Napoleon was born in 1769, the son of a little Corsican squire, at a time when the French regarded Corsica as a savage outpost. By the time Napoleon fell from power he and his seven brothers and sisters had ruled over half of Europe. In the wake of the French Revolution Napoleon's military genius won him fabulous victories and, with typical Corsican tribal loyalty, he spread his family. He placed Bonapartes on the thrones of Spain, Naples, Tuscany, Rome, Holland and Westphalia. At the end of his life, while in exile on St Helena, he tried to give the impression that his family was worthy privately he felt differently. One quiet evening in the Tuileries, during the days of glory, he told them: ' I don't think that anyone has ever been more unfortunate in his relations. If we sum up, Lucien is an ingrate, Joseph a Sardanapalus, Louis a paralytic and Jerome a rake. And you, ladies, you know perfectly well what you are.' Indeed their wild love of pleasure and ridiculous, sometimes comic, presentations contributed to the fall of the Empire.
In this colourful account of the ride and fall of the Bonaparte family Desmond Seward uses his considerable storytelling skill and wide historical knowledge to paint a vivid picture of what can only be described as a quite extraordinary family saga.