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The Passions of Pauline Bonaparte
Pauline Bonaparte at Galleria Borghese, by Dhfeinsmith/Flickr

Pauline Bonaparte at Galleria Borghese, by Dhfeinsmith/Flickr

Pauline Bonaparte, favorite sister of the French emperor, was a terrible role model.

Faithful to her famous brother — but not to her husbands. A legendary beauty who liked bathing in milk — and being carried in a chaise longue. She collected jewels. And fashion. And men.

But La Paolina, as the Italians called her when she married Prince Borghese, was more than a sum of her frivolous parts. Courageous, canny and cunning, she might have had an empire of her own had she been born a century or two later.

This hour, On Point: Pauline Bonaparte, “Venus of Empire.”

You can join the conversation. Did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte had a formidable little sister? What are your questions for biographer Flora Fraser about the Bonaparte clan, the Napoleonic wars, and the art of piecing together a life for the page?

You can join the conversation. What’s your story of friendship through the years? Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Joining us from London is Flora Fraser, author of “Pauline Bonaparte: Venus of Empire.” An acclaimed biographer, she is the author of three other books about scandalous women, including “Beloved Emma: the Life of Emma, Lady Hamilton.” She is also the co-founder of the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography, named for her grandmother, who wrote about the Duke of Wellington and Queen Victoria.

Read an excerpt from “Pauline Bonaparte: Venus of Empire.”

More links:

Here are reviews by The New York Times (title: “Twisted Sister”) and The Washington Times.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • I.Kiraly

    Would be a very intersting program but unfortunately for some reason,
    perhaps nervousness,it is very difficult to listen to your guest.

  • jane rainsford

    This is one of the worst episodes of On Point I have ever experienced. First off your guest Flora Fraser is very hard to listen to with her halting way of speaking. Secondly the subject matter is shockingly irrelevant. Pauline Bonaparte is exalted by Frasier as a woman among women and yet the events described in her book clearly point out that this woman was a bully and a sociopath.
    I am a long long time listener and a very disappointed listener this morning.

  • jeffe

    I tried to listen and after a few minutes I found Flora Fraser to be quite annoying as these types of Brits do.

  • Sarah

    I have felt compelled to comment on this programme, unfortunately not for the topic, but due to the distracting nature of your guests manner of speech. It all became too much to listen to the halting, tortured speech of this presumably intelligent and literate individual, and I had to switch off. What a poor choice for a guest.

  • Andrea

    This may be too late to be answered, but I was wondering the degree to which the author believes the second-hand testimony to Pauline’s character is influenced by the tropes that haunt history of imperial women. For example, the tales told of Pauline remind me of Nero’s sister, Agrippina the younger.

  • jeffe

    I tried to listen and after a few minutes I found Flora Fraser to be quite annoying as these types of Brits are. sorry I clicked on the submit button to fast.

    I turned this off.

    Why not do a show on something relevant, like the young children in the regions of Pakistan who’s lives and futers are being destroyed by the Taliban

    The Taliban have destroyed more than 200 government schools in Swat since they took control of the region. Walking through the rubble of a school that once taught 400 girls, the reporter comes across two nine-year-old girls who used to study there.

    “Why did you like school?” she asks one of them.

    “Because education is like a ray of light and I want that light,” she replies.

    Excerpt from Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy’s short film.
    If this comment does not break your heart you better check to see if you have one.

    Bring on Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy as her story will give voice to these children.


  • Christina

    I loved this program. The guest’s voice didn’t bother me at all. One of the reasons I love On Point is because in addition to programs about current events (economy, politics, foreign affairs, etc.) they also have programs about history, music, films, novels, etc. This program is very well-rounded in my opinion.

  • Christina

    I loved this program. The guest’s voice didn’t bother me at all. One of the reasons I love On Point is because in addition to programs about current events (economy, politics, foreign affairs, etc.) they also have programs about history, music, films, novels, etc. On Point is very well-rounded in my opinion, and Tom Ashbrook is the most civilized, well-spoken, respectful host on the radio today.

  • Linda Dong

    Please have more discussions with authors of different countries. I enjoyed the program with Flora Fraser, a very well- informed writer. Thanks.

  • Ejja MacDonald

    Flora Fraser was interesting and lent us an excellent peephole into an interesting time. I hope she is invited … and accepts, to be interviewed On Point again.

    Admittedly, she does not have a nasal, squeeky, front of the mouth, finish each thought with a belaboured, trailing, mumbled quack as so many of the woman interviewed on your show manage – but ouate da phoque, good schools have their draw backs.

  • P. Davenport

    This was a fascinating show, while I do feel that the guest had difficulty speaking it in no way effected the interestingly detailed information she was sharing. Bravo! I have been introduced to Pauline Bonaparte and am looking forward to reading Frazier’s book.

    I feel that Frazier’s accent was not a problem at all and it is a shame about the xenophobic responses listed here. Yes, dear, there are people in this world who speak English in a manner different than us.

  • Gregg Smith


  • HonestDebate1

    It was a joke. You can’t be almost always right a certain percentage of the time. He says it all the time to mess with the libs.

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