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review 2017-07-12 00:00
Louis XVII Survived the Temple Prison: The DNA Proof
Louis XVII Survived the Temple Prison: The DNA Proof - Charles Louis De Bourbon

Charles Louis de Bourbon makes his agenda overtly clear in the “Foreword” to his new book regarding his ancestors:

“This is the story of the longest persecution in history. For over 220 years my family has been tormented by the Government of France, and by members of my own family: the Bourbon-Parma's and the Orleans families. We have suffered vicious persecution starting with the death sentences for Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.”

He ends the “Foreword by directly addressing his primary audience:

“Finally, I appeal to the French government to correct the error which now stands in French history for over 200 years. The Revolution killed Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette for political reasons. Please, now let the young son live! There is no longer a need to keep pretending that he died June 8, 1795. They have always known that he did not die that day; they know the death certificate was false. My family belongs nowhere until you let us live in honor with our name. I carry it in honor, but you have never given me the courtesy of making it official. We will keep on fighting until we get your acceptance.”

The core issue de Bourbon is referring to is the fate of Louis XVII which he claims is demonstrably different from what The history books say, that he died in prison at age 10 of tuberculosis after three years of imprisonment. De Bourbon tells the story of French authorities trying to hide the truth by substituting a false body in the coffin said to be that of the Dauphin, that is the late son of the King of France.

De Bourbon’s book is essentially three stories; that of the French revolution and the deaths of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette on the guillotine while the author maintains history has been unfair to the king. He says Louis XVI had been a decent man, issuing many new laws improving the rights of citizens. All his accomplishments and desires have been ignored in the post-Revolutionary fervor to demonize Louis XVI.

Then comes an admittedly convoluted story of the Dauphin’s alleged three year imprisonment, followed by his escape and rather poor attempts by the authorities to hide this fact by placing substitutes in the prison and then a coffin in 1795. Jumping ahead a bit, now calling himself Charles Louis, the Dauphin Escaped from the French army in 1806 during the Napoleonic wars. Thanks to the intervention of supporters in Germany where he was in danger of being deported due to having no passport or any identity papers, he took on the name Karl Wilhelm Naundorff and became known as a fine watch repairman. Taking on a wife and siring children, he lived in Berlin, Spandau, Switzerland, and England and was imprisoned from 1825 to 1828 for allegedly counterfeiting, although on the flimsiest of evidence. He survived several assassination attempts and, in 1833, came to push his claims in Paris, where he was supported as the dauphin by many individuals formerly connected with the court of Louis XVI.

Expelled from France in 1836, Charles Louis relocated to Holland where he became an inventor of various explosives and weapons. The King of Holland accepted his story so when Charles Louis died there in 1845, his tomb was inscribed “Louis XVII., roi de France et de Navarre (Charles Louis, duc de Normandy)". The Dutch authorities also had inscribed on his death certificate the name of Charles Louis de Bourbon, duc de Normandie (Louis XVII). And thus began the many lawsuits and court cases from his descendants who wanted and still want to be legitimized as heirs of Louis XVI.

Apparently, most of this story has been told before, but not with this slant. What is new is the author’s account of his own life which includes his career as a real estate agent and sailing around in Canada and along the East Coast. Of course, what the author most wants readers to accept are the final pages where the newly released DNA results are presented which he believes puts the case to rest, once and for all.

De Bourbon offers us a rather convincing narrative although he occasionally describes conversations and events in a rather fictional style. But no one should swallow the account wholesale with so much personal bias involved. I’m not sure much of the post 1845 events can be fairly described as “persecution.” This is a book for lovers of historical mysteries who might like to explore this story
further. No question, it’s a fascinating tale.

This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on July 12, 2017 at:

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review 2017-03-06 15:48
A footnote to Descartes’s biography finds her voice
The Words in My Hand - Guinevere Glasfurd,Two Roads

Thanks to Net Galley and to John Murray Press Two Roads for offering me a free ARC of this novel that I voluntarily review.

This novel, that could be classed as historical fiction, tells the (at least in part imagined) story of Helena Jans, a Dutch maid who was serving at a house where René Descartes stayed in Amsterdam, and who bore him a daughter. In the author’s note, at the end of the book, Glasfurd explains in detail the true facts known about Helena (she existed and indeed bore Descartes a girl, Francine, and she got married later and had a boy), shares her sources and her intention when writing the book.

The story, narrated in the first person from Helena’s point of view, is beautifully written. We get a clear sense of the historical period, of Holland at the time, especially what it would be like for a young girl of a poor family, who is sent to the capital as she needs to make a living for herself. She is presented as a curious girl, who’s taken an interest in reading and writing, practically teaching herself to do it, and how she ends up as a maid at a bookseller’s home. She’s fascinated by paper (a very expensive and luxurious commodity at the time), ink, by books and maps. She’s only ever traced the outline of the letters on her own hand (therefore the title: The Words in My Hand) but eventually, after experimenting on making her own ink using beetroot, she does learn to write using a quill and proper ink. She also teaches another servant girl how to write, broadening her horizons and giving her a better chance in life.

Coming into contact with Descartes, the Monsieur (as she calls him all through the book, because there is always a certain distance between them), revolutionises her world, not only because of the relationship with him (she’s very young at the time, and he’s many years her senior, so one wonders what that would be considered nowadays) but because of the way he examines and sees the world. The author uses their conversations and Helena’s curiosity, as ways to expose some of Descartes ideas, exemplifying them in lyrical and at the same time understandable ways. Swallows, eels’ hearts, the refraction of light, a flame, snowflakes, anything and everything catches Descartes attention and he feels the need to study it and explain it.

Helena is a complex character. She’s presented as a young woman living through difficult circumstances who tries to live her own life and make her way, rather than just depend on the generosity of a man she doesn’t fully understand (and who perhaps didn’t understand himself that well, either). But she’s not a modern heroine, doing things that would have been impossible during that historical period. Whilst she is shown as curious, skilled, and determined, she is hindered by gender and class (publishing books, even something as simple as an illustrated alphabet for children is not possible for a woman), and also by her personal feelings. She suffers for her mistakes and she lives a limited existence at times, being subject to insult and abuse (as she would have likely been given her circumstances). Despite all that, Glasfurd presents Helen as an artist, a woman who can describe, draw and appreciate things around her, who wants to ensure her daughter gets an education, and who loves Descartes (however difficult that might be at times).

I’ve read a few books recently that try to recover female figures that might have been the great women behind great men but have been ignored or obscured by official history. In some cases, the authors seem to be at pains to paint a negative picture of the man in question. This is not the case here. We only see Descartes through Helena’s eyes (also through some overheard comments and conversations he has with others and through some of his letters) and at times his actions are difficult to understand, but within his constraints he is portrayed as a man of contradictions but with a good heart, who cared for those around him but was, perhaps, more interested in his studies and science than in everyday matters and the life of those closest to him. He is weary of the consequences and risks of publicly exposing his relationship with Helena and his daughter but does not abandon them either. He is a man who struggles and cannot easily fit in the society of his time.

A beautifully observed and written book, about the love of science, writing, nature, and the human side of a historical figure that remains fascinating to this day. This fictionalisation provides a good introduction to some of Descartes ideas and is a great way of remembering another woman whose place in history has only been a footnote until now. A great read especially recommended to those who love historical fiction and who are intrigued by Descartes and XVII century Holland.

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review 2014-10-14 18:18
Tytus Romek i A'Tomek. Księga XVII. Tytus muzykiem
Tytus Romek i A'Tomek. Księga XVII. Tytus muzykiem - Henryk Jerzy Chmielewski Komiks fajny do połowy. Tak mniej więcej. Świetna kreska, dialogi i akcja. A od połowy komiks się stopniowo pogarsza. Jak dla mnie niepotrzebna jest ta cała, kończąca książkę, historia z wyprawą do "abstrakcyjnego" świata. Ani nie jest ciekawa/śmieszna ani nie wnosi czegoś co warto byłoby zapamiętać. Taka zapchaj dziura (wierszówka jak to określają w gazetach). W temacie pogłębiania wiedzy - czyli komiks uczy i bawi - mamy tu sporo informacji związanych z muzyką oraz anatomią ucha.
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review 2013-09-30 00:00
XVII Chess Olympiad, Havana 1966: 364 Games from the Top Final Section
XVII Chess Olympiad, Havana 1966: 364 Ga... XVII Chess Olympiad, Havana 1966: 364 Games from the Top Final Section - Anonymous Last Sunday, I had the privilege of playing a serious game of chess against Florin Gheorghiu, who celebrated the proudest moment of his career at the 1966 Havana Olympiad (World Chess Team Championship) when he was just 22. In the last round, Romania was paired against the US, and Gheorghiu faced the already legendary Bobby Fischer. Fischer was chasing the gold medal for best individual performance and was neck-and-neck with the current World Champion, Tigran Petrosian. So, when Gheorghiu offered an early draw, Fischer declined, despite being Black and standing slightly worse. He had been having a fantastic tournament and was confident that he could turn it round. But Gheorghiu rose to the occasion and won the game. According to several people present, Fischer was so upset by the result that he cried. (These temperamental geniuses, you know...) On top of everything else, it was the only time he had ever lost to a player younger than himself, and he never did it again.

I played Gheorghiu 47 years after his encounter with Fischer, and less was at stake: after a dreadful season, we are forlornly hoping not to get relegated from the B division of the Swiss National League. All the same, I should have prepared much more carefully for my game, since I knew I was quite likely to be drawn against him. In the event, I spent a large part of the preceding week posting about censorship on Goodreads, and didn't even look at a chessboard. Not, who acts as my second, was scathing about my unprofessional approach. And indeed, things did not go well...

CAEG - Echallens, Sep 29 2013

FM Manny Rayner - IGM Florin Gheorghiu

1. Nf3 c5
2. c4 g6
3. d4 Bg7
4. e4 Qa5+!?


What on earth was this move? I vaguely remembered having seen it, but couldn't remember if it was supposed to be any good. Grandmasters playing Black against a weaker opponent often pick an unsound, offbeat line in the hope of confusing them; in that case, it's important to be resolute and not wimp out. I thought for nearly 20 minutes and decided to sacrifice a pawn. He wasn't going to scare me!

5. Nc3 Nc6
6. dc? Bc3+!
7. bc Nf6!


Oh shit. I had only considered Qc3+, after which I have quite a lot of compensation, and had completely missed this natural reply. I realized to my horror that I had an almost lost position as White after seven moves. I looked around for some way to limit the damage.

8. Qc2! Ne4!

I can't take the knight, because then Qc3+ wins. But I had already prepared the next two moves:

9. Bd3! Nc5
10. OO!

I've lost a pawn, but at least I'm ahead in development.

10... d6
11. Nd4!

He is clearly much better, but he still needs to choose how to exploit his advantage. The alternative he chose looked like one of the less dangerous ones.

11... Be6?!
12. Ne6 fe
13. Be2


For a moment, I felt almost happy. I have the bishop pair and some attacking chances. If I just have time to play Be3 and Qd2, things won't be too bad. But Gheorghiu had a long think and found a very strong move.

13... Qa4!

If I exchange the queens, I have a lousy ending which is almost certainly hopeless. Of course I keep them on, but he forces my queen somewhere it doesn't want to go.

14. Qb2 Ne5!

He keeps up the pressure and threatens to win the c4 pawn. I thought for a moment that I could play Qb4. If he exchanges the queens himself, my pawns get straightened out and I'm more or less okay. But instead he plays ... a5! and then I couldn't see what to do. In the end, I decided to seek my chances in a heavy piece middlegame.

15. Be3 Nc4
16. Bc4 Qc4
17. Bc5 Qc5
18. Qb7 Kf7!
19. Qf3+ Qf5!
20. Qg3

I had hoped I'd be able to exploit the slightly loose position of his king, but he finds all the best moves and reminds me that he used to be in the world's top 20.

20... Rac8
21. Rae1 Rc4!
22. Re3 Rf4!


Blocks the rather pathetic threat of Rf3. Now my position looks more or less lost again.

23. f3 Rc8
24. Rae1 e5
25. Qf2 Rfc4

My c-pawn is feeling horribly uncomfortable.

26. Qd2 Kg7
27. g3

I have a dream of playing f4 and opening up the center for my rooks, but Gheorghiu contemptuously brushes aside my feeble threats.

27... R8c5
28. Kg2

On top of everything else, I'm short of time on the clock.

28... Qc8!


A veritable textbook example of how to increase your advantage. Having tidied his king away, he forces my rook to a passive square and prepares the final assault.

29. Rc1 Qc6
30. Rc2 e4!

He methodically exchanges off his doubled pawn, also reminding my king that it's far from safe on g2.

31. Qe2

Black's got any number of ways to wrap it up. He picks the safest one, exchanging off to a winning rook ending.

31... ef+
32. Qf3 Qf3+
33. Kf3 Kf7


He's got all the time in the world to get things ready.

34. Ke2

At least I centralize my king and try to help my miserable c-pawn. It can't hurt.

34... d5
35. Kd3 Ke8

Now he's just going to shuffle his king to d7, and then d6, play e5 and d4, and that will be it. There's nothing I can do.

Or is there? To my great surprise, I saw that I'd been given a chance. I had to take it right now.


36. Re6!

The rook jumps to the weak square left by Black's last move. Now if he plays ... Kd7, I move my other rook to the e-file, threatening his e-pawn, and it's no longer clear what's going on. My rooks are suddenly alive again. He thought a bit and decided to push his d-pawn immediately.

36... d4
37. R2e2!

If he plays ... dc, I have time to take his e-pawn with check before blockading his pawn with my king - and again, who knows what's happening? He decides to keep a safe extra pawn.

37... Rc3+
38. Kd4

I was very happy to kill this ambitious foot-soldier.

38... R5c4+
39. Kd5 Rc7
40. Kd4 Rc1

I had made the time control, and my position looked better than it had since the early opening. I instinctively felt that I could hold this. Things have swung around 180 degrees: now he's the passive one. But I needed to play very accurately. After a long think, I retreated my king again.

41. Kd3 Rd1+?!

I was pleased to have him force my king back to safety on the king-side. It was feeling unhappy in the center, and maybe he missed a chance somewhere around here.

42. Ke3 Rd5
43. Kf2 Ra5
44. Kg2 Kf7


I could see the trick he was planning, and after another long think I let him do it. As it turned out, I had now more or less calculated to the end of the game, but I wasn't sure I'd got it right. My uncertainty was justified; I had missed a couple of finesses, but luckily they didn't matter. The important thing is that this kind of ending is structurally almost impossible to win for Black, for reasons that "every Russian schoolboy knows".

45. h4 Ra2
46. Re7+ Re7
47. Ra2 Ke6

He just can't activate his rook. My rook is in front of the potentially dangerous a-pawn: not ideal in general, but good here when it's so far back. He does the only thing he can, running his king over to support the pawn.

48. Kf3 Kd5
49. Kf4 Kc4
50. Ra1

I want to be as far back as possible so that I can check his king and force it to a bad square.

50 ... Kb3
51. Rb1+ Ka2
52. Rb5 Ka3


Now his king is stuck on the a-file in front of his pawn. I'm going to leave it there and get on with the next part of my plan, advancing the king-side pawns.

53. g4 Ka4
54. Rb8 a5
55. h5 gh
56. gh Re6!

He is alert and gives me as many chances as possible to go wrong.

57. Kf5 Rc6

My king is cut off from his h-pawn, but he can't keep it cut off if he wants to make progress.

58. Rb7 h6
59. Rb8 Ka3
60. Rb7 a4
61. Rb8 Ka2
62. Rb7 a3
63. Rb8 Ka1
64. Rb7 a2


All I've been able to do was wait while he laboriously trundled his pawn down the board, but I was almost sure that waiting would be enough. He can't untangle himself.

65. Rb8 Rc2

This is the only thing he can try to get his king out of the box. Now I have just enough time to take his h-pawn.

66. Rb6!

When thinking about this position about 10 moves earlier, I had been planning Kg6?? here, which would have been a catastrophic blunder. Luckily, I spotted it a few moves later, and by the time we actually got there I knew what to do.

66 ... Rb2
67. Rh6

I take his h-pawn, and now I have a passed pawn too. He's getting a queen first, but then his king is too far away to stop me getting one of my own.

67 ... Rb5+
68. Kg4 Kb1
69. Ra6 a1=Q
70. Ra1+ Ka1


His king is as badly placed as can be, and my pawn serenely moves up the board, supported by my king.

71. h6 Kb2
72. h7 Rb8
73. Kg5 Kc3
74. Kg6 Kd4
75. Kg7 Ke5
76. h8=Q Rh8
77. Kh8



He evidently didn't want to offer me a draw, it was too annoying.

I felt kind of bad for him, considering that he'd completely outplayed me, but also proud of finding my saving chance and managing to exploit it. This is the kind of game that can make you think chess is a worthwhile thing to do.
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review 2008-12-27 00:00
Sword and Sorceress XVII - Warwick Goble,Carrie Vaughn,Marion Zimmer Bradley,Diana L. Paxson,Cynthia Ward,Dorothy J. Heydt,Vera Nazarian,Patricia Duffy Novak,Deborah Wheeler,Lee Martindale,Jenn Reese,Cynthia McQuillin,Dave Smeds,Lisa Silverthorne,Elizabeth Gilligan,Laura J. Underwo It doesn’t quite feel like Bradley did the editing on this one even though she is listed. “Memories of the Sea” will make you look at pearls differently, and that really is the only reason to read this book.
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