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Napoleon and the Rebel: A Story of Brotherhood, Passion, and Power Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 7, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Husband-and-wife historians Simonetta (The Montefeltro Conspiracy: A Renaissance Mystery Decoded) and Arikha (Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours) offer a biography of Napoleon's younger brother, Lucien Bonaparte (1775–1840). Lucien had only a brief public life, first aiding Napoleon in becoming First Consul in 1799 and, in 1804, emperor. Lucien also served as minister of the interior and ambassador to Spain. But Simonetta and Arikha's central narrative concerns the estrangement of the brothers when Lucien married his mistress, Alexandrine, rather than the woman Napoleon had chosen for him. Furious, Napoleon tried to get Lucien to divorce her and join the other siblings in ruling the empire. Instead, Lucien, Alexandrine, and their seven children spent most of their lives in exile in Italy. The authors hew too closely to the fraternal drama, often giving short shrift to the larger historical picture; they devote only one sentence to Lucien's active role in negotiating the 1801 Concordat between Napoleon and the pope. The authors portray Lucien as a gifted and principled man with republican sympathies, an art collector, and a poet praised by Byron, but the book downplays his significance as anything other than the emperor's rebel brother. (June) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“A highly enjoyable portrait of a remarkable clan… The book contains wonderful details.”—Caroline Moorehead, The New York Review of Books.
“The authors’ tenacity has been rewarded by discovering new documents that illuminate Lucien’s personality…Their book offers a passionate adventure.”–Benedetta Cravieri, La Repubblica
“Simonetta and Arikha have let the younger Bonaparte tell his side of the remarkable story… insightful and engaging.”—Library Journal
“Napoleon and the Rebel is first and foremost a gripping piece of detective work by two outstanding historians. Overturning everything we knew about Lucien Bonaparte, Simonetta and Arikha have written an entirely fresh and absorbing account about the brother who helped Napoleon to power only to be cast aside by him and obliterated from history.”—Amanda Foreman, author of The Duchess
“Based on documents suppressed and forgotten for over a century, "Napoleon and the Rebel" reveals at last the fascinating story of the most independent, misunderstood, and oddly idealistic of Napoleon's siblings. Lucien Bonaparte vaulted older brother Napoleon to supreme political [leadership] in France--and then spent the rest of his life chafing against his absolute power. [Lucien's] life unfolds in a series of passions, intrigues, and acts of fraternal rebellion that reveal the underbelly of a dazzling empire that was very much a family affair” - Tom Reiss, author of The Orientalist
“Lucien was the brightest and most talented of the Bonaparte brood, and the only one with the guts to stand up to Napoleon. The epic confrontation with his tyrannical older brother over the woman he loved - the beautiful and tender Alexandrine - ranks as the mother of all Corsican family feuds. Kudos to Marcello Simonetta and Noga Arikha for telling this riveting story of sibling rivalry with immediacy, vividness and writerly panache. And for bringing Lucien out of the shadow of the Imperial Bully at last.” –Andrea di Robilant, author of A Venetian Affair
“Lucien Bonaparte is not a character who figures very strongly in most discussions of the Bonaparte family. As well as being an enjoyable read, Napoleon and the Rebel is therefore an interesting addition to the literature.”--Charles Esdaile, author of Napoleon’s Wars
"The authors have brought to light valuable new material on this fascinating member of this supremely fascinating family."—David A. Bell, author of The First Total War
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The book is captivating and a joy to read, immersive just as much as it is thoughtful. It is refreshing in subject and approach, and it will delightfully challenge most readers to rethink how they see and judge history.
Extraordinary scenes are recreated - such as when the Emperor receives his little brother while in his bath (as I recall, it is to discuss the Louisiana purchase). Lucien irritates the Great Man and gets splashed - soaked - with dirty water. There are many more such scenes, and it's fascinating to witness the grand tectonic narrative of Napoleonic Europe interweaving with the petty squabbles of the Bonaparte clan and their entourage.
Indeed, so detailed and intimate are some of these vignettes from Bonaparte family life that, on first reading, I thought there must have been some significant license being applied. So vivid are these "tableaux vivants" that surely they've been augmented and coloured by the writers' imaginations?
But no - checking back with the preface it's clear that these amazing scenes - including long dialogues between the brothers - come verbatim from Lucien's original text, unearthed by Simonetta and Arikha in a dusty family vault in Perugia, Italy.
If you're a fan of the little Corsican, be warned - he doesn't come over too "sympatico" in these pages (he and Lucien were frequently at odds). But if you're interested in this period, and the Bonaparte family in particular, this enjoyable book is surely a must-read.
When Napoleon made his meteoric rise from corporal to Emperor, his family members were pulled up as well. Napoleon's oldest brother Joseph became King of Naples and later Spain. His brother Louis was made King of Holland. His sister Elisa was a made Grand Duchess of Tuscany. The beautiful Pauline, sculpted by Canova, was Duchess of Guastalla. His sister Caroline became Grand Duchess of Berg. Even Napoleon's youngest brother Jerome became King of Westphalia.
Being related to Napoleon may have been good for one's social and economic mobility, but it was often hell on interpersonal relationships. Napoleon sought to arrange marriages for his siblings as if they were mere pieces on the chessboard for his conquest and domination of Europe. Consider the case of Jerome, Napoleon's youngest brother:
"The youngest of the Bonaparte siblings had married without Napoleon's consent, at the end of 1803. The bride was an attractive, well-born American woman from Philadelphia, Elizabeth Patterson, whom Jerome had met in Maryland. Napoleon refused Jerome's request to recognize the marriage. But unlike Lucien, Jerome would give in to the political and emotional pressure. Napoleon barred Elizabeth's ship from docking at a European coasts, and Jerome divorced her while she was pregnant with their son (who was born in London in 1805, before Elizabeth returned to Baltimore with he baby). Eventually, in 1807 he married the German Princess Napoleon had chosen for him, Catharina von Wurtemberg, and became prince of Westphalia." Napoleon and the Rebel: A Story of Brotherhood, Passion and Power.
Napoleon and the Rebel, co-written by Marcello Simonetta and Noga Arikha, is a remarkable book that tells in detail the story of Napoleon's turbulent relationship with his rebellious younger brother Lucien Bonaparte, 1775 - 1840. Lucien believed sincerely in the Republican values of the French Revolution -- Liberté, égalité, fraternité.
Lucien is best known to history for the political role that he played on November 10, 1799 (18 of Brumaire) when his intervention as President of the Council of the Five Hundred may have saved his brother's life and certainly did preserve Napoleon's political reputation. Napoleon had impulsively decided to burst in upon the deliberations of the Council with a small armed guard of four Grenadiers. Many members of the council were convinced that Napoleon would be a tyrant who would undo the work of the revolution. There were angry shouts of "Down with the tyrant! Down with the dictator!" some men approached Napoleon with their knives drawn. Punches were thrown. At this point Lucien intervened on behalf of this brother. He declared famously, "I swear that I will stab my own brother to the heart if he ever attempts anything against the liberty of Frenchmen."
Simonetta and Arikha write, "Upon hearing this rousing promise from Lucien, the soldiers marched into the Orangerie and chased away all the protesters, some of whom escaped by jumping out of the windows. By nightfall, Lucien had passed all the necessary resolutions, and Napoleon Bonaparte became first consul of the French Republic." Napoleon and the Rebel.
Lucien was rewarded by Napoleon with the position of Minister of the Interior. He was deeply involved with cultural affairs and amassed a huge and valuable art collection. He later became the French Ambassador to Spain where he helped to negotiate the transfer of the Louisiana territory from Spain to France (later sold as the Louisiana Purchase to the United States).
Lucien's first wife Christine, by whom he had two daughters, died at age twenty-eight.
Napoleon's gratitude towards his younger brother was evanescent. In the spring of 1802 Lucien the widower met and fell in love with a beautiful 24 year-old Parisian woman named Alexandrine de Bleschamp. She was married to a Banker and had one child, but he was away on Napoleon's ill-fated expedition to Santo Domingo and would soon die leaving Alexandrine a widow. Napoleon wanted Lucien to marry Princess Maria Louisa Bourbon, the daughter of the King of Spain, who would help him consolidate power in his empire. Napoleon beseeched his brother to marry not realizing that Lucien had already married his love Alexandrine.
Napoleon later used threats as well as bribes in a vain attempt to coerce Lucien into divorcing Alexandrine. Lucien refused, thereby ending a promising political career. Lucien fled with his wife to Italy where they soon had nine children. They lived for a time in Florence where he lived a s private citizen. Simonetta and Arikha write, "Lucien's good manners and generosity made him popular with the Florentines. the Italian states under Napoleonic control had been ravaged by war and welcomed a peace-loving, enlightened patron of commerce and the arts such as Lucien, who was opposed to the heavy taxation imposed by local administrators." Napoleon and the Rebel, Simonetta and Arikha. Could Lucien perhaps have been an early member of the tea party?
While in Florence, Lucien tried to buy and restore Michelangelo's house.
Frustrated by his Emperor brother, Lucien decided in 1810 to attempt to flee to America. He made it to Malta where he was captured by the British who sent him with Alexandrine and their family to exile in England. Lucien bought a castle in Thorngrove near Worcester where he and his family were comfortable prisoners of the English government.
Lucien was only able to return to the continent after the fall and exile of Napoleon to Elba in 1814. After Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo, Lucien lived in Italy near Tusculum where he contributed considerably to the archaeological excavations which were first uncovered in 1828.
I must note one small error in the book. The authors suggest that Napoleon-Louis Bonaparte, the son of Louis Bonaparte and Hortense, was "killed" as a result of the bloody repression of a plot against the pope. In fact, he died of natural causes while suffering from measles.
Excepting Napoleon himself, the untitled Lucien was the most gifted Bonaparte sibling. Lucien Bonaparte was a poet, an astronomer, a statesman, a diplomat, a patron of the arts; he was also a husband and the father of 11 children.
Napoleon's final verdict on Lucien was, "Of all my siblings, he is indisputably the most gifted one, but he has hurt me the most. His marriage has been a terrible thing. Marrying a bourgeoisie, a beautiful Parisian woman, right at the moment when I wanted to found a dynasty! I did everything in my power to prevent him, but unfortunately he had always had a soft spot for women." Napoleon and the Rebel.
"For a fascinating examination of the eternal conflicts between public and private life, between duty and love, between love of family and romantic love check out Napoleon and the Rebel."
Visit the Wallace Collection in London where you will find a wonderful selection of Napoleonic themed art works and also Velázquez Lady with a Fan which once belonged to Lucien Bonaparte.
Christopher Kelly is the author of America Invades: How We've Invaded or been Militarily Involved with almost Every Country on Earth and Italy Invades.