Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Napoleon Takes Philadelphia By Storm!

Before it ends on September 7, I plan to get down to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia to see the special exhibit on Napoleon, "An exhibition offering visitors a rare opportunity to explore the private life of the Emperor of France and to see beyond the legend to gain an understanding of this complex figure as a man and political leader whose actions reshaped the landscape of Europe and America."

I have to confess I don't like the man. Never did. Although I developed a soft spot for his first wife, Josephine de Beauharnais, who he summarily divorced when she proved unable to bear him an heir. I read quite a bit about the emperor's personal life when I was researching my upcoming [NAL January 5, 2010 release] nonfiction book, NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES: A Juicy Journey Through Nine Centuries of Dynasty, Destiny, and Desire. The more I read, the more I was fascinated by what a cruel jerk he was.

Of course I bring other prejudices to the table. As a fan of Lord Nelson, it's impossible to view his Gallic nemesis as a hero. And yet I remain intrigued by how he lived and loved. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston hosted a spectacular temporary exhibit back in 2007-08 on Napoleon and Josephine's furniture and other personal effects, including an enormous china service with emblems of Egypt painted on the dishes and Josephine's swan shaped bed, in which she breathed her last on May 29, 1814.

So I admit to being a bit of a Napoleon groupie, even though the more I learn about him, the less I admire him.

Are there any historical figures that make you feel the same way? Who are they?


Anonymous said...

I've come to adore Nelson, too. I can see why Emma Hamilton was willing to brave all social criticism to be with him.

I'm also a bit in love with Charles II. He was an incorrigible philanderer, but his grace and charm were such that I'm sure I would have swooned to be in a room with him.

Let us know what the Philly exhibit is like!

Leslie Carroll said...

I love Charles II, also. I'm sure if I'd lived during the Restoration I would have been utterly charmed by him as well. And of course I'm such a huge Nell Gwyn fan that I'm sure I could see what she saw in him!