Napoleon’s recalcitrant, republican younger brother has his say in this lively reconstruction of the Bonaparte family’s accession to power.
Simonetta (The Montefeltro Conspiracy: A Renaissance Mystery Decoded, 2008) and Arikha (Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours, 2007) acquired unpublished correspondence and notebooks belonging to Lucien Bonaparte and his wife, Alexandrine, that were spared the purge by Napoleon III’s revisionists. Much of their work here revisits Lucien’s Memoirs, with expurgated passages restored involving telling scenes between the brothers as well as details about Lucien’s relationship with Alexandrine, his lovely second wife who was vilified by Napoleon mostly because the First Consul wanted his brother to make an astute political match rather than marry for love. The authors “take [Lucien] at his word,” allowing the dialogue he recorded seemingly verbatim to remain intact and jump off the page—namely, when Napoleon informs his brothers Joseph and Lucien while reclining in the bathtub of his precipitous decision to sell the vast Louisiana territories to the Americans, the same territory Lucien had skillfully and very recently negotiated from the Spanish. Napoleon had often been away in military school during Lucien’s youth, and the relationship between them was respectful but never warm. Lucien had studied in seminary before becoming a political activist and speaker; he was deeply imbued with republican ideals and early on expressed his suspicions about his older brother’s despotic ambitions. If Napoleon were king, Lucien wrote to Joseph, “his name would be a terror to posterity and to sensitive patriots.” Nonetheless, Napoleon relied on Lucien’s diplomacy and cool-headedness to help stage his coup amid the Council of the Five Hundred in November 1799, and used him as a diplomatic tool until Lucien’s forced exile over his marriage to Alexandrine.
A fresh piece of turbulent French history.