In this book, Theo Aronson explores the relationship between Queen Victoria and the Bonapartes of the Second Empire, in particular Napoléon III, Empress Eugénie and their son Prince Louis.
While drawing on personal journals and letters and using quite a lot of quotations, the writing style is very light and easy to read. It reads almost like a novel and keeps you wanting to learn more. The fact that the layout is very clear and precise – chapters are all subdivided into smaller sections – makes it simple to pick it up and put it down to get back to it, although I didn’t really need that as I felt compelled to read more.
Aronson manages to flesh out each of the people in his study and make them so human and understandable. When you take characters such as Queen Victoria or Napoléon III, it is quite easy to put them on a pedestal and forget their human side. Here you really get into their thoughts and private correspondences to recreate the human being behind the public icon.
I learned a huge deal from Queen Victoria and the Bonapartes. Most of what is in the book I didn’t know, which I was quite annoyed about (with myself and perhaps the history curriculum at school) as I am French and don’t know all these things about decades of French history. Somehow it felt like I had missed out on learning all that before. So now I do know!
The only thing that I think should come as a warning is that there are quite a few quotations in French, none of which are translated. While it didn’t bother me at all, it might be difficult for someone who doesn’t read French. You might want to have a dictionary or translator nearby.
Theo Aronson is a historical biographer who specialises in the royal houses of Europe, and he’s written quite a few books that are of interest to me, so I am looking forward to reading more of his books.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced, interesting history book on a topic that I’ve never seen before, look no further!
Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley and Thistle Publishing.