Josephine: Desire, Ambition, Napoleon

Josephine: Desire, Ambition, Napoleon

Hardback

By (author) Kate Williams

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  • Publisher: Hutchinson
  • Format: Hardback | 368 pages
  • Dimensions: 161mm x 240mm x 31mm | 654g
  • Publication date: 7 November 2013
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0091936918
  • ISBN 13: 9780091936914
  • Illustrations note: illustrations (colour)
  • Sales rank: 277,584

Product description

This book deals with the incredible rise and unbelievable fall of Josephine, a mistress, courtesan and Revolutionary heroine whose energy and ambition has often been overshadowed by Napoleon's military might. Historian Kate Williams, author of Becoming Queen, tells Josephine's searing story of sexual obsession, politics and surviving as a woman in a man's world. Abandoned in Paris by her aristocratic husband, Josephine's future did not look promising. But while her friends and contemporaries were sent to the guillotine during the Terror that followed the Revolution, she survived prison and emerged as the doyenne of a wildly debauched party scene, surprising everybody when she encouraged the advances of a short, marginalised Corsican soldier, six years her junior. Josephine, the fabulous hostess and skilled diplomat, was the perfect consort to the ambitious but obnoxious Napoleon. With her by his side, he became the greatest man in Europe, the Supreme Emperor; and she amassed a jewellery box with more diamonds than Marie Antoinette's. But as his fame grew, Napoleon became increasingly obsessed with his need for an heir and irritated with Josephine's extravagant spending. The woman who had enchanted France became desperate and jealous. Until, a divorcee aged forty-seven, she was forced to watch from the sidelines as Napoleon and his young bride produced a child.

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Author information

Kate Williams fell in love with the eighteenth century whilst studying for her BA at the University of Oxford. She has an MA from Queen Mary, University of London and a DPhil from the University of Oxford. She is also a lecturer and TV consultant, appearing regularly on BBC and Channel 4 programmes to discuss her work. She lives in London.

Review quote

"Kate Williams' entrancing biography of Josephine is a sparkling account of this most fallible and endearing of women." Daily Mail "Williams is the Cole Porter of 18th century history. Her serious and thorough investigation is presented in an accessible and playful way." The Times "A whirlwind tour of French history." -- Virginia Rounding Telegraph "Scintillating ... Williams illuminates [Josephine's character] with skill." Country Life

Back cover copy

Josephine – impoverished Creole, widow, semi-courtesan and mistress was now Empress of all France. She had won. Or so she thought.

Flap copy

A mistress, a courtesan, a Revolutionary heroine, a collector, a patron and an Empress, Josephine was, in the words of one of her friends, ‘an actor who could play all the roles’. And she would do anything to win. For the young woman from Martinique who had been abandoned in Paris by her aristocratic husband, the future did not look promising. But resourceful and determined to retain a foothold in Parisian society, Josephine sought refuge in a convent and it was here that she learned to develop the husky voice and sensual grace that became her chief currency. Shortly afterwards she reinvented herself again. While her friends and contemporaries were sent to the guillotine during the Terror that followed the Revolution, she survived prison and emerged as the doyenne of a wildly debauched party scene. Glamorous, promiscuous and charming, she dominated the newspapers and surprised everybody when she encouraged the advances of a short, marginalised Corsican soldier, six years her junior. Together they made a formidable couple. Josephine, the fabulous hostess and skilled diplomat, was the perfect consort to the ambitious but obnoxious Napoleon. It was an extraordinarily intense and passionate relationship. With her by his side, he became the greatest man in Europe, the Supreme Emperor; and she amassed a jewellery box with more diamonds than Marie Antoinette’s and a house filled with art plundered from invaded countries. But as his fame grew, Napoleon became increasingly obsessed with his need for an heir and intensely irritated with Josephine’s extravagant spending. The woman who had enchanted France and enjoyed flirtations became desperate and jealous; overwhelmed and depressed by the demands of public life. Until, a divorcee aged forty-seven, she was forced to watch from the sidelines as Napoleon and his young bride produced a child. This is the incredible rise and unbelievable fall of a woman whose energy and ambition is often overshadowed by Napoleon’s military might. In this triumphant biography, Kate Williams tells Josephine’s searing story, of sexual obsession, politics and surviving as a woman in a man’s world.