This is the garden entrance to Schonbrunn where, in 1814 during the Congress of Vienna - the period of my next book - Napoleon's wife, Marie-Louise, eldest daughter of Austrian emperor Franz-Joseph, was held with her young son. She had wanted to accompany her husband into exile, but Metternich, the Austrian chancellor - a skilled manipulator and the driving force behind the Congress - persuaded her father it would give them greater bargaining power if she remained in Austria. In effect she was a hostage.
It was in under the personal supervision of Marie-Louise's grandmother, Empress Maria Teresa, that this former hunting lodge dating back to the Middle Ages was transformed over a period of forty years into a splendid palace, elaborately ornamented both inside and out in the Rococo style. Yet after the Empress's death in 1780 Schonnbrun remained empty until the early 1800s when Marie-Louise's father started using it as his summer residence in order to escape the heat and the stench of the river. During the Congress, Marie-Louise and her son lived there virtually alone but for servants, relying for company on visits from the wives and mistresses of the crowned heads of Europe, all of whom had their own agenda. The heroine of my book is a young and gifted artist who for a short time becomes Marie-Louise's friend. I'm so looking forward to following her adventures.