History Prizes 2016
FIRST EMPIRE PRIZE
Michel VERGÉ-FRANCESCHI, Pozzo di Borgo. L’ennemi juré de Napoléon, (“Pozzo di Borgo: Napoleon’s Sworn enemy”) Paris, Payot
This is the first biography in French of Carlo Andrea Pozzo di Borgo (1764-1842). Pozzo di Borgo, who was an eternal expatriate, a general in the Russian army, a diplomat in the courts of St Petersburg and London, spent his life in ferocious hatred of his adolescent companion in Ajaccio: Napoleon. He was given the nickname “the Other Corsican”.
By the author of Une histoire érotique de Versailles and Ninon de Lenclos.
With a preface by the great French Napoleonic specialist, Jean Tulard.
Jean-Paul KAUFFMANN, Outre-Terre, Paris, Édition des Équateurs
Eylau is the paroxystic encounter between history and geography. A Napoleonic battle that took place on 8 February 1807 against the Russians in East Prussia, where the famous Königsberg was founded by the Teutonic Knights. Today Eylau is located in the exclave of Kaliningrad, a Russian territory separated from Russia by Poland and Lithuania.
Eylau is a unique battle in the history of the Napoleonic army. A Pyrrhic victory, the memory of which Napoleon did not like to evoke when he was exiled to St Helena. A particularly deadly battle that took place in the fog, the darkness, under the snow.
Eylau has remained famous in history for the famous cavalry of Murat but also in the literature thanks to Balzac’s Colonel Chabert, a ghost of Eylau, believed to have been killed. When he returned to France, he had to prove his identity in order to recover his territory, his wife, his rights. This is one of Balzac’s most captivating novels. A kind of black romance about marriage.
Jean-Paul Kauffmann is the author of, among others, L’Arche des Kerguelen (1993), La Chambre noire de Longwood (1997), La Maison du retour (2007) and Courlande (2009). He has just received the Prix Prince-Pierre-de-Monaco.
EXTRAORDINARY JURY PRIZE
Marie-Hélène BAYLAC, Hortense de Beauharnais, Paris, Perrin
Hortense de Beauharnais has often been considered in history simply as Napoleon’s daughter-in-law. Married to a man she disliked, tied by the obligations of official life, subjected to the rigours of exile, struck by the death of two of her sons and the remoteness of her lover, the life of the young woman with blue eyes seems marked with the seal of misfortune.
However she did not simply play a supporting role. Indeed she was princess, queen and then duchess, hardened by the trials she faced, Hortense exerted her influence even in exile at Arenenberg on the shore of Lake Constance, where she received visitors who flocked from all over Europe. Intensely maternal, she fought first in 1831, then in 1836 to save her son, Louis-Napoleon, in whom she inculcated the values that would contribute to make him the Emperor Napoleon III.
Drawing from the widest sources, including the little-known archives of Arenenberg and Ravenna, Marie-Hélène Baylac brilliantly retraces the life of a woman of wit with an exceptional destiny.