Cover image for Josephine : a life of the empress
Josephine : a life of the empress
Erickson, Carolly, 1943-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
vi, 391 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DC216.1 .E75 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
DC216.1 .E75 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

On Order



Josephine Tascher de la Pagerie, born a Creole on the island of Martinique in the French West Indies, became one of the best known and most envied women who ever lived.Sent to France to make an advantageous marriage to a young aristocrat, her naivete and lack of education left her ill prepared to deal with the sophisticated - if decadent - world of pre-Revolutionary Paris.Treated cruelly by her shallow young husband, her life had become a nightmare during the Terror, in which she was imprisoned and almost lost her life.It was during this period that she honed the skills of manipulation and seduction that would lead her from the dungeons of the terror into the beds of the post-Revolutionary powerbrokers, including the Corsican corporal who would conquer Europe.As the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, conqueror of Europe and the wonder of his age, Josephine was assumed to be a worthy consort for her astounding husband, a woman as beautiful, wise and altogether remarkable as he was charismatic, brilliant, and invincible in battle.When in 1804 she knelt before Napoleon in Notre Dame and he placed the imperial crown on her head, making her Empress of France, her extraordinary destiny seemed to be fulfilled.The unknown woman from Martinique became the highest ranking woman in the land, as far above the average Frenchwoman as Napoleon himself was above the humblest soldier in his armies.Yet the truth behind the glorious symbolism in Notre Dame was much darker. For the eight-year marriage between Josephine and Napoleon had long been corroded by infidelity and abuse, and for years Josephine had dreaded that her husband would divorce her.Far from the love match previous biographers have described, Erickson's Napoleon and Josephine were the ultimate pragmatists, drawn together by political necessity while their emotions were engaged elsewhere.Carolly Erickson, the critically acclaimed biographer of the Tudor monarchs, as well as of Marie Antoinette and Queen Victoria, using her trademark ability to penetrate and explain the psychological make-up of her subjects, paints a fascinating portrait of an immensely complex and ultimately tragic woman.

Author Notes

Carolly Erickson (born 1943) is an author of historical fiction and non-fiction. She lives in Hawaii. She is a historian and the author of The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette, The First Elizabeth, Great Catherine, Alexandra and many other prize-winning works of fiction and nonfiction. She earned her doctorate in history from Columbia University.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Erickson, trained as a medieval historian, has previously written biographies of Marie Antoinette and Queen Victoria. Here she turns her attention to Josephine Tasher de la Pagerie, who rose from a precarious existence on the island of Martinique to become the wife of Napoleon and thus empress of France. Although the book is classified as nonfiction, Erickson uses a novelistic approach, attributing to her characters thoughts, emotions, and attitudes that are often wildly speculative and impossible to document. While this is not a work of impeccable scholarship, it does have both literary and historical value, particularly for general readers. Josephine was a brilliant and apparently an immensely charming woman, who knew how to maximize her power and influence in a society that still circumscribed the role of women. Erickson tells her ultimately tragic story in an absorbing manner, with compassion and an excellent understanding of the historical context. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)0312200013Jay Freeman

Library Journal Review

Marie-Josephe-Rose de Tascher, better known as the Empress Josephine, first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, has not been treated kindly by most historians. Erickson presents a balanced account of the Martinique-born girl who gained notoriety for her amorous and financial intrigues in the France of the revolutionary era prior to her marriage to the rising young Corsican general. Erickson is the author of several previous books on European history, including biographies of Catherine the Great (Great Catherine, LJ 6/1/94) and Queen Victoria (Her Little Majesty, LJ 1/97). Despite Ericksons evenhanded treatment of her subject, the Josephine who emerges here remains a vain, shallow schemer. The book is clear and easy to read but offers no new information or insight. Furthermore, Ericksons occasional errors of fact cause one to question her grounding in the material. For example, she states that 300,000 people were executed during the Reign of Terror, whereas the actual figure was somewhere closer to 25,000. Not recommended.Thomas J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.