Two vital works on Napoleon’s sex life and relationships with women
It can be no surprise that some two hundred years after the Napoleonic era there remains an abiding fascination with the man and everything he did. Even among the great there are few who can boast that their name has been given to an historical period. Napoleon rose from Corsican obscurity to become a general, First Consul of France and Emperor of the First Empire of France. He instigated what was probably the first ‘world’ war and was a military and administrative genius on a grand scale—the victor of dozens of battles and campaigns and the creator of systems which exist to the present day. Yet, inevitably, for all that he was a mortal man, and despite his soaring ambition, Napoleon was shackled, as most men are, to his physical impulses. Women were always central to Napoleon’s life. He had a formidable mother and sisters. He took many lovers—from opera singers to Polish aristocrats—fathering children with some them. He courted and married the redoubtable Josephine Beauharnais and then, having divorced her, married the royal Marie Louise. This unique Leonaur volume brings together two noted works on the most intimate aspects of Napoleon Bonaparte’s personality: his platonic, passionate, torrid, familial and enduringly loving relationships with the many women of his turbulent and varied life. Essential reading for all those seeking a fuller understanding of one of the most remarkable men ever to live.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
Napoleon had already vanquished Austria, measured his strength against Russia at Austerlitz, and was about to strike at Prussia and her allies; he was a providential adversary of her country’s enemies and seemed destined to save Poland.<br>
When the campaign of 1806 opened and Napoleon’s forces marched with incredible rapidity across France and Germany to Berlin, the Prussians melting like phantoms before them, Mme. Walewska reached such a state of feverish enthusiasm that she could no longer remain at Walewice, to which remote spot news penetrated but slowly, and her husband being as great a patriot as herself, they went to Warsaw, where they established themselves as became their rank.<br>
Mme. Walewska, conscious of her lack of education and worldly knowledge, fearing to blunder when she spoke French, unsupported by family or friends, dreaded to go into society, and above all to appear at La Blacha, the palace of Prince Joseph Poniatowski, and the rallying-place of Warsaw’s best society, and though in obedience to her husband’s command, she made a few formal and obligatory visits, she held aloof from the gaieties of the capital, thus remaining, despite her loveliness, almost unknown.<br>
The whole city was in a tumult of excitement over the approaching arrival of the emperor, all being desirous that his reception at Warsaw should outdo the welcome given him at Posen; the city was turned topsy-turvy by the citizens in their determination to give Napoleon a royal welcome, for they felt that the fate of Poland lay in his hands. Mme. Walewska longed to be the first to greet him, and, without weighing the importance of the step she was taking, persuaded one of her cousins to accompany her and rushed to Bronie.<br>
After the meeting which we described in the beginning of the chapter she stood gazing after the imperial carriage until it was lost to view; then, carefully enveloping the bouquet which the emperor had given her, she stepped into her carriage and returned to Warsaw.<br>
Her intention was to keep her journey a secret, to shun all the fêtes and thus avoid a presentation to Napoleon; but her companion, though sworn to secrecy, was far too elated over the adventure to keep the story to herself, and one morning Prince Joseph Poniatowski sent to inquire at what hour Mme. Walewska could receive him, and, calling in the afternoon, invited her to a ball he was about to give in honour of the emperor, saying that Napoleon wished particularly to meet her a second time. As she blushingly refused to understand his reference to her first meeting with His Majesty, the prince, laughing heartily over the matter, explained his knowledge of the affair.<br>
It appeared that at one of the dinners given in the emperor’s honour, he had been observed to look attentively at the Princess Lubomirska, and she was immediately presented, but after meeting her. Napoleon paid but scant attention to the lady; this indifference surprised Prince Joseph, but was explained by Duroc, who related the episode of Bronie, and explained that his royal master had fancied that in the princess he had discovered the charming unknown. Duroc gave all the details of the meeting at Bronie, describing minutely the face, figure and toilet of the mysterious lady, but Poniatowski was unable to divine who it could have been, and was about to give up his search in despair, when the indiscreet chatter of Mme. Walewska’s companion enlightened him, and, knowing the emperor’s desire to cultivate the acquaintance, he determined that she should come to the ball.<br>
Mme. Walewska refused absolutely to go, and remained unmoved even by his argument that under Heaven she might perhaps be an instrument towards the rehabilitation of her country. Hardly had the prince departed when the principal representatives of Poland were announced; they were statesmen, whose authority was based upon public esteem and consideration and the deference due to their irreproachable conduct and wisdom; all of these men foresaw what benefit might accrue to Poland from Napoleon’s admiration for one of its daughters and they joined in urging her acceptance of the prince’s invitation; their arguments, however, failed to move her and she was still firm in her determination to remain at home, when her husband arrived and came to their rescue.<br>
M. Walewska was ignorant of the adventure at Bronie, and saw in the insistence of these gentlemen nothing save the consideration due his rank and the services he had rendered his country, and promptly accepted for his wife. Marie pleaded, almost with tears, to remain at home, but her husband insisted, ridiculed her fears, and finally commanded that she should go. She made one condition, however, which was, that, as almost all the other ladies had already been presented, care should be taken that her presentation should not be conspicuous.<br>
The great day came, and her husband hurried her toilet, fearing that they would be late and reach the ballroom after the emperor had departed. M. Walewski would have liked to see his wife magnificently apparelled, and he found great fault with the severely simple dress of white satin which she had selected to wear and with the garland of leaves which was her only ornament; others, however, were not of his opinion, for a murmur of admiration greeted her entrance into the ballroom. She was installed between two ladies, with whom she was, unacquainted and was feeling strange and uncomfortable, when Prince Poniatowski stationed himself behind her. “Your arrival has been impatiently awaited, madame,” he murmured, “and your entrance to the ballroom greeted with pleasure; your name has been repeated until it must be known by heart, and after scrutinizing your husband someone said, shrugging his shoulders: ‘Poor little victim;’ and I am commanded to invite you to dance.”<br>
“I do not dance,” she answered, “and have no inclination towards that form of amusement.”<br>
The prince explained that his invitation, being at the instigation of the emperor, was paramount to an order, that His Majesty was watching them and that if she refused he should be considered at fault, and also that the success of the ball largely depended upon her; but persuasion and explanation were alike wasted. Mme. Walewska positively refused to dance, and the prince had but one resource: to find Duroc, who received his confidences and repeated them to Napoleon.