Queen Victoria and the Bonapartes

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Feb 2018

Member Reviews

Lovely book!
As an history lover, this book has some details correct and is actually well detailed that makes you get there to "watch" it.
Lovely book from an extraordinary era where the world was changing.
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This was incredibly informative and fascinating. I loved the writing style, and the way it flowed so smoothly.

While it concerns Victoria’s relationship with the Bonapartes, I actually really liked how it showed Albert’s relationships with them as well, and how Victoria and Albert differed between their opinions of both politics and of the Bonapartes. 

I found Victoria’s relationship with Empress Eugenie more interesting than her relationship with Napoleon. There was such a disparity between them regarding appearances, manner, bearing and leadership styles, that it’s hard to imagine the two women actually being friends, but Aronson managed to create this vivid portrayal and understanding show from between them. 

It was a well researched, well written book, that was incredibly enjoyable.
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Theo Aronson's latest work, Queen Victoria and the Bonapartes, explores the personal relationships between Queen Victoria, Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie of France. It opens a wide window on a colourful and somewhat surprising series of encounters between monarchs that influenced relations and perceptions of each other in the eyes of the public. The Second Empire re-established Napoleonic aspirations in France and rekindled a sense of glory and elan superbly captured by Aronson. The revanchist ideals of the Bonapartist dynasty represented all that the British royal family should have been threatened by, yet a lasting (although sometimes fraught) personal relationship was established that influenced Anglo-French political relationships.

Relying primarily on correspondence between the Queen, Empress, Emperor and other family members and officials - much of it previously unpublished, Aronson delivers another superbly readable and engaging history. Uniquely capturing the emotional, familial and personal relationships, it sets them within the larger context of the times and explores some of the wider public implications of these intimate exchanges.

Like the author's previous works, the results are eminently readable and adeptly draw from a wide variety of sources, tying them together in a well-paced narrative. Generally well-balanced in the treatment of the personages concerned, special attention is paid to the relationship between the two Empresses. Both revealing and thoughtfully considered it sheds new light on a relationship that was equally significant to each and rather unique in history. Both monarchs experienced early grief in their lives and together supported one another through challenges, and dealing with that grief in unique and different ways.

This remains a biography of relationships of a more personal nature and limits discussion of the greater political implications of these monarchical machinations. On the occasion of French involvement in the Crimean War, Aronson addresses the influence of Victoria over the Emperor and attempts to dissuade him from personal involvement. However, one remains curious of the wider influence of triangle of influence between Victoria, Albert, her daughters and German-French-English relations and details of French national and political reaction to the continuing close relationship between the English monarchy and the deposed Bonaparates. 

I was particularly struck and impressed by Aronson's interpretation of the appeal to Victoria of the charming Emperor and the elegant Empress and the impact they had on her. This forms a significant part of this work and is deftly handled.

In all this is another superb contribution by Theo Aronson to a gap in the scholarship worthy of exploration. It is readable and highly recommended.
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In this book, Theo Aronson explores the relationship between Queen Victoria and the Bonapartes of the Second Empire, in particular Napoléon III, Empress Eugénie and their son Prince Louis.

While drawing on personal journals and letters and using quite a lot of quotations, the writing style is very light and easy to read. It reads almost like a novel and keeps you wanting to learn more. The fact that the layout is very clear and precise - chapters are all subdivided into smaller sections - makes it simple to pick it up and put it down to get back to it, although I didn't really need that as I felt compelled to read more.

Aronson manages to flesh out each of the people in his study and make them so human and understandable. When you take characters such as Queen Victoria or Napoléon III, it is quite easy to put them on a pedestal and forget their human side. Here you really get into their thoughts and private correspondences to recreate the human being behind the public icon.

I learned a huge deal from Queen Victoria and the Bonapartes. Most of what is in the book I didn't know, which I was quite annoyed about (with myself and perhaps the history curriculum at school) as I am French and don't know all these things about decades of French history. Somehow it felt like I had missed out on learning all that before. So now I do know!

The only thing that I think should come as a warning is that there are quite a few quotations in French, none of which are translated. While it didn't bother me at all, it might be difficult for someone who doesn't read French. You might want to have a dictionary or translator nearby.

Theo Aronson is a historical biographer who specialises in the royal houses of Europe, and he's written quite a few books that are of interest to me, so I am looking forward to reading more of his books.

If you're looking for a fast-paced, interesting history book on a topic that I've never seen before, look no further!
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A very interesting subject, with more detail than I had hitherto been aware of. (eg the Empress Eugenie's brother-in-law...) 
An eminently readable style, striking just the right balance between being a dry history, & an over-friendly, too-intimate account. The reader feels one gets to know the Queen & the Empress far better than the more usual history books, in large part through their own words & those of other contemporary witnesses.
The author's own opinions do not intrude, as has become the style of some of today's writers. 
I enjoyed reading this book very much indeed, & would most certainly recommend it to those seeking a more human experience of history.
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Such an interesting insight into Queen Victoria’s relationship with the Boneparts in France
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This is a brilliantly written and very easy to read book, with a wonderfully flowing narrative. 

It is the first Aronson book I have read, but will definitely be reading more of his books in the future if this one is anything to go by. Without wishing to give away the story it is about Queen Victoria’s relationship with the French Imperial family, especially Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie. It shows how the close friendship built up over time between Victoria and Empress Eugenie, especially after her beloved Albert had died. I really liked the character of Empress Eugenie, she became three dimensional. It is clear how much historical research Aronson carried out before writing this book and his clear use of first-hand accounts from the Royal Archives to piece together the story.

Definitely worth reading.
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