The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte

General Fiction

By Ruth Hull Chatlien

Publisher : Amika Press

ABOUT Ruth Hull Chatlien

Ruth Hull Chatlien
Ruth Hull Chatlien has worked in educational publishing as a writer and editor for twenty-five years. Her speciality is U.S. and world history. She has also published stories and poems in literary magazines. The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is her first novel.


Tell the emperor that Madame Bonaparte is ambitious and demands her rights as a member of the imperial family.

As a clever girl in stodgy, mercantile Baltimore, Betsy Patterson dreams of a marriage that will transport her to cultured Europe. When she falls in love with and marries Jerome Bonaparte, she believes her dream has come true—until Jerome’s older brother Napoleon becomes an implacable enemy.

Based on a true story, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is a historical novel that portrays this woman’s tumultuous life. Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, known to history as Betsy Bonaparte, scandalized Washington with her daring French fashions; visited Niagara Falls when it was an unsettled wilderness; survived a shipwreck and run-ins with British and French warships; dined with presidents and danced with dukes; and lived through the 1814 Battle of Baltimore. Yet through it all, Betsy never lost sight of her primary goal—to win recognition of her marriage.

In November 2011, I traveled to Betsy Bonaparte's hometown of Baltimore to do research. My first day there, I visited her grave to pay my respects. The grave has a high marble slab with carved columns at each corner. I promised Betsy that I would do my best to portray her fairly, without some of the stereotypes and harsh judgments that have crept into the historical records about her. Then I found a violet blooming near her tomb. It was late autumn, yet there was a spring flower. So I picked it. I’ve never been able to smell violets. It always disappointed me bitterly as a little girl. However, the one I picked that rainy November day had a powerful scent. I took it with me to press. When we got back to the inn, I googled Betsy’s name and the word violet, and I discovered that the flower was associated with those who supported the Bonapartes. That was fitting. In spite of the difficulties she faced, Betsy never lost her admiration for the emperor. The story is eerie, n’est-ce pas? To me, it felt as thought Betsy was granting me permission to do this project. And I did my best to keep that graveyard promise to her as I wrote The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte.


The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte

Chatlien’s debut historical fiction celebrates the drive and desires of the real-life Betsy Patterson, a Baltimore merchant’s daughter who married a Bonaparte.… A fascinating account of one woman’s fight to defiantly stray from her predetermined path.