Synopses & Reviews
Carol Berkin received her A.B. from Barnard College and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University. In addition to serving as the Presidential Professor of History at Baruch College, Berkin teaches early American and Women's History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
"Ambitious, tenacious, calculating, and intent on building a family empire teenaged Betsy Patterson shared these traits with her brother-in-law, Napoleon Bonaparte, even as he disavowed her marriage to his underage younger brother, Jerome, and left her with an uncertain marital status as well as a young son who resembled the French emperor. With an easy, empathetic style, Berkin (Revolutionary Mothers) follows Betsy from her frivolous youth in post-colonial Baltimore through her devolution from a sparkling ingÃ©nue to a popular and witty European party guest into lonely spinsterhood, eschewing romantic love or compassion as she continued to sue her erstwhile in-laws decades after her brief marriage ended. Financially secure due to her own shrewd investments in stocks and real estate, she desperately sought to return first her son, and then grandson, to the heights of European nobility, regardless of their own wishes. In this engaging, quick-reading account, Betsy's little-remembered story exposes tensions between the Bonapartes while also revealing the fragility of her native country as her predicament briefly threatened diplomatic incidents in three countries while upsetting moral and patriotic purists in the process." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
From the award-winning historian: the remarkable life of "the most beautiful woman of nineteenth-century Baltimore," whose marriage in 1803 to Jérome Bonaparte, the youngest brother of Napoleon, became inextricably bound to the diplomatic and political nineteenth-century histories of the United States, France, and England. From the author of Revolutionary Mothers
("Incisive, thoughtful, spiced with vivid anecdotes. Don't miss it."-Thomas Fleming) and Civil War Wives
("Utterly fresh…Sensitive, poignant, thoroughly fascinating."-Jay Winik).
In Wondrous Beauty, Carol Berkin tells the story of this audacious, outsize life: how her romantic, passionate marriage infuriated Napoleon and resulted in his banning the then-pregnant Betsy Bonaparte from disembarking in any European port, demanding that his brother either lose all power and remain married to that "American girl"-or renounce her, marry a woman of Napoleon's choice, and reap the benefits. Jérome ended the marriage and was made king of Westphalia; Betsy fled to England, and gave birth to her son and only child, Jérome's namesake.
Berkin writes how this naïve, headstrong American girl returned to Baltimore a cynical, independent woman, refusing to seek social redemption and return to obscurity through a quiet marriage to a member of Baltimore's merchant class; how she disdained America's obsession with money-making, its growing ethos of democracy, and the rigid gender roles that confined women to the parlor and the nursery, and sought a European society where women created salons devoted to intellectual life and where traditions of aristocracy dominated society; and, we see how as a shrewd investor she transformed a modest pension from the French government into a fortune that rivaled many a (male) financier.