Tag Archives: Napoleon

Bonaparte Milestones on This Date

In 1803, Napoleon crowned himself emperor in Notre Dame Cathedral.

In 1804, Napoleon won a major battle at Austerlitz, defeating the combined Austrian and Russian armies, who outnumbered him.

In 2013, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte officially went on sale. It’s available at amikapress.com and on Amazon.

Jacques-Louis David, The Coronation of Napoleon editJacques-Louis David [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

5 Comments

Filed under This Date in History, Writing

This Date in History: October 12, 1809

At the beginning of the French Revolution, most European nations were shocked by the the events in France and considered it appropriate to try to restore the French king to his throne. It goes without saying that all those other countries had monarchy in some form or another. However, by January 1793, Louis XVI was dead. The execution of the Bourbon king only intensified international opposition to the idea of a republican France. In 1793, Austria, Great Britain, Prussia, Spain, and the United Provinces of the Netherlands formed a coalition to oppose both the French government and the spread of revolutionary ideas to their own lands.

Over the course of the next 23 years, France was almost continuously at war, and in all probability, the only thing that kept it from being defeated at an earlier date was the military genius of Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon’s leadership was a double-edged sword, if you’ll forgive the pun. His brilliant victories defeated Austria and kept Britain at bay time and time again. However, after he became First Consul in 1799 and  emperor in 1804, the other rulers of Europe viewed him as an upstart and a usurper, and they adopted the goal of defeating him at any cost. It became a vicious no-win situation for Napoleon. He felt that he had to use his leadership and military skills to keep his country safe, yet he became one of the primary reasons his country was being attacked.

Which brings me to October 12, 1809. By this time, the Allies had formed not one, not two, but five coalitions to defeat France. The Fifth Coalition essentially fell apart when Napoleon trounced the Austrians. France and Austria negotiated a treaty to end the war at the palace of Schönnbrunn in Vienna. While this was going on, a seventeen-year-old German named Friedrich Staps decided to assassinate Napoleon to bring an end to his rule. Staps entered the palace grounds on October 12 while Napoleon was viewing a military parade and tried to approach the emperor. One of Napoleon’s aides found the young man suspicious and had him arrested, and a knife was found to be hidden on his body. Under questioning, Staps admitted his plans. When Napoleon asked if he would be grateful for a pardon, Staps declared that he would still try to assassinate Napoleon anyway. A firing squad executed Staps on the 17th.

It was not the first attempt to assassinate Napoleon, and such attempts on his life only made him more obdurate in pursuing his goal to build a French empire. He greatly feared what would happen to France if he should die without a clear succession plan in place. After this attempt, he took decisive action that I will discuss in my next blog post.

Schloss Schoenbrunn Gloriette

Schönnbrunn Palace, via Wikimedia Commons

2 Comments

Filed under This Date in History

Betsy’s Circle: Germaine de Staël

Laugier de Stael

Anne Louise Germaine Necker, baronne de Staël by Jean Nicolas Laugier, via Wikimedia Commons

One of Betsy’s literary friends was Germaine de Staël, who was a colorful and controversial figure on the European scene.

She was born Anne-Louise-Germaine Necker to Swiss parents in Paris in 1766. Her father was a Genevan banker who became Louis XVI’s finance minister. Like Betsy, she exhibited the qualities of wit, intellectual curiosity, and lively conversation as a child. She was married at the age of twenty to Baron Erik de Staël-Holstein, the Swedish ambassador to France. It was not an affectionate marriage but gave her status as the wife of a diplomat.

Madame de Staël first gained literary fame by publishing Letters on the Works and Character of J.-J. Rousseau in 1788. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, her work exhibited a “mixture of Rousseau’s enthusiasm and Montesquieu’s rationalism.” Despite the Revolution, she remained in France until 1793, and then she moved to England to be with her lover, Louis de Narbonne, who had been one of Louis XVI’s ministers.

After the Reign of Terror ended, she returned to Paris and began the most illustrious stage of her career. She alternated between living in Paris and at her chateau in Coppet, Switzerland. Madame de Staël held a noted salon, where intellectuals could converse about important ideas of their day, and she published several essays. She also took a new lover, the politician and writer Benjamin Constant, who introduced her to German romanticism.

Madame de Staël wrote two novels, Delphine and Corinne, that were infamous in their day because they exposed the limits imposed on independent and creative women. Napoleon disapproved of her work—he was a traditionalist in his views of women’s roles. As a liberal, Madame de Staël opposed him politically, so that deepened his dislike. In about 1803, Napoleon exiled her to a distance of at least 40 miles from Paris. During the remainder of his reign, Coppet was her home base.

In 1810, she published her most important work, a study of German culture. She returned to Paris after Napoleon’s downfall, but lived only a few more years, dying in 1817.

Leave a comment

Filed under Extra Tidbits

Betsy’s Circle: Scandalous Pauline Bonaparte

Pauline Bonaparte 2
Portrait of Pauline Bonaparte by Robert Lefevre, Image from Wikimedia Commons

Betsy was often told that she looked like her sister-in-law Pauline Bonaparte, shown above in one of her revealing gowns. Pauline, however, had a much more scandalous reputation than Betsy.

As a young woman, Pauline fell in love with Louis-Marie Stanislas Fréron, the proconsul of Marseille, but her mother objected to the match. Napoleon then married off his fifteen-year-old sister to one of his officers, General Charles Leclerc. However, Pauline couldn’t be happy with any man for long. She had a voracious sexual appetite (a trait that several of the Bonapartes shared). While she and LeClerc were stationed in Saint-Dominque, she took several lovers—despite the fact that she was plagued with illness. Pauline had an exasperating personality: arrogant, willful, capricious, narcissistic, and promiscuous.

After LeClerc died of yellow fever, Pauline returned to France. Defying Napoleon’s opinion about the proper mourning period, she married again within a year to Prince Camilo Borghese. They lived in Italy. Pauline quickly grew bored with him and continued behaving as riotously as before. They say that one of her lovers was the violinist Paganini. Other rumors say that she suffered from sexually transmitted diseases. While in Italy, Pauline posed semi-nude for the sculptor Canova, who created a famous statue of Pauline as a reclining Venus.

Pauline had only one child, a boy named Dermide, fathered by her first husband. Dermide died when he was six, and Pauline—true to her volatile nature—kept promising to make various nephews her heir and then changing her mind and rescinding the offers. In one area of her life, however, she did remain loyal. She stood by her brother Napoleon and was the only one of his siblings to visit him in his first exile on Elba.

Cancer was the scourge of the Bonaparte family, and Pauline was no exception. She died of the disease at the age of 44.

2 Comments

Filed under Extra Tidbits