History Prize 1985

DUC DE CASTRIES de l’Académie française, La reine Hortense, Paris, Tallandier

Amongst all the women who inhabited Napoleon’s world, Hortense de Beauharnais (1783 – 1837), daughter of Josephine, was one of the most important, more so than her sisters and certainly as much so as the Emperor’s own two wives.

Queen of Holland, flower of the new court, wife of Louis Bonaparte… Hortense managed to gain the favour of a great many notables of the First Empire. Propelled to the heights of fame against her wishes, this staunch royalist was nevertheless a loyal supporter of Napoleon I and raised her son Louis-Napoléon, future Napoleon III, with the heritage of the Empire.

But this charming, lively and intelligent woman had a sorry fate. The Duc de Castries’ new book brings to light new discoveries from the archives, looking at her youth, her forced marriage to Louis Bonaparte, her often ambivalent relations with Napoleon I, her love affair with the Count of Flahaut and the proscription of her freedoms after 1815.