Thursday, July 24, 2008

Napoleon Gets Everywhere!

I am currently working on the third book of the Aikenhead Honours Trilogy. It’s the story of the youngest of the Aikenhead brothers, Lord Jack Aikenhead, and it’s set in France during the Hundred Days between Napoleon’s return from Elba and the Battle of Waterloo. The story is called His Forbidden Liaison and will be published next year.

Napoleon certainly got around Europe. There are reminders of him all over the place. I’ve blogged before about his impact on Venice, where the French conquest ended the Venetian Republic in 1797.

Recently I was on the Danube, researching the Congress of Vienna and the various locations for the second book of my trilogy, His Reluctant Mistress. Vienna is a wonderful city and I’d like to go again, to spend a lot more time in the places we had to race through, like the Spanish Riding School and the Belvedere.

While we were on the Danube, we also spent half a day in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. In the days of Napoleon, it was called Pressburg, and was part of the Austrian Empire. It’s a delightful city, very small, but well worth a visit. The old part is like a smaller version of Prague with the same types of buildings and the same sweetie colours to them.




My surprise in Bratislava was in the main square, outside the French embassy, where I encountered this:



And from the front he looks like this, calmly gazing across the square. What I don’t understand, though, is why one foot is bare, and the other is booted. Anyone got any suggestions?



The locals don’t seem to object to his presence the way the Venetians did. Maybe it’s their sense of humour that accounts for the bare foot? That humour is certainly everywhere. Here’s my favourite example of Bratislava sculpture. I came round a corner, and there it was, on the edge of the pavement, coming out of a manhole. It made everyone smile.



Joanna
http://www.joannamaitland.com

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9 Comments:

Anonymous Melinda Hammond said...

How intriguing, Joanna - perhaps he is waiting for his new boots to be made?

I hope someone finds an answer for this!

Melinda

11:45 AM  
Blogger Joanna Maitland said...

I began to wonder, long after I'd left Bratislava, whether there was a deeper meaning related to that part of Austria, or the Danube. Maybe something to do with having one foot in the river?

Apart from that, I haven't a clue.

Joanna

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Melinda Hammond said...

Just found this on line:
"There is also the French army soldier, looking like Napoleon himself, leaning on a bench right on the historical Main Square (Hlavne namestie). Napoleon’s armies attacked Bratislava twice and Napoleon himself has visited the city in 1809. The legend says, that a wounded French soldier called Hubert fell in love with a nurse from Bratislava, decided to live here and started to produce a sparkling wine based on the French tradition. Hubert is now the name of the most famous Sparkling wine in Slovakia."

This was on a blog - http://www.hotels-in-bratislava.com/bratislava_statues.html

Wounded soldier - maybe he had an injured foot OR he was getting ready to crush the grapes for his wine!

Melinda

2:28 PM  
Blogger Joanna Maitland said...

Fascinating, Melinda. Just goes to show that "doing" Bratislava in an afternoon leads to missing things. Our guide didn't specifically say the statue was meant to be Napoleon and she didn't mention Hubert either. Love the idea that he was getting ready to tread his grapes!

Joanna

3:23 PM  
OpenID ladysusan said...

I love both Vienna and Bratislava - I've been to Vienna often, but only once to Bratislava. BTW, Bratislava / Pressburg has one third, Hungarian name, and used to be the capital of Hungary... by the name of Posony. :) The Hungarian Kings were crowned in the Cathedral there. More useless info. ;)

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Melinda Hammond said...

Joanna - "doing" a city in an afternoon is better than not doing it at all! and the information on the soldier wasn't easily available, I just happened to have some time to search for it (and it might not be true, but it's a nice story!)

And ladysusan - personally I don't find any information useless, one never knows when it might end up in a book!

Melinda

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Philip said...

During the long campaigns of Napoleon's wars footwear was often a big problem. Good quality boots and shoes were expensive, more expensive than most ordinary soldiers could afford. Perhaps this soldier had one boot that simply fell apart before the other, and he was forced to march with only one foot shod.

It is certainly an enigmatic sculpture. Very intriguing.

5:39 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

I would imagine the Bratislavans had some affection for Napoleon/Napoleonic Army as he defeated the Austrians who were their overlords. It is the same in Poland where he saw off the Austrians and the Russians and they had a brief snippet of "independence".

10:55 PM  
OpenID ladysusan said...

would imagine the Bratislavans had some affection for Napoleon/Napoleonic Army as he defeated the Austrians who were their overlords

I take leave to doubt that, since in the 18th and 19th century the majority of inhabitants in that area was German-speaking. :)

12:19 PM  

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