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Napoleon & Marie Louise: The Emperor's Second Wife

by Mr. Alan Palmer

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453423,175 (3.25)8
"Archduchesses have always been disastrous for France," Napoleon once remarked. Yet in 1810 he married Archduchess Marie Louise, the eighteen-year-old daughter of his lifelong enemy, the Emperor of Austria.On January 5, 1810, she had read in the newspapers of the act of separation between Napoleon and his wife and wrote to her father, "I must admit, dear Papa, that I am very disturbed by this news."And to her friend Victoria de Poutet she wrote the next day, "I pity the unfortunate woman on whom his choice falls; that will certainly put an end to her fine days."Though their union was politically expedient, Napoleon lived happily and proudly with "my good Louise" until defeat sent him to Elba and she returned to Vienna, eventually becoming the sovereign of an Italian duchy.Alan Palmer gives the first detailed portrait of this extraordinary episode in Europe`s history.He traces the changing fortunes of France and Austria through the years of Napoleonic ascendancy and eclipse.By using extracts from Louise`s letters and travel diaries, he throws light on the conflicting worlds and torn loyalties which perplexed France`s young, and often courageous, Empress.Personal touches are many and amusing, as in Louise`s letters to her mother telling of their travels through sleet and rain and miles and miles of muddy roads.Overnight stops were made at wayside taverns ill-suited for families of distinction - one evening there was an insect hunt in an infested bedroom, with Louise claming that she had swatted the largest bug of all, whom she dubbed "Napoleon."Alan Palmer also examines the controversial years in which their son was raised to manhood in Vienna while Louise, with her secret second family, reigned in Parma as a benevolent Duchess, whose cultural legacy has survived into the 21st century.AUTHORBIO: Alan Palmer is an acclaimed historian, the author of several books including Napoleon in Russia, An Encyclopaedia of Napoleon`s Europe, Twilight of the Habsburgs, Victory 1918, and biographies of Metternich, Tsar Alexander I and Bernadotte.… (more)

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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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"Archduchesses have always been disastrous for France," Napoleon once remarked. Yet in 1810 he married Archduchess Marie Louise, the eighteen-year-old daughter of his lifelong enemy, the Emperor of Austria.On January 5, 1810, she had read in the newspapers of the act of separation between Napoleon and his wife and wrote to her father, "I must admit, dear Papa, that I am very disturbed by this news."And to her friend Victoria de Poutet she wrote the next day, "I pity the unfortunate woman on whom his choice falls; that will certainly put an end to her fine days."Though their union was politically expedient, Napoleon lived happily and proudly with "my good Louise" until defeat sent him to Elba and she returned to Vienna, eventually becoming the sovereign of an Italian duchy.Alan Palmer gives the first detailed portrait of this extraordinary episode in Europe`s history.He traces the changing fortunes of France and Austria through the years of Napoleonic ascendancy and eclipse.By using extracts from Louise`s letters and travel diaries, he throws light on the conflicting worlds and torn loyalties which perplexed France`s young, and often courageous, Empress.Personal touches are many and amusing, as in Louise`s letters to her mother telling of their travels through sleet and rain and miles and miles of muddy roads.Overnight stops were made at wayside taverns ill-suited for families of distinction - one evening there was an insect hunt in an infested bedroom, with Louise claming that she had swatted the largest bug of all, whom she dubbed "Napoleon."Alan Palmer also examines the controversial years in which their son was raised to manhood in Vienna while Louise, with her secret second family, reigned in Parma as a benevolent Duchess, whose cultural legacy has survived into the 21st century.AUTHORBIO: Alan Palmer is an acclaimed historian, the author of several books including Napoleon in Russia, An Encyclopaedia of Napoleon`s Europe, Twilight of the Habsburgs, Victory 1918, and biographies of Metternich, Tsar Alexander I and Bernadotte.

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