For today's HISTORICAL FICTION BLOGGERS ROUND TABLE event I have been given the honor of hosting one of my blogger BFF's, Ms. Lucy from the scrumptiously delicious blog, Enchanted by Josephine!!!
What is it about Empress Josephine that makes you so “enchanted”?
Josephine is many faceted which makes it easy for women of different classes, personalities and backgrounds to relate to her. Just think of the incredible changes that happened during the 18th c in terms of the monarchy, the revolution and the aftermath of it all and that Josephine lived through all of it-adapting as best she could. She had to have encompassed many roles necessary to survive it all. In Josephine, one could relate to her as a mother, loving wife, divorced wife, cheated-on wife, devoted friend, business partner, animal lover, fashionista, party-goer, confidante, botanist- spiritual-yet not fanatical, and finally, always hopeful until the end (imagine that she was almost beheaded!) It’s no wonder that anyone who ever met her thought she was an incredibly understanding and caring person. In Josephine, one could find a good friend and listener who was always there to help. Her charms and adaptability to any situation rendered her much grace and class. She seems to have experienced it all and there is this quality of strength, mixed with love and compassion that makes her so endearing. From a care-free young Martinique girl, to a lowly prisoner in France, to then ascend to Empress and finally be revered as a Royal grandmother whose lineage still carries on…talk about a journey.
What made you first want to start writing a book review blog?
I think the fact that I love reading history and historical fiction, as well as always talking about the books I read, has a lot to do with how I started a History-Book Blog. I found myself repeating suggestions to friends and co-workers through email and sending them to other great sites for information on great books I loved. So, when I started researching online to see what was out there, I was excited to find like-minded people who were doing just exactly what I wanted to do J By reading up on other great sites, such as Amy’s Passages to The Past, being one of the very first excellent sites out there, I was inspired to do the same- I wanted to share my love for history, reading, writing and reviewing.
What historical time periods interest you the most and why?
I especially love the 16th through 18th centuries for the great movements and advancements in thought, fashion, culture, beliefs and customs. So much happened within those times. I’m absolutely nuts about French and Italian history -the 18th c in particular; which would explain my fascination with Josephine, Bonaparte and Marie Antoinette. My absolute favourite kings to read about in the 17thc are Charles II, Louis XIV- and I do find GeorgeIV quite entertaining as well. Venetian history appeals to me especially and I’m therefore quite taken with the events and people of the 16th c, such as the Doges and courtesans of the times. But I’m not limited to these periods alone. Right now I’m completely swept away by Michelle Moran’s books which deal with a totally different period and region. I guess I would have to say that, if it happened over 200 years ago, I’m interested and I’m reading it!
Do you prefer historical fiction that sticks mostly to the known facts, or do you like it when an author gets creative with history?
Because I read so much non-fiction history, I find it important to read creativity with a strong mix of historical accuracy. I prefer when an author takes off with a fact and uses her creativity to make it all the more engaging to read. The accuracy should remain, however, as we all know, in history there is often more than one perspective. So when an author can show this through his-her character, then it makes the story seem that more real…even if it may somewhat modify the facts as we already know them. I find that perfectly ok because this gives us a different take based on the character’s circumstances and perceptions at the time.
Your reading travels have taken you all over the world (in your mind), what are the top places you would like to visit for real?
Do you have a couple of hours? I’ll try to narrow it down then…The last time I was in Paris was on a historical tour while on college break. (I should have been more enthused by the whole thing but let’s just say that at the time cafés and disco hopping were more my thing…)Now, I would love to be able to go to see more than Versailles- to visit Malmaison is my dream. This might actually come true since we’re planning a visit for my 25th wedding anniversary in 2 years! Corsica is also on my list, for obvious Napoleonic reasons). Another place I’d love to go to is Russia. I’m not so familiar with the country’s rich history and I’m completely fascinated and intrigued by Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra’s dynasty that I’d love to visit the place one day.
Thanks Amy for having me on your terrific site- I LOVE this place!
The Royal Granddaughter…another Josephine, by Lucy Bertoldi
How interesting that the almost ethereal Empress Josephine should be a direct ancestor to royal families …and not through any royal connection to Napoleon…but rather, through both of her own children.
Today I’d like to write about Josephine’s granddaughter, Josephine- eldest daughter of Eugene de Beauharnais (link: http://enchantedbyjosephine.blogspot.com/2009/09/josephines-son-eugene-de-beauharnais.html .
Born in Italy and already named a princess by Napoleon, Princess Josephine of Bologna was very close to her parents and absolutely loved her grandmother; whom she was named for. She showed great enthusiasm when hearing news from her and receiving her thoughtful gifts. The Empress always made sure to send the most original finds to be sure to interest and amuse her grandchildren.
According to proud Eugene, his mom’s first granddaughter, Josephine, a kind and demure child, was exactly like the Empress. Already at a young age she showed an interest for the arts and especially for gardening. Who knows how much closer the young Josephine would have been to her grandmother had she been older than only seven, at the time of her grandmother’s passing.
Some years later Josephine would be betrothed to Oscar I and by the age of sixteen they were married. Because of the laws and rules of the time in Sweden, the Crowned Prince and Princess could not consummate their marriage until Josephine turned eighteen. Nonetheless, the couple shared great times together and got along very well. They had similar interests in the arts and their conversations were lively- they had very compatible personalities. Oscar however, was somewhat of a lady conqueror; a fact well kept from Josefina (as she was now called in Sweden).
When she finally caught on to his winding love affairs, Josefina was completely destroyed. Her happiness turned into a total disillusion which she confided in her daily diary (another thing in common with her granny). Although they still went on to have five children, it is said that eventually the couple ‘unofficially’ separated for a number of years where Josefina kept busy through her charity work and involvement with the arts. She also found great comfort in her close friendship with Princess Sophia Albertine, who was always there to encourage her in her endeavours. She was actually the one who first introduced her to the arts. From there Josefina would discover an outlet in the artistic world to help appease her qualms. That and her passion for gardening kept her going through an especially difficult time (some coincidence…).
Claiming a change of pace, the people were absolutely thrilled when in 1844, the couple became King and Queen of Sweden and Norway. It hardly mattered at all that their new queen was not of their same faith. Although Josefina raised all her children as Lutherans, she herself remained a staunch Catholic until the very end. In fact, even before her ascension, she had a Catholic church built first in Stockholm and then followed suit in Gotheburg and on. Josefina had her own private chapel, chaplain and confessor, granted by the Pope.
Like her grandmother, Josefina was an absolute people magnet. She charmed them and they took an immediate liking to her; surpassing her predecessors in maintaining the harmony of her court and her people. Her passion for the arts was obvious and she lovingly gave much of her time and effort to promoting artists and their causes along with those of the underprivileged…much as the previous ‘Good Empress’ did in France.
Fortunately, for the country and everyone at stake, by the time of the Royal couple’s ascension, the two had mended their differences and became a united item once again. This was especially important since Josefina became the King’s major confidante. It is said that a lot of the negotiations were held behind closed doors…prior to the King making any official declaration…Until the very end, Josefina was instrumental in the emersion of several of the country’s important treaties. She had a personal hand in the development and advancement of equality laws and reforms.
The gentle Queen Josefina moved with grace, subtlety, charm and great determination throughout a period of change and reform…much like the Josephine the world had known half a century before her.
Tid-bit of Interest: Josefina’s mother-in-law was Queen Desirée…The Clary Desirée, who was once engaged to Napoleon Bonaparte (prior to Josephine).
First being ditched by Napoleon and then having your son marry your rival’s granddaughter…hmmm…I can just imagine the stir. Oh well, it seems like some things are just meant to be.