Portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte Portrait of Désirée Clary


Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte

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October 2002 Phoenix Paperback The novel Désirée was written by Annemarie Selinko, who was born in Vienna, Austria on September 1, 1914 and died in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 28, 1986. It tells the story of Bernardine Eugénie Désirée Clary, who grew up in the aftermath of the French Revolution, was engaged to the young Napoleon Bonaparte, married Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte and eventually became Queen Desideria of Sweden. The American version of the book, published in the U.S. in 1953, was one of the best-sellers for that year. My parents evidently added to that statistic, as I grew up with a copy of the book in our house. The book was made into a motion picture released in 1954, starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Michael Rennie, and Merle Oberon. It shows up on TV from time to time.

As a note of trivia, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration, the name "Désirée" was rarely used until 1954, when it became the 967th most popular girls's name for babies born in the U.S., soaring dramatically higher (to #309) in 1955. Since then, it has never been lower than #427 in popularity. If you read the guestbook, you'll notice many comments from women who share that name!

I don't know when I first read the book, but it may have been as early as my junior high school years. It helped spark an interest in history that led to my decision to seek and receive a B.A. in history from the University of Washington, and fueled a lifelong fascination with the history of costume. Over the years, I've attempted to learn more about the real Désirée, the people she knew, and the era in which she lived. Most of that research was casual and long-forgotten. This site is an attempt to recreate and share some of what I've learned.

If you enjoy this site, please stop, read, and sign the guestbook, share your thoughts and experiences.

A Désirée Clary discussion group has been formed on Yahoo. Please sign up if you're interested!

In December, 1998, I spent a few days in Paris, and saw many sites mentioned in the book, including Malmaison. And in January, 2003, I spent a few days in Stockholm. Eventually I hope to include some images from these trips on this site.

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Revised 24 January 2010.
Contents Copyright © 1997 - 2010 by Julie Zetterberg Sardo