And one more quote came through this week, too, I am so excited! (Can you tell I’m living on tea and chocolate? The caffeine/deadline diet!)
“COUNTESS OF SCANDAL captures your heart and won’t let go.”—Cathy Maxwell, New York Times bestselling author of The Earl Claims His Wife
As for today’s blog, I recently read Flora Fraser’s fascinating new biography Pauline Bonaparte: Venus of Empire. What a naughty woman that Pauline was! She might have to reform a bit to make a good romance novel heroine (and a story of that reform would be lots of fun to read…). And I found out today is her birthday–October 20, 1780.
Pauline was born in Ajaccio, Corsica to Marie-Letizia and Carlo Bonaparte, the third youngest of their many children. She received almost no formal education, and her young life was abruptly disrupted when she was 13 and had to flee with her family to the French mainland. She was a famous beauty even before she was 16, attracting legions of admirers (much to her strict mother’s dismay!). Around this time she fell passionately in love with a man named Stanislas Feron, a brave solider in her brother’s army but also a 40-year-old, syphilitic philanderer who never did much in his life. She ended up marrying Colonel Victor Emmanuel Leclerc on June 14, 1797 at Napoleon’s command (he had caught them in a compromising position, natch!). Young marriage proved no impediment to Pauline’s affaires.
In 1801, Leclerc was given command of the army in Haiti, where Pauline and their young son Dermide (who died at the age of 8) went to join him. Leclerc died of fever there in 1802, and Pauline hotfooted it back to Paris soon after. She married again within 8 months, in August 1803. Prince Camillo Borghese was one of the richest men in all of Italy, but money couldn’t keep Pauline at home (though she did love spending it!). The prince tried putting her under house arrest; that didn’t work, either. She shopped, gave big parties, had love affairs, and posed famously nude for the sculptor Canova. Her brother gifted her with the duchy of Guantalla, which she promptly sold to Parma for 6 million francs (but kept the title Princess of Guantalla), thus demonstrating a distinct lack of interest in ruling anything but herself.
When her brother was exiled to Elba, however, she liquidated her assets (including a wide array of jewels) and went to stay with him, the only sibling to even visit him. After his escape and final defeat, Pauline went to stay with her mother in Italy. When she tried to move back into the Palazzo Borghese, her estranged husband ended the marriage and she bought her own lavish estate near Rome. By this time she was suffering from ill health, though she tried to maintain her lavish lifestyle of lovers and parties until she died in 1825, age only 44, of cancer. She had become reconciled with Borghese near the end, and he allowed her to be buried in the family chapel among popes and saints (ha!)
Who are some of your favorite “bad girls” in history? Do you enjoy novels with naughty heroines? (I do!!)
And on Thursday I’ll be at the Pink Heart Society blog talking about favorite childhood reads and The Winter Queen! Be sure to pop in and see me there…