The first biography for twenty years of Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew, who became President of France in 1848 and assumed the title of Emperor in 1852. By the early 1860s he was the most powerful man in Europe.
Prince Louis Napoleon was born with a compelling sense of destiny. The eldest nephew of Bonaparte, he came from exile and ignominy to rule France, first as President then as Emperor for 22 years, from 1848 to 1870. Under his benevolent dictatorship, the nation grew in artistic fulfilment, industrial wealth and international influence – until catastrophic defeat at the hands of Bismarck in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 cast her back into the shadows.
Subsequently, with his wife the Empress Eugenie, Napoleon III went into exile in Chislehurst, Kent, until his death in 1873. (His widow was not to die till 1920.) There is now a movement in France to retrieve his ashes from their mausoleum in Farnborough and bring them back to France.
Napoleon III was, according to Queen Victoria, ‘endowed with wonderful self-control and with a power of fascination, the effect of which upon all those who became more intimately acquainted with him is most sensibly felt.’ He was brave in battle and a compulsive womaniser; one of the only two really great loves of his life was Harriet Howard, an English true-life equivalent of Violetta, the courtesan heroine of Verdi’s La Traviata.
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In this compelling biography of one of France's most intriguing rulers, the 'other' Napoleon comes to dramatic life – from boyhood exile after his uncle's defeat at Waterloo, through years of early despair, high adventure and a growing sense of destiny, to two failed coups d'etat, six years in prison followed by an ingenious escape, democratic election in 1848 as President of the Second Republic, and finally (after a brutal show of strength) the emperorship of France.
How the man known to Bismarck as 'the Sphinx without a riddle' lost it all in 1870 in the disastrous Franco-Prussian war, and how he and his wife Eugenie were banished to an English country house near London, where he died at the hands of incompetent doctors in 1873, is the climax of an exhilarating and exotic tale.
"A sparkling portrait of the man who ruled France from the aftermath of the 1848 revolution until his catastrophic defeat by the Prussians in 1870. Louis Napoleon, benevolent dictator and sexual addict, is rescued from the shadows of his more famous uncle and more esoteric academic studies… This is a masterpiece of popular history, combining serious purpose with a refreshing lightness of touch."
"Fenton Bresler tells the story with verve … this biography captures the element of bathos that is a recurrent element in Napoleon III's career."
JOHN ADAMSON, 'Sunday Telegraph'
"Sympathetic and highly beadable"
PETRONELLA WYATT, 'Literary Review'
"This marvellous biography brings to life a fascinating, neglected character … thorough and authoritative."
Fenton Bresler (previously published by Heinemann and Sinclair-Stevenson) has written biographies of Georges Simenon and Lord Goddard. He is a trained lawyer and former crime correspondent, best known for his general books on legal topics (a history of Interpol and LAW WITHOUT A LAWYER). He is fluent in French and has, since childhood, nursed a passion for the subject.
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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110006388140