The Gentle Bonaparte: A Biography of Joseph, Napoleon's Elder Brother

The Gentle Bonaparte: A Biography of Joseph, Napoleon's Elder Brother

The Gentle Bonaparte: A Biography of Joseph, Napoleon's Elder Brother

The Gentle Bonaparte: A Biography of Joseph, Napoleon's Elder Brother

Excerpt

Charmer, novelist, convinced liberal, inveterate do-gooder, spinner of progressive dreams and friend of the common man, Joseph Bonaparte, the elder brother of Napoleon, was one of the most winning personalities of his era. Had the politicians who made Napoleon dictator of France in 1799 been looking for an American-style candidate to run for president (particularly if women had been voting), they might have chosen Joseph instead. "I wish you glory, and for myself your friendship," wrote Madame de Staël to him in 1802, and added, with unaccustomed modesty, "in sharing it, I shall be more fortunate than you." She expressed the feeling of the intellectual elite of the day. Joseph's friendships transcended politics, extending alike to the then royalist Lafayette and the Jacobin Saliceti. As Napoleon's diplomat, he negotiated the first general European peace in ten years, the Concordat with the Pope, and made lifelong friends in the process. Lord Cornwallis so impressed his government with Joseph's honesty that when the Peace of Amiens was crumbling, the British would deal with no one else.

Taller, more handsome, more articulate and at ease in society than Napoleon, Joseph had been a successful lawyer and politician when his brother was an obscure lieutenant, and earlier the favorite of the family, his schoolmasters and fellow students. Napoleon loved him, but always envied him. Master of Europe, he blackened with rage when his old nurse said Joseph had been a joli enfant while he had not. As Emperor, he put his brother . . .

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