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Download Wondrous Beauty: The Life and Adventures of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Wondrous Beauty: The Life and Adventures of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, by Carol Berkin Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Carol Berkin Narrator: Tara Hugo Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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From the award-winning historian and author of Revolutionary Mothers comes the remarkable life of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, whose marriage in 1803 to Jérôme Bonaparte, the youngest brother of Napoleon, became inextricably bound to the diplomatic and political nineteenth-century histories of the United States, France, and England.

In Wondrous Beauty, Carol Berkin tells the story of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte’s audacious, outsized life. We see how the news of the union infuriated Napoleon, who banned the then­-pregnant Betsy Bonaparte from any European port and gave his brother an ultimatum: remain married to the “American girl” and forfeit all wealth and power—or renounce her, marry a woman of Napoleon’s choosing, and reap the benefits.

Jérôme quickly ended the marriage and was made king of Westphalia. Meanwhile, Betsy fled to England, gave birth to her son and only child, Jérôme’s namesake, and was embraced by the English press, who boasted that their nation had opened its arms to the cruelly abandoned young wife.

Betsy later returned to Baltimore a wiser, independent woman, refusing to seek social redemption or a return to obscurity through a quiet marriage to a member of Baltimore’s merchant class. Instead she was courted by many, indifferent to all, and initiated a dangerous game of politics—a battle for a pension from Napoleon—which she won.

Using Betsy Bonaparte’s extensive letters, Berkin makes clear that Betsy disdained America’s obsession with moneymaking, its growing ethos of democracy, and its rigid gender roles that confined women to the parlor and the nursery. She sought instead a European society where women created salons devoted to intellectual life—and where she was embraced by many who took into their confidence, such as Madame de Staël, Madame Récamier, and the aging Marquise de Villette (goddaughter of Voltaire).

Wondrous Beauty is a riveting portrait of a woman torn between two worlds—and a stunning revelation of an extraordinary age.

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About the Author

Carol Berkin received her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College and her doctorate degree from Columbia University. She taught at Baruch College from 1972 to 2008 and has taught at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York since 1983. Her books include Civil War Wives, Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence, A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution, Jonathan Sewall: Odyssey of an American Loyalist, and First Generations: Women in Colonial America. She divides her time between New York City and Guilford, Connecticut.