“The Rose of Martinique is a comprehensive and truly empathetic biography. Andrea Stuart, who was raised in the Caribbean, combines scholarly distance with a genuine attempt to understand her heroine.” Kunio Francis Tanabe, Washington Post
The Rose of Martinique
A Life of Napoleon's Josephine
978-0-8021-4202-3 • $15.00 • Paperback • June 2005
The captivating biography of Napoleon’s Josephine and the colorful and tempestuous times in which she lives
Although eventually married to the colossus of her age, Josephine Bonaparte’s life was dramatic and eventful before ever meeting Napoleon. Josephine was one of the most remarkable women of the modern era. Andrea Stuart focuses on the woman herself and brings her so utterly to life that we finally understand why Napoleon’s last word before dying in exile was the name he had given her, “Josephine.”
Using diaries and letters, Stuart expertly re-creates Josephine’s whirlwind life, which ranged from an isolated Caribbean childhood to being crowned Empress of France. Born Rose de Tasher on her family’s Martinique sugar plantation, she was vivacious, pleasure-loving, sensual, and compassionatea true Creole. This particular background contributed so immeasurably to who she was as a person that it’s impossible to imagine her emerging from any other society, and as a London-based Jamaican, “Stuart is particularly well qualified to appreciate Rose’s idyllic Caribbean childhood and her sense of strangeness when she arrived in Europe” (Irish Times) as a dowdy sixteen-year-old to marry a Parisian nobleman.
Josephine’s life, even more than Napoleon’s, gives us a picture of the terrible vicissitudes of the times. She managed to be in the forefront of every important episode of her era’s turbulent history: from the slave plantations of the West Indies that bankrolled Europe’s rapid economic development; to the last days of the ancien régime; to the Revolution itself, from which she barely escaped the guillotine. She epitomized the wild decadence of post-revolutionary Paris and it was there, as its star, that she first caught the eye of a young Corsican general, Napoleon Bonaparte. The fact that both Josephine and Napoleon were immigrants may explain the intensity of their bond. A true partner to Napoleon, she was a political adviser, hostess par excellence, his confidante and lover. Whether at the Tuileries Gardens or her beloved chateau Malmaison, she contributed to the atmosphere of the court and to the style of the times.