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Napoleon and Marie Louise: The Emperor's Second Wife
by Alan Palmer
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312280084, Hardcover)Veteran British historian Alan Palmer offers another agreeable book blending biography and history in his account of the union between the upstart ruler of post-Revolutionary France and the daughter of Hapsburg Emperor Francis. Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) married Archduchess Marie Louise (1791-1847) to obtain an heir and to cement an alliance with the Austrian dynasty he had been at war with since she was a child.
At 16, Louise (as her family called her) wrote letters referring to Bonaparte as an "ogre," and when she realized in 1810 that she might be a candidate for the newly divorced Napoleon's hand, she wrote to her father, begging to be spared. But a Hapsburg princess was raised to believe that "a child's first duty is to obey its parents," and when Francis delegated Foreign Minister Metternich to explain why this marriage was essential to Austria's security, Marie Louise complied.
Indeed, the lonely young woman was quite beguiled by her husband-to-be's shrewd and charming first letter, and she seems to have learned to love Napoleon, at least through the birth of their son in 1811 and until 1814, when he peremptorily ordered her to join him in exile on Elba. Then she turned against him and soon took up with a dashing Austrian officer, Count von Neipperg, with whom she had three children, though they could only marry (in secret) after Napoleon's death.
In Palmer's frank but sympathetic assessment, sensual, self-centered Louise did her best to honor the obligations laid on her by diplomatic and dynastic necessity. Her life provides an instructive case study in the crisis of European royalty during the swings between revolution and reaction that shaped the turbulent 19th century. --Wendy Smith
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:52 -0400)
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