The Betrayal of the Duchess

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Book cover

In July 1830, a revolution ousted the Bourbon monarchy from France. The Duchess of Berry, exiled in Scotland, hatched a plot to restore the dynasty and launched a civil war to reclaim the throne for her 11-year-old son. She instantly became the most wanted woman in France, and she evaded capture for months by disguising herself as man, sleeping in fields and haylofts by night and by day commanding a guerilla army willing to die for her cause. As she neared Paris, the duchess was sold out by her most trusted adviser, a convert from Judaism named Simon Deutz, who revealed her whereabouts to police in exchange for a reward. The country’s response to the betrayal was intense, and the duchess’ plight became a cause célèbre taken up by Bourbon loyalists that also became a blueprint for antisemitic stereotypes and rhetoric. In addition to illuminating a less-studied period of revolutionary French history, Samuels argues that the affair was the moment when the tensions of modernity took concrete form and the first time antisemitism became racialized, rather than being defined by religion.

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