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Napoleon and Marie Louise: The Emperor's…

Napoleon and Marie Louise: The Emperor's Second Wife

by Alan Palmer

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Interesting, well-written; a largely unknown chapter of early nineteenth century European history. On the face of things, Marie Louise was set up to repeat the unfortunate circumstances of her great aunt Marie Antoinette. She was a sweet and sheltered Austrian Archduchess who was "sacrificed" to a political marriage with the leader of Austria's traditional enemy France. And Marie Louise had been brought up to think of Napoleon as the uncouth Corsican brigand who twice despoiled the sancitity of her beloved Vienna. But it seems that Marie Louise was much more resourceful - better able to adapt - and made the best of her marriage of circumstances. While they were together, Napoleon and Marie Louise seem to have been truly devoted to one another. And after Napoleon's fall, Marie Louise was able to look after herself - and her son - quite well, thank you very much.

Is birth-order part of the difference? Marie Antoinette was "the last of the litter," while Marie Louise was the oldest, and most responsible, in her family. She was Emperor Francis' favorite child, and their relationship was important personally and politically. It seems that upbringing is important, even in royal families.

Alan Palmer has written a sympathetic, understanding portrait that combines history and biography in a balanced account. He is a amused, and an amusing, storyteller. He is neither a strong Bonapartist nor a fierce anti-Bonapartist, which is a admirable thing indeed. ( )
  yooperprof | Jun 17, 2011 |
4020. Napoleon & Marie Louise: The Emperor's Second Wife, by Alan Palmer (read 8 May 2005) I read Alan Palmer's excellent biography of Metternich with much enjoyment on 4 June 1974, so I am a bit surprised that I have not read anything else by him till now. This is a 2001 book (though our library did not acquire it till last year) and is very well done, though, having read three full biographies of Napoleon (John Holland Rose's on 24 Aug 1957, Alan Schom's on 15 May 1998, and Frank McLynn's on 24 Nov 2002), some was not new to me. Marie Louise was the eldest child of the son of Emperor Leopold II, having been born 12 Dec 1791, and married Napoleon by proxy on 11 March 1810, and first saw him some weeks later. Her son, Napoleon II, was born 11 March 1811. She did not join Napoleon in either of his exiles and she married twice after his death. This was a fun book to read. ( )
  Schmerguls | Oct 15, 2007 |
If this was an attempt to place Marie Louise in a better light than history has hereto placed her, it failed miserably. The only thing that it shows she was clever about was hiding her illegitimate children, & her second & third marriages from her family.
Neither does it dispel the low opinions of her treatment & utter isolation of he eldest child, the King of Rome. The old theory “out of sight, out of mind” in regards to her relationship to Bonaparte, sure rings true from the pages. After Bonaparte’s exile, it seems that Marie Louise’s only concern was her possession of Parma & her illicit affair with Neipperg. ( )
  TheCelticSelkie | Oct 3, 2006 |
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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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