The Rose of Martinique
was a woman who crowned the Napoleonic Era, rising from the daughter
of a plantation family to be the wife of a French aristocrat,
then becoming a prison inmate, society belle and empress of the
greater part of Europe before falling to the wayside as a discarded
was the rich and tumultuous life of Marie-Joseph-Rose de Tascher
de La Pagerie, also named Rose, but best known to history as Josephine,
first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte.
extraordinary life is examined in minute detail by Andrea Stuart
in a rivetting biography The Rose of Martinique, which
lives up to all the praise the book has received.
It is written by an author who clearly liked her subject, but
this doesn't prevent Stuart from pointing out Josephine's unceasing
financial extravagance and her regular dalliances with other men.
of Josephine's immodest behaviour was brought about by necessity
- having rich lovers helped her survive the French Revolution
and its chaotic aftermath - and Stuart's book states plainly that
her long-time affair with Hippolyte Charles was not just a casual
fling, but he was probably her one true love in life.
Fans of Bonaparte will both smile and frown at a woman who would
have preferred to have married General Hoche ahead of the future
emperor, who initially did little to fire Josephine's passions.
fact through much of their marriage Josephine had Napoleon tied
around her little finger, driving him to distraction and furious
Divorce nearly occurred, but with an unerring knowledge of her
husband Josephine managed to cry and wail her way to remaining
in his house. Later Napoleon repaid her indiscretions by having
numerous affairs with a host of women that seem to have cast him
unfairly as the disloyal party in the marriage.
Josephine was more than Bonaparte's wife, she was an invaluable
partner whose intelligence and social skills moved the young general
further up the ladder than his undoubted military skills would
have got him.
had enemies - but mainly the Bonaparte family itself - which was
jealous over the hold she had on Napoleon.
her many difficulties Josephine, however, seemed to remain sweet
and almost all who met her were entranced by her style, gentleness
Rose of Martinique is one of the best biographies written
about a Napoleonic figure and it paints a rich and colourful portrait
of the lady and her times.