Monday 30 May 2022

Book Review: The British Bonapartes by Edward Hilary Davis (Non-Fiction/History)

Title: The British Bonapartes
Author: Edward Hilary Davis
Publisher: Pen & Sword History
Publication Date: 21 May 2022
Pages: 200
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: Non-Fiction/History
Source: ARC via NetGalley

A hitherto unexamined history of the wider Bonaparte family, presented in a new way and shedding fresh light on their eventful lives in Britain. From duels on Wimbledon Common and attempted suicides in Hyde Park, to public brawls and arrests in Shropshire and the sexual adventures of a princess who rescued Freud from the Nazis and brought him to Britain, this book exposes the curious events surrounding the family’s exploits in England, Scotland and Ireland. Originally an island family themselves, the Bonapartes have had a surprisingly good relationship with the British Isles. In just two generations, the Bonapartes went from being Britain’s worst enemy to one of Queen Victoria’s closest of friends. Far from another mere history of Napoleon Bonaparte, this book is divided into different branches of the Bonaparte family, detailing – in an anecdotal and amusing way – their rather scandalous lives in Britain.

For example, few will know that Napoleon III was once a volunteer constable in London and arrested a drunk woman; or that Princess Marie Bonaparte sponsored Prince Philip’s education as well as conducted her own research into the clitoris in her quest to achieve an orgasm; or that Napoleon IV fought for the British army and was killed by the Zulus; or that one Bonaparte was even made a High Sheriff in a British town. Today, the head of the family is London-based and works in finance. The Bonapartes are known to most as the enemies of Britain, but the truth is quite the opposite, and far more entertaining.


The British Bonapartes was an interesting read that looked at the extended family of Napoleon Bonaparte, with particular reference to their connections to England. It was a well-arranged study that dealt with each branch of the family in turn. Some of the stories I already knew, but a number were new to me, so it was fascinating to read about how the rest of the family fared after Napoleon's defeat and death. This is therefore a worthwhile read for those interested in Napoleon, in 19th century European history, and/or in the way a famous family continues on after the loss of its key figure. It gets a solid four stars from me.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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