From the acclaimed author of A Venetian Affair comes the vivid and dramatic story of the fall of Venice and the rise of a new age during the tumultuous Napoleonic period, as seen through the eyes of his great-great-great-great-grandmother.
In 1787, Lucia, the beautiful sixteen-year-old daughter of a prominent Venetian statesman, is married off to Alvise Mocenigo, scion of one of the most powerful Venetian families. But their life as a golden couple will be suddenly transformed when Venice falls to Bonaparte. As the larger events unfolding around Lucia mingle with her most personal concerns, we witness—through her letters to her sister and other primary sources—her painful series of miscarriages and the pressure on her to produce an heir; her impassioned affair with an Austrian officer and its stunning results; the glamour and strain of her career as a hostess in Hapsburg Vienna and lady-in-waiting at the court of Napoleon’s stepson, Prince Eugène de Beauharnais, as well as her intimate relationship with the Empress Joséphine; and her amazing firsthand account of the defeat of Napoleon in Paris in 1814. In her later years, Lucia, regal and still beautiful and a bit battle-hardened herself, was Byron’s landlord during the poet’s stay in Venice. In a fitting finale to this sweeping drama, Lucia stands as a relic of a lost golden age: she created, in part, the aura that gave rise to the Romantic view of Italy and its culture that we still nourish today.
With the brave and articulate Lucia at the center of his re-creation of this remarkable historical period, Andrea di Robilant has once again reached across the centuries, and deep into his own past, to bring history to rich and vivid life on the page.
“What an amazing life, what a great story! And it’s so deftly told by Lucia’s great-great-great-great-grandson, who rummaged through his family’s papers and found genuine treasure.” —Carolyn See, The Washington Post
“An enticing portrait of a woman and her times.” —Booklist
“Fascinating . . . As with many engaging tales, this one proved elusive and complex–perfect fodder for a historian of di Robilant’s imaginative bent . . . Most stunningly perhaps, Di Robilant’s book blows the cover off a two-century-old family secret.” —Ronald Dick, W Magazine
“Di Robilant paints a vivacious picture of the Napoleonic age.” —The New Yorker
“Lucia in the Age of Napoleon is less a biography than a ghost story; unsettling, exciting, almost unbelievable in its immediacy. Lucia will become as vital a part of Venetian history as Casanova, or Byron himself, or any of the Mocenigo doges who lie entombed in San Giovani e Paulo, ‘each face finer & more beautiful than the other’, as Effie Ruskin put it, ‘even in old age’.” —Frances Wilson, Sunday Telegraph
“Lucia's life is an inspired choice for a parable of the end of the Venetian republic … Her letters to her [sister Paolina] paint Napoleon's Europe in all its grand and bloody colours … Andrea Di Robilant's strengths are in his portraits of Venetians during their city's worst times. He's not afraid to criticise Venice for the feckless policy of unarmed neutrality, the tepid resistance and the gibbering compliance that left her vulnerable to the steel-trap war-machines of France and Austria. Venice's mistake, like Lucia's, was to believe that she was beloved. For Napoleon, Venice was a trinket. As he passed through, he ransacked her art and archives with a sharp eye and a cool heart. To see that process personified in a flawed and fascinating woman makes for a deeply engaging read.” —Independent on Sunday
“Well-composed . . . the author’s meticulous attention to personal detail yields compelling historical character sketches.” —Kirkus Reviews