On my current TBR shelf (to be read soonest as I’m obsessed with Josephine) is Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte by Kate Williams. The book chronicles Josephine’s humble beginnings, her rise and her downfall.
Their love was legendary, their ambition flagrant and unashamed. Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife, Josephine, came to power during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of France. The story of the Corsican soldier’s incredible rise has been well documented. Now, in this spellbinding, luminous account, Kate Williams draws back the curtain on the woman who beguiled him: her humble origins, her exorbitant appetites, and the tragic turn of events that led to her undoing.
Born Marie-Josèphe-Rose de Tascher de La Pagerie on the Caribbean island of Martinique, the woman Napoleon would later call Josephine was the ultimate survivor. She endured a loveless marriage to a French aristocrat—executed during the Reign of Terror—then barely escaped the guillotine blade herself. Her near-death experience only fueled Josephine’s ambition and heightened her determination to find a man who could finance and sustain her. Though no classic beauty, she quickly developed a reputation as one of the most desirable women on the continent.
In 1795, she met Napoleon. The attraction was mutual, immediate, and intense. Theirs was an often-tumultuous union, roiled by their pursuit of other lovers but intensely focused on power and success. Josephine was Napoleon’s perfect consort and the object of national fascination. Together they conquered Europe. Their extravagance was unprecedented, even by the standards of Versailles. But she could not produce an heir. Sexual obsession brought them together, but cold biological truth tore them apart.
Gripping in its immediacy, captivating in its detail, Ambition and Desire is a true tale of desire, heartbreak, and revolutionary turmoil, engagingly written by one of England’s most praised young historians. Kate Williams’s searing portrait of this alluring and complex woman will finally elevate Josephine Bonaparte to the historical prominence she deserves.
When it came time for me to find a tea to pair with this biographical book, I didn’t hesitate in choosing a tea named for an earlier queen, Thé de Marie-Antoinette (Marie-Antoinette tea). It makes for a perfect pairing because the French tea contains rose petals; Josephine cultivated rare roses at her home, Château de Malmaison. I think this tea is a nice homage to Josephine, even if it is named after an earlier queen.
What do we think of this tea pairing? Also, have you read Ambition and Desire or other books about Josephine?