NAPOLEON'S FAMILY by Desmond Seward


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An amusing and detailed account of the integral part Napoleon's siblings played in his rise to and fall from power. Born and raised an Italian, Bonaparte had real faith only in the family: he switched political allegiances whenever he judged it expedient, but he was unwavering in his support for his family, despite their often total incompetence, their profligacy and their almost habitual ungratefulness. Seward cheerfully chronicles the Bonaparte infighting, sexual embarrassments, outrageous lust for money and their intrigues against the Emperor himself. Though aware of his brothers' and sisters' deficiencies, Napoleon was intent on creating a dynasty, and his siblings were the only stuff at his disposal. Time and again, they damaged his position, but the Emperor never deviated in his support of the clan, even in the exile for which they were largely responsible. Seward's history is both comic and touching. Whatever their faults, Napoleon seemed genuinely to care for his family. And though the author sometimes goes on too long in his listings of the sordid affairs and extravagances of the Bonaparte siblings, the book is generally fast-paced and entertaining as one follows the motley crew bumbling their way through the courts of Europe, leaving little but trouble in their wake.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1986
Publisher: Viking