The wife of Napoleon III, Empress Éugenie, who was described as stunning in appearance, was noted to have many fine pieces of jewelry, but she was also reported to be extremely superstitious. For instance, one literary magazine noted that she possessed “unbound faith” in an amulet she wore and that she forced the Emperor to wear “a little flannel bag filled with camphor suspended round his neck” to prevent him from “catching diseases,” such as cholera. There were also reports that she visited fortune tellers and that once when going incognito to a palm reader, she was told:
“Madame, your hand is so extraordinary that one of two things must be the truth; either my skill must be at fault for once, and I see impossible events, or you must be the Empress Eugenie, for no other hand could tell of such strange vicissitudes.”
Lucien Bonaparte was Napoleon’s brother and the third son of Carlo Bonaparte and Letizia Ramolino. He was six years younger than Napoleon and born on 21 May 1775 in Ajaccio on the island of Corsica. Lucien, like Napoleon, was educated on France’s mainland. He was educated at the College of Auton (in eastern France), a military academy in Brienne (north-central France), and a seminary in Aix-en-Provence (southern France).
A description of Lucien when was he was young was written by 15-year-old Napoleon to his uncle. Napoleon described Lucien thusly:
“He is 9 years old, and 3 feet, 4 inches, and 6 lines tall. He is in the sixth class for Latin, and is going to learn all the subjects in the curriculum. He shows plenty of good disposition and has good intentions. It is to be hoped he will turn out well. He is in good health, is a big upstanding boy, quick and impulsive, and he is making a good start. He knows French well, and has forgotten all his Italian.”
Princess Hélène of Orléans had an illustrious lineage. Born on 13 June 1871 in York House, Twickenham, she was the granddaughter of Louis Philippe I of France and the great-granddaughter of Louise Phillipe II (Philippe Égalité). Her father Prince Philippe, Count of Paris, was a claimant to the French throne from 1848 until his death, and her mother was the Infanta Maria Isabel of Spain.
Because of her lineage, Hélène had several well-known suitors. One suitor who fell in love with her was the eldest son of the future Edward VII and grandson of then reigning Queen Victoria. His name was Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, but intimates called him Eddy. Twenty-three-year-old Eddy and sixteen-year-old Hélène met in the summer of 1890, became acquainted, and fell in love. Continue reading →
Napoleon’s pleasure-loving sister Pauline Bonaparte had always been considered somewhat shallow. Perhaps, it was because she had been spoiled as a child and received no formal education. Nothing intellectual ever interested her. In fact, her interests were frivolous and mainly involved her appearance, which generated much excitement with the public each time she appeared:
“Whenever she went to the theatre, every opera-glass was turned towards her. Her entrance into a ball-room was greeted by a long murmur of admiration. Her attire was always carefully studied, and very beautiful … She inspired the wildest enthusiasm.”
On 10 January 1810 the Emperor Napoleon divorced the Empress Josephine. He still loved her and she loved him, but France needed an heir. When he told her he wanted a divorce, her cries and shrieks reverberated throughout the palace before she collapsed onto the floor and was carried to her apartments. After the divorce Josephine went to live at the Château de Malmaison, the house she had bought for herself and Napoleon while he was still a general. After a time she left Malmaison for her stately home of Navarre, where she was busy replanting and restoring the grounds. However, she returned to Malmaison around the time Napoleon abdicated the throne on 6 April 1814, which is also when the Russian Tsar, Alexander I, came to visit her. He was 35 years old at the time, and although “his golden hair had begun to recede from his forehead, his sky-blue eyes, rather short-sighted, were full of amiability, and a benevolent smile was habitual on his lips.” The two forged a friendship partly because they shared a similar appreciation for art. In addition, “Alexander, who desired to know Josephine’s wishes in reference to herself and to her children [Eugène and Hortense], and who sincerely wished to become acquainted with her, … [was willing to] offer her his homage, and transfer to her the friendship he once cherished for Napoleon.”Continue reading →
Napoleon II, son of Napoleon I and Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma was born at the Tuileries Palace on 20 March 1811. It was a dangerous birth that caused the attending doctor, Antoine Dubois, to fear that either the Archduchess or the child might die. Marie Louise was worried enough that she told Dubois if he had to choose between her or her child, the child must be saved. Napoleon I was also worried and wrote: Continue reading →
There are many anecdotes about the court of Napoleon Bonaparte. One book, Memoirs of the Court of Napoleon Buonaparte, published in 1819, contained numerous anecdotes and was supposedly written by Madame Durand, a lady of the bedchamber to Napoleon’s second wife, Marie Louise. Madame Durand was also the widow of General Durand and served Marie Louise for four years.
Here are some of the anecdotes related by Madame Durand and provided almost verbatim: Continue reading →
Napoleon Bonaparte’s mother, Letizia Ramolino was a sensible, pragmatic, domineering, and no-nonsense mother, and even after Napoleon became Emperor, she still acted like his mother. To demonstrate, once when Napoleon presented his hand for her to kiss, she flung it at him and presented her own hand instead. Although Napoleon and his mother had their differences with one another, Napoleon still respected her and once said of her, “She has always been an excellent woman, a mother without an equal; she deserved all reverence.”
Perhaps, Napoleon felt that way based partly on what his mother Letizia once wrote about her early life, marriage, and children: Continue reading →
Marie Antoinette loved hot chocolate, towering hairdos, and flowers. She also loved the small château called Petit Trianon that Louis XVI gave after he became King. It was Marie Antoinette’s retreat where she could ramble through pathways dressed in muslin gowns and floppy hats and pretend she was a commoner. She could also visit the Hameau de la Reine (The Queen’s Hamlet) near Petit Trianon with its rustic gardens, dairy, and functional farm. Yet, despite all these things that Marie Antoinette loved, there were at least five people at court that she disliked (or despised). These five people included Anne d’Arpajon, Madame du Barry, Jacques Necker, Madame de Genlis, and the famous general of the American Revolution Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. Continue reading →
After the Bastille was stormed in July of 1789, Louis XVI’s youngest brother, the Count d’Artois, fled France with his family. They lived briefly in Italy and Germany before finally settling in Great Britain in 1792. There the Count became a leader of the French émigrés and was welcomed by King George III, who also gave him a generous allowance.
Although the Count d’Artois was welcomed in Great Britain, he wanted the Bourbon monarchy to rule in France. So, he outfitted an army on borrowed money around 1795 and became involved in a royalist uprising against revolutionaries in La Vendée. Things did not go as planned. He was beaten and returned to Great Britain defeated. However, before he landed in Great Britain, he was “advised that should he step ashore he would be liable to imprisonment for debt under British law if he did not meet the sum due.”Continue reading →