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Authors: Chantal Thomas

The Exchange of Princesses

BOOK: The Exchange of Princesses
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Praise for

“The strength of this novel, sprinkled with authentic quotes, rests on a story that history itself furnished.”

Le Monde des livres

“To take history seriously only to grasp its ironic tragedy, this is great art … With delicious detail Chantal Thomas explores the hidden indignities of a century that exploited childhood even as it was inventing it, a delight of the form that is now wholly her own.”

Le Figaro

“The exchange of these princesses is straight out of a Cold War spy novel, taking place on an island in the middle of a river that serves as the border between the two kingdoms. But none of these young protagonists will play the adults’ game and the princesses will end up going home. Chantal Thomas excels at humanizing history and exposing what is at stake (or ‘revealing its relevance’). How do these children, sold in such a way by their parents, feel? Will they love or hate each other? These are the universal, timeless questions that this ‘historical’ novel plays with, and which render it strikingly contemporary.”


“We love [
The Exchange of Princesses
] because, as always with Chantal Thomas, winner of the 2002 Prix Femina for
Farewell, My Queen
, her stories dance on volcanoes. In her, the mighty of our world finish by bumping their noses against the whims of fate … A must-read if you still shy away from historical novels. That will change.”

Le Parisien

“Delicious like childhood and cruel like life.”


“Chantal Thomas made history a pungent, political, and intimate epic, told by a narrator whose empathy does not detract from the satirical irony.”

Le Magazine littéraire

“[With this] little-known episode in history, Chantal Thomas writes a superb novel about violence against women and children, [showcasing] marriages as absurd as they are forced.”



La Vie

“A fascinating novel.”


“Through her voice — sensitive, alive, contemporary, sometimes raw — [Thomas] manages to recreate how these sacrificed children lived, felt, feared, hoped, and suffered.”

Point de Vue

“[Thomas] mixes fact and fiction to create her own novelistic space of a time that is at once free and cruel … What Thomas details here, in this story of lives in gilded cages, is the birth — or rejection of — desire in children who do not have the words to articulate it because they, too, are locked up in the absurdity of etiquette and formal rituals that have been imposed on them.”

La Croix

“Chantal Thomas, a scholar brought up on Sade and Casanova, has clearly chosen, in her past few books, to hone in on dying aristocracies — not out of snobbery, but because what she has to say about our ‘beautiful present’ is reflected through, in her mind, the traditions of the past.”

Le Point

“With the verve and delicacy for which she is known, Chantal Thomas reaffirms in these intense, feverish, and sensual pages her eye for detail and the painting of a scene, and her ability to turn a phrase that snaps like a riding crop.”


“Chantal Thomas [is a] philosopher who brings historical erudition, pediatric science, bright tales of the heart, and breathtaking stories to the art of the novel and to theater.”

Le Nouvel observateur

“To these sacrificed childhoods, these bruised fates, this history disdained by historians, Chantal Thomas’s beautiful novel grants a late and dazzling revenge.”

Sud Ouest

“A beautiful saga.”

Madame Figaro

“Thanks to Chantal Thomas for having crafted such a joyful book out of such sad fates.”

Libération, Supplément livres

“As with
Farewell, My Queen
(winner of the 2002 Prix Femina) and
Le Testament d’Olympe
(2010), [Thomas] avoids the pitfalls of the historical novel by combining historical documents — letters, excerpts from Saint-Simon’s Memoirs — with fiction.”

Le Temps, Samedi culturel

“With elegance and subtlety, Chantal Thomas pursues sensitive evocations of eighteenth-century France.”

Le Journal du dimanche

“While very classic, her writing still surprises, distilling irony in each sentence like a poison … Like Saint-Simon revised and edited by Sade.”

Les Inrockuptibles



The Wicked Queen:
The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette

Coping with Freedom:
Reflections on Ephemeral Happiness


Farewell, My Queen

Copyright © Éditions du Seuil, 2013
First published in French as
L’échange des princesses
by Éditions du Seuil, Paris, in 2013.

Epigraph copyright © Éditions Stock, 2010

Translation copyright © John Cullen, 2014

This work, published as part of a program providing publication assistance, received financial support from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States, and FACE Foundation (French American Cultural Exchange).

Foreword copyright © Martha Saxton, 2015

Production Editor: Yvonne E. Cárdenas

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from Other Press LLC, except in the case of brief quotations in reviews for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, or broadcast. For information write to Other Press LLC, 2 Park Avenue, 24th Floor, New York, NY 10016.
Or visit our Web site:

The Library of Congress has cataloged the printed edition as follows:

Thomas, Chantal, 1945 —
[Echange des princesses. English]
The exchange of princesses / by Chantal Thomas; translated from the French by John Cullen; foreword by Martha Saxton.
pages cm
ISBN 978-1-59051-702-4 (paperback) — ISBN 978-1-59051-703-1 (ebook)
1. Orléans, Philippe, duc d’, 1674 — 1723 — Fiction. 2. Arranged marriage — Fiction. 3. France — History — Regency, 1715 — 1723 — Fiction. I. Cullen, John, 1942- translator. II. Title.
PQ2680.H493E2413 2015
843′.914 — dc23

Publisher’s Note:
This is a work of historical fiction based on factual events. Characters and incidents in this story are in part the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.


For Alfredo Arias

in memory of his show
Les Noces de l’Enfant Roi


And something told me, and tells me still, that disregarded stories, one day or another, will have their revenge.

L’Entreprise des Indes


In 1721 Philip D’Orléans, regent of France, devised and set in motion a masterstroke of
two marriages of four royal children ranging in age from three to fourteen. Philip was hoping to ensure peace between Spain and France and lengthen his control over his eleven-year-old nephew, Louis XV, king of France. To this end, he promised his neglected, bleak, and turbulent daughter, Louise, aged twelve, to the unprepossessing Luis of Asturias, aged fourteen and heir to the throne of Spain. At the same time, he engaged his mournful nephew to Mariana Victoria — infanta of Spain, half-sister of Luis — a plucky three year old who would make her betrothal journey to France accompanied by a trunk of beloved dolls. Chantal Thomas’s ability to inhabit these children’s hearts reveals the emotional chaos their guardians’ routine betrayals and manipulations inflicted on them. All the young royals probably would have been well advised to choose dolls as the primary recipients of their affections.

BOOK: The Exchange of Princesses
4.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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