Ernestine recounts the inner workings and downfall of the French royal family during the French Revolution. Author Michiel Korte tells the tale from the perspective of their adopted daughter Marie-Philippine Lambriquet, otherwise known as Ernestine (1778-1813). Born at the Palace of Versailles, Marie-Philippine lived with her parents in the Grand Commun, a dwelling designated for servants and secondary officers. Her father served the brother of Louis XVI, and her mother worked as a chambermaid in the Palace.
Queen Marie Antoinette selected Marie-Philippine as a playmate and friend to her young daughter Marie-Thérèse Charlotte. Many noted the physical resemblance between the pair, and the queen hoped the young girl would ground the spirited princess.1Susan Nagel writes in her biography on Marie-Thérèse that rumors persisted in the French court that Ernestine was actually the king’s illegitimate daughter due to these similarities. Eventually, Charlotte called Marie Philippine “Ernestine” after a character in a novel by Marie Jeanne Riccoboni.
After the death of her mother, the royal family formally adopted Ernestine on November 9, 1788. She lived the same lifestyle as Charlotte and grew very attached to the royals. Her divided loyalties between her biological and adopted families forms one of Ernestine’s personal conflicts and opportunities for her character development. Ultimately, Ernestine’s decision will determine her fate.
Set during the Reign of Terror, Ernestine presents a side to the story not often written about – that of a non-royal close to the monarchy. History often overlooks the commonfolk. As a result, Ernestine serves to up-end French royalist fiction through the sympathetic portrayal of an intelligent protagonist.
Ernestine shows the naiveté of youth, but this is tempered by her growth and character development. Throughout the novel, Ernestine must contend with her loyalties to both her family and her adopted family. Additionally, she constantly wonders about her place in society and if she will lose Charlotte’s friendship due to their extraordinary circumstances. Her struggles come to define her, but Ernestine slowly but surely overcomes them.
Overall, Korte combines meticulous research and excellent storytelling to write a refreshing and highly readable historical novel.
Author: Michiel B.L. Korte
Publisher: Independently published
Publication Year: 2022
Page Count: 325pp (PDF count)