Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Book review - Legacy of Glory
The author describes well the strained relations between the Bonaparte brothers and the total imperviousness to reality that Napoleon displayed to all complaints and requests for help from Joseph. As to why Joseph let himself be trapped in this no-win situation where his imperial brother undermined him and his subordinates ignored him and treated him with contempt, it is hard to understand. The author contends that Joseph sincerely wanted to do the right thing by 'his' people and that even when it was obvious he was impotent to change anything, his loyalty to the Bonaparte 'firm' prevented him from picking up his bat and ball and going home.
Joseph comes across as a well-meaning, but incompetent and impotent dupe, trying his best under impossible circumstances to do the right thing. The author contends that Napoleon originally thought that replacing the Bourbons with his brother would be a walk in the park akin to placing his other brothers on the thrones of the Netherlands or Westphalia, or indeed Naples, where Joseph had been happily ensconced as king before being summoned to the throne in Madrid. If this had been the case, Joseph would have been the perfect candidate as he was a benign, urbane and liberal kind of chap, although a bit lazy and indolent; a step up from the inbred reactionaries who previously had the gig! However, Spain and the Spanish people had other ideas and Napoleon never got to grips with the reality that his brother faced and his meddling from afar just made Joseph's lot ten times worse.
An entertaining read but only a cursory telling of the story. I wait for someone like Esdaile to really flesh out the story from the French point of view.