In Which We Are Talking about Bonapartes

This post is by Amanda, the other half of the sisters posting at Gun in Act One.  The Garden Intrigue, more than any of the Pink books thus far, gives us a look at Napoleon as a man with a family.  Yes- his family members are clearly political currency for him, but that doesn’t seem to always have been the case.  It seems to me that Napoleon and Josephine are depicted as an epic love story – but it’s one that I don’t know much about.  Who was Hortense?  Pauline?  Caroline?  All these women around this little man are making me curious so I did a bit of digging and this is what I’ve learned so far.

Emma reminisces on the pre-Imperial days about a time when Josephine was taking lovers and still being courted by Napoleon.  Who was this woman that was so admired?  On my TBR for a while has been Josephine: Desire, Ambition, Napoleon.  How did Josephine survive the Terror?  Did she want to be Empress?  Who was Hortense’s father?  How did Josephine marry her only daughter off as a political tool?  Hortense was beautiful!  Can’t you just see her as a young lady gossiping with Emma and Jane?


Lauren’s bibliography suggests Daughter to Napoleon by Constance Wright as well as Hortense’s own published memoirs.  I didn’t know our Hortense went on to become Queen of Holland and I’m now fascinated!  Wright’s book includes portions of Hortense’s memoirs as well so I think I will add it to my lengthy TBR.

Napoleon’s sisters sound no where near as pleasant as Josephine and her daughter.  Were they really so catty and nasty I wonder?  Or is this a great plot device by our Lauren?  The Garden Intrigue bibliography includes Napoleon: His Wives and Women which sounds like it fits what I’m looking for.  Perhaps the Bonaparte sisters were simply as ambitious and determined as their brother, but as so often happens in history their attempts to take what power they could have them disparaged in memory.  It would be interesting to see how they’re remembered by contemporaries like Hortense in her own words.

Are there any great books that I’m missing?  Perhaps more historical fiction featuring Napoleon and his women?  Which of the real people mentioned in the Pink series would you like to read more about?

3 thoughts on “In Which We Are Talking about Bonapartes

  1. I definitely recommend Sandra Gulland’s trilogy about Josephine. The first book is called The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine Bonaparte. It is written as Josephine’s diaries and is classified as fiction, however the amount of research the author has done and the way she writes makes it very very historically accurate. Through all 3 books, it goes from Josephine’s childhood all the way til her death. Hers is such an interesting story!

  2. James Conroyd Martin has a Polish historical fiction series based on real personnages – the main character/heroine was a Polish Countess Anna Bereskova and the first book, Push Not the River, is taken from her diary. However, the second book, Against A Crimson Sky, continues the Polish story with Napoleon taking a major part as the Polish soldiers fight with him against Prussia and Russia with the promise that he will support Poland getting its land back (which he didn’t do). As Napoleon came into Poland he met a young Polish woman, Maria Walewska, and was intrigued by her beauty, eventually insisting she be his mistres even though she was married to a Polish aristocrat four decades her senior. He met her in 1806, the affair began somewhat later – she was encouraged by family to sacrifice herself for Poland and her husband turned his head – Napoleon insisted she be with him at an encampment, later in Vienna, and finally in Paris. She had an illegitimate son, whom her husband accepted. The affair ended in 1810 right before Napoleon married Marie – Loiuse as he thought it unseemly to continue – too bad he didn’t feel the same about Josephine. However, he gave the Polish Maria a large stipend and lands. His battles and strategy on this Prussian and Russian front are discussed in detail in this excellent book.

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