By Kate Williams
Their love was once mythical, their ambition flagrant and unashamed. Napoleon Bonaparte and his spouse, Josephine, got here to energy in the course of probably the most turbulent sessions within the historical past of France. the tale of the Corsican soldier’s tremendous upward push has been good documented. Now, during this spellbinding, luminous account, Kate Williams attracts again the curtain at the lady who beguiled him: her humble origins, her exorbitant appetites, and the tragic flip of occasions that ended in her undoing.
Born Marie-Josèphe-Rose de Tascher de los angeles Pagerie at the Caribbean island of Martinique, the girl Napoleon might later name Josephine used to be the final word survivor. She persisted a loveless marriage to a French aristocrat—executed through the Reign of Terror—then slightly escaped the guillotine blade herself. Her near-death adventure merely fueled Josephine’s ambition and heightened her choice to discover a guy who may well finance and maintain her. although no vintage good looks, she quick built a name as some of the most fascinating ladies at the continent.
In 1795, she met Napoleon. The charm was once mutual, rapid, and extreme. Theirs used to be an often-tumultuous union, roiled by means of their pursuit of different enthusiasts yet intensely concerned about energy and luck. Josephine was once Napoleon’s excellent consort and the item of nationwide fascination. jointly they conquered Europe. Their extravagance used to be exceptional, even via the criteria of Versailles. yet she couldn't produce an inheritor. Sexual obsession introduced them jointly, yet chilly organic fact tore them apart.
Gripping in its immediacy, pleasing in its element, Ambition and hope is a real story of hope, heartbreak, and progressive turmoil, engagingly written via certainly one of England’s such a lot praised younger historians. Kate Williams’s searing portrait of this beautiful and intricate lady will ultimately bring up Josephine Bonaparte to the old prominence she merits.
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Additional resources for Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte
In time, Lutetia became the crucible where the south’s copper and the west’s tin met and melded into bronze weaponry. In the fourth century AD, when Julian the Apostate was proclaimed Augustus in Paris, the rebellious young emperor elevated Lutetia to the rank of “summer capital” of the Roman Empire, and the Seine became the new Rome’s Tiber. In due course, once the Romans had vacated, upriver paddled medieval missionaries and Norsemen of an equally bloody-minded nature, bent on trading, raiding, and proselytizing.
They lazed on benches, and appeared to be enjoying the unusual views of 1950s to 1970s highrise architecture. Another quarter-mile downstream at Javel (as in eau de Javel, or bleach, produced here starting in the 1770s) the Seine flowed melodiously beneath the ironwork Pont Mirabeau. In the rushing mainstream I could hear Guillaume Apollinaire’s wistful refrain of time and love slipping by, the one every French high schooler memorizes: Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine et nos amours faut-il qu’il m’en souvienne la joie venait toujours après la peine … But I hadn’t walked three hours to weep tears of nostalgia.
Amorous couples prefer secluded lanes, leaning two armless chairs side by side. The empty chairs, left as arranged by their last occupants, tell of trysts, duels, and roundtable talks. From my comfortable old armchair by the octagonal pool, I watched as children played with weathered wooden sailboats, prodding them with long wooden sticks. A sinister-looking man of middle age with a radio-controlled submarine chortled as his U-boat prowled just below the surface. The wizened woman who rents the sailboats displays dozens of the battered little craft on the cart she wheels out rain or shine.
Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte by Kate Williams