I have received thousands of questions pertaining to this book. I answered a handful of questions on ABC’s program, Now You Know. Click Here To View Video
This video will answer the following:
Q.) Who is Princess Paolina?
Q.) How close was Paolina to Napolean?
Q.) How dificult was it to disclose scandalous history about your family?
Q.) What was the most surprising fact you uncovered about Paolina’s and Camillo’s relationship?
Q.) How did the Borghese family receive the “Prince” and “Princess” titles?
Q.) What advice would you give for those who want to write a book about their family?
I hope you find this information useful.
Your voice in the novel is wonderfully objective and compassionate – how would you feel about a woman like Pauline? Would she be too much for you as she seemed to be at times for Camillo?
“I’m not really sure. She definitely would have been a challenge. But that’s somewhat exciting. As my mother says, “predictability is the kiss of death,” and certainly Pauline was not predictable. Although she had commitment issues, I really do believe it was due to the circumstances of the time. She rarely saw her husband and was also smart enough to realize he too was being unfaithful. That said, Pauline, when in love, was the ideal woman for me. It’s the Pauline who is out of love that I’d be worried about.”
In what ways are you sympathetic or understanding toward Camillo and what he went through in his relationship with Pauline?
“I’m sympathetic for Camillo when it comes to his jealousy and insecurities, although both were surely justified. The problem one faces when marrying a beautiful woman is that many men will try to steal her. This can often lead to jealousy, especially when the husband is apart from his wife and his wife happens to be a Princess and the sister of the Emperor of France. That’s rough.”
Did you have to study the period of the 19th century during the writing of the novel? Did you enjoy that? Was there anything about that period of life that you wish was still in practice in today’s modern world?
“Yes, I had to study the late 18th century and 19th century. I did enjoy learning about the rise and fall of Napolean and the absolute chaos that was occurring in Europe. If I could choose one thing from that period and bring it alive today, it would be the wonderful parties from that time. Grand palaces filled with masked kings, queens, dukes, princesses and artist all interacting like school kids. Champagne, fireworks, Italian delicacies, horse-drawn carriages…wow, now that would have been fun.”
How does your family feel about your writing of this novel? Do they think that you’ve portrayed Pauline and Camillo honestly and fairly? What were their first thoughts and impressions after reading the novel?
“My family has always supported me and this novel is no different. As they haven’t read the book yet, I can’t answer the question. However, I’m sure they will think I portrayed them both fairly.”
What was your favorite part of writing the novel? (i.e. getting to know your family and yourself better, such as your own ideals and morals?)
“Learning about the Pauline and Camillo. When I first saw Pauline’s statue in the Galleria Borghese in 1988 and her tomb in the crypt of the Borghese chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore, I knew I wanted to learn more. One day I thought…and sure enough, I did. That’s one more goal completed on my bucket list. Now it’s time to make a movie!”
Did you know that in the painting (left panel), Coronation of Napolean, which occurred on December 2, 1804 in the Notre Dame Cathedral, one person is portrayed in the illustration even though she was never there? Can you guess who it is? It was Napolean’s mother, Letizia. She missed the Coronation because she was in Italy trying to reconcile Lucien’s relationship with Napolean. Although she was unsuccessful, this showed what a dedicated mother she was. She was sickened at the fact that Napolean and Lucien disagreed on many topics. At the center of their conflicted opinions was that Lucien believed it was best for France to remain a Republic, ruled by its citizens, rather than an Empire, ruled by his brother. At this time, Letizia was realizing that Napolean was putting his interest in front of his family’s. However, as the mother of the Emperor, she couldn’t find it in her to stop supporting her son which she considered the leader of her family (first) and the leader of France second.
What inspired you to write about Pauline and Camillo now?
“I have always wanted to learn more about my family history. When I began doing research on Pauline and Camillo, I was amazed. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became. I couldn’t believe that I didn’t know more about their tragic love story. If I didn’t know, I assumed that the majority of people didn’t know either. And that’s when I knew I had to tell their story. It’s a story that I hope inspires us all and teaches us how important it is to communicate.”
Have you always wanted to write a novel?
“No. It has always been a thought, but not one that I took too seriously. That is until I got deeply involved in the research of Pauline and Camillo. And when I learned that Pauline died on June 9th, my birthday…I figured it was a sign. I had to write a book. Not just any book, but a book about Pauline and Camillo. A love story never told before.”
If she were alive today, how would Pauline be received or welcomed into your family now?
“My family would embrace Pauline. Not one of us thinks she was a bad person. We believe she was a victim. The Pope was always fond of her and helped her feel at home in Rome after she left Elba. Usually, a Pope doesn’t go out of his way to embrace evil. Furthermore, Camillo always found it in his heart to forgive her. If Pauline was truly evil, such an act would have never happened. That said, we would certainly invite her to Christmas dinner. After all, we are Italian and love family. So why not spend time with an extremely entertaining and beautiful person. I honestly wish she were still alive today. What a fun houseguest she would have been!’
How would Pauline and Camillo’s relationship be different or better now today than it was when they were alive in the 19th century? Do you think they would have fared better today than they did back then?
“Their relationship would have been extremely different. During the 19th Century, the only way these two could communicate when not together was by writing. As they were usually very far apart, their letters wouldn’t get to each other for months. No wonder they didn’t trust each other. Trust is hard to gain without communication. Additionally, women had very little rights in the 19th Century which is apparent in the way Napolean controlled Pauline’s every move. Without her brother, and the customs of the time, she would have learned to love, not forced to love. Moreover, her “secret” affairs were essentially the only thing in her life she could control as well as her heart. If she controlled her own destiny and if communication was as advanced as it is today (such as text messaging), I would imagine she would have been more open to getting to know Camillo and therefore, more open to letting herself fall in love.”
Statue of Pauline.
Do you know why Pauline posed covering her right ear when Canova was creating her portrait which became the famous statue, Venus Victrix? You can view the statue by going to the homepage and then clicking on the link, “Venus Victrix.”
When Pauline was 19 she was considered the most beautiful woman in Europe. At this time she attended a ball given by Madame Permon. One of Madame Permon’s guests was Madame de Contades, daughter of Marquid de Bouille who had favored the French monarchy, and thus, was against Napolean. Madame de Contades was also very beautiful and was one of Pauline’s rivals for the title of, “Europe’s Most Beautiful Woman.”
While reclining on a couch, Pauline was approached by Madame de Contades. They exchanged, “hellos” and as Madame de Contades walked away, she whispered rather loudly to her escort of the evening, “What a pity such a lovely creature should be so deformed. If I had such ugly ears I really think I would cut them off.” From that moment on, Pauline never wore her hair up nor did she ever pose with her ears exposed. Poor fragile thing. The irony here is that Pauline’s ears were quite small and lovely. If she had only realized that her only “fault” were her perfect ears, perhaps she would have taken this as a compliment.
This story is contained in Len Ortzen’s book, Imperial Venus: the story of Pauline Bonaparte-Borghese. If you enjoyed my book and want to learn more about Pauline, I highly recommend Ortzen’s book.
I’m so happy to announce that today my book is finally available. I will be at Borders at 7pm tomorrow (December 8th) for a book signing at 7pm. The address is 57th and Park Avenue in NYC. If you live in NYC, please stop by.
This book focuses on Pauline’s life, the sister of Napolean. I find Pauline to be a fascinating woman. The more I found out about her, the more I liked her. She is extremely complex and difficult at times but given what she went through, I really can’t blame her. I hope you too share your thoughts with me about Pauline, Camillo, Napolean and all the central characters of the book!