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Paris Between Empires 1814-1852

Published in 2002

Pamela Pilbeam reviews a new study of the French capital between 1814 and 1852.

Paris Between Empires 1814-1852 by Philip Mansel

John Murray, 559pp. ISBN: 0-71955-5627 9

Did you ever wonder how royals and aristocrats saw themselves and their lovers, friends and enemies? Mansel puts a sympathetic microscope to the Paris of salons and courts, displayed exquisitely through the memoirs and diaries of the rich. He reveals the close connections between the French, British and other European elites; their friendships, marriages and affairs – a real international jet set, more than a century before Concorde.  

The setting of the book is central Paris, with excursions to the numerous royal palaces in the surrounding countryside. Mansel’s strength lies in his imaginative reconstruction of places, for instance the cacophony of  debates in the Chamber of Deputies, in his awareness of the appeal of architecture, paintings, furniture to these ruling elites. (The book is well-illustrated, though sadly, apart from the gorgeous cover, entirely in black and white.) The author is most at home in the Restoration, 1814-30. His earlier books include a study of the Court and a biography of Louis XVIII. Louis-Philippe is portrayed, with understanding, as a loyal Bourbon and a reluctant king of the French between 1830 and 1848.

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