Napoleon III A Life by Fenton Bresler (1999)

Books & Boots

Fenton Bresler, who died in 2003, was a barrister, newspaper columnist, television pundit and author of many books. He was a popular author rather than a historian so the tone of this book isn’t scholarly, but very much focuses on the personalities, the experiences and feelings of the people involved.

Occasionally this leads the tone to drop into sentimentality or cliché, but for the most part it makes for an entertaining, easy-going and often very illuminating read.

I’m especially glad that Bresler dwells at such length on the origins of Napoleon III’s family: it makes Napoleon III’s relationship with his uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte, much clearer, and also, in the early pages, amounts to a touching portrait of Napoleon himself and his family circle.

The Napoleonic background

Napoleon Bonaparte rose to power in post-revolutionary France emerging as the Republic’s ablest military leader. In 1799 he carried out a coup against the…

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