Cover image for The rose of Martinique : a life of Napoleon's Josephine
The rose of Martinique : a life of Napoleon's Josephine
Stuart, Andrea.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Grove Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiii, 455 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plate : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Format :


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DC216.1 .S78 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Josephine Bonaparte was one of the most remarkable women of the modern era. In this acclaimed biography, Andrea Stuart brings her so utterly to life that readers finally understand why Napoleon's last word before dying was the name he had given her, Josephine.

Author Notes

Andrea Stuart was raised in the Caribbean. She studied English at the University of East Anglia, and French at the Sorbonne

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Even though the lives of lovelyosephine and her insanely ambitious second husband, Napoleon Bonaparte, have become legendary, Stuart takes a fresh and revelatory approach to portraying the Creole from Martinique who became empress of France by emphasizing bothosephine and Napoleon's outsider status as emigres from small islands. She was from a lush Caribbean wonderland poisoned by slavery, and he hailed from Corsica, and both were greatly underestimated when they first arrived in Paris. Writing with magnetic animation and vivid specificity, Stuart tracks the astonishing vicissitudes of Rose's life (Napoleon called herosephine) as she evolved from a gauche country girl into a seasoned voluptuary, a high priestess of style, and the famously kind, poised, and diplomatic wife of the most powerful man in Europe. Part and parcel of this gripping tale of love, adversity, loss, and survival is the story of the rapidly fluctuating status of women in France and the terrors of the French Revolution, harsh realities Stuart chronicles with acumen and finesse. But what makes this altogether moving biography truly unforgettable are Stuart's deep insights intoosephine's devotion to beauty, adaptability, compassion, and capacity for joy and love. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Born in Martinique, her name was Rose when she arrived in France at age 15 to marry her first husband, a handsome man-about-court who quickly neglected his disappointingly provincial wife. Rose matured and built alliances in unlikely places, including the convent where her husband forced her to retire and the prison where she spent the last months of the French Revolution. It was after this period and her husband's execution that she became one of Paris's great hostesses and attracted the attention of an awkward but rising military hero named Napoleon Bonaparte. Stuart (Showgirls) captures the tentativeness of their first years of marriage, when letters of the often-absent, sexually inexperienced Napoleon raged with jealousy while Rose, whom he renamed Josephine, continued to have the affairs common in her social circle. Sources provide a challenge to the biographer, who must wade through material written much later when writers were fully aware of the importance of the actors and scenes they described. The twin dangers of contemporary romanticization and criticism haunt Stuart's text, yet the shifting sands of identity they create seem appropriate, for Rose and Napoleon were both remaking themselves. The almost pathological ways they complemented each other remain painfully clear as Stuart traces the denouements of their lives. It was hardly a happy marriage, and Stuart's argument that the emperor's harsh treatment of women in the Code Napol?on reflected the dynamics and frustrations of his own marriage seems quite convincing in this context. 16 pages of color illus. not seen by PW. Agent, David Godwin. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Jamaican-born author Stuart (Showgirls) believes that her understanding of Caribbean heritage makes her especially well equipped to profile Napoleon's famous consort, who was born Rose de Tasher on a sugar plantation in the French colony of Martinique. The future Empress Josephine came to Paris as an unsophisticated 16-year-old intended in marriage to nobleman and legendary philanderer Alexandre de Beauharnais. Using diaries and letters, Stuart re-creates Josephine's story in painstaking detail. She sensitively explains how Josephine's seemingly glamorous life was really marked by a series of difficult adjustments: facing life as an immigrant outsider, emerging from a failed marriage, raising two children alone, and suffering the infidelities of two husbands. Stuart also describes Josephine's daily routine; seeks to uncover her political views, especially on race and slavery; and, most important, demonstrates how she adapted to the many challenges she faced. While removing herself from historiographical debates, Stuart does try to make sense of Josephine's reputation "for easy morals and gold digging," admitting that she was a passionate and sensual woman who used her charms to survive. Hence, she emerges as a startlingly modern woman. This engrossing, well-researched biography should interest general readers fascinated by the romance of the Napoleonic period.-Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
1 Childhoodp. 1
2 Arrivalp. 33
3 Married Lifep. 42
4 Alexandre in Martiniquep. 64
5 The Conventp. 73
6 Fontainebleaup. 80
7 Return of the Nativep. 89
8 Revolutionp. 98
9 Imprisonmentp. 130
10 Thermidorp. 142
11 Italyp. 181
12 Egyptp. 216
13 Brumairep. 252
14 The Consulatep. 262
15 Coronationp. 314
16 Empirep. 326
17 Seclusionp. 371
Notesp. 411
Bibliographyp. 431
Indexp. 442