting by the author's sense of a bright and beautiful world cruelly snatched away by the forces of history.
"Madame de la Tour du Pin's Journal d'une Femme de Cinquante Ans, with its vivid descriptions of her experiences during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Empire, is one of the most enthralling memoirs of the age" * Spectator *