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The Golden Bees: The Story of the Bonapartes

By Theo Aronson

Napoleon III, being accused on one occasion of having nothing of the Great Napoleon about him, replied with as much exasperation as wit, that he did, on the contrary, have his relations.

This book is a domestic chronicle of the incredible Bonaparte family, a greedy, amorous, quarrelsome and hot-blooded Corsican clan who provided nineteenth-century Europe — and America — not only with two French emperors but also with a dazzling assortment of pretenders and parvenus, statesmen and eccentrics, great ladies and adventurers.

Plumped onto the thrones of Europe by the career of Napoleon I, who probably took better care of his family than any other conqueror in history, the Bonapartes survived the wreck of the two empires they ruled, buzzing around the honeypots of the continent with all the persistence of the imperial bees of Napoleon’s crest.

This is a personal history, not a political one. It is the family, with its eccentricities, vulgarities and fascinations manifesting themselves in generation after generation, which holds the centre of the stage. The great political, economic and military events of the time are heard dimly as ‘noises off’. Napoleon I himself appears as a son, brother, husband, father and above all as the founder of a dynasty, rather than as a great public figure.

Theo Aronson paints this family portrait with a wealth of detail based on many years of research with historical documents and original records, letters, memoirs and family diaries.

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