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Napoleon and Marie-Louise: The Second Empress

By Alan Palmer

‘Arch-duchesses have always been disastrous for France’, Napoleon once remarked.Yet in 1810 he married the Arch-duchess Marie Louise, the eighteen-year-old daughter of his persistent enemy, the Emperor of Austria.
On the 5 January, 1810, she had read in the newspapers of the act of separation between Napoleon and his wife and wrote to her father, ‘I must admit, dear Papa, that I am very disturbed by this news.’ And to her friend Victoria de Poutet she wrote the next day, ‘I pity the unfortunate woman on whom his choice falls; that will certainly put an end to her fine days.’
Though their union was a political expedient, Napoleon lived happily and proudly with ‘my good Louise’ until defeat sent him to Elba and she returned to Vienna, to become eventually the sovereign of an Italian duchy.
Alan Palmer gives the first detailed portrait of this extraordinary episode in Europe’s history.

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