There’s a reason Pink IX wound up with the moniker The Garden Intrigue. A large part of the book is set in Josephine Bonaparte’s famous garden at Malmaison. Since the plot was so dependent on the location, I knew I had to go check it out. (Although I was pretty sure I wouldn’t run across anything like this.)
Malmaison is a bit of a strange beast– er, house, and never more so than in the summer of 1804, when Garden Intrigue takes place. As you can see from the facade below, it started out as a simple gentleman’s house, not what anyone would call humble, but certainly not a palace. It served as an informal weekend place for the Bonapartes and their friends, a place where Josephine’s teenage children and Bonaparte’s younger aides would play games of Prisoner’s Base in the back yard and the entire family would engage in amateur theatricals.
The problem? In 1804, Napoleon had himself voted Emperor. Malmaison scarcely had room for the imperial family, much less their retinue. What it did have, though, was land. Lots of land. Josephine Bonaparte had the grounds at Malmaison designed and redesigned, constantly adding to her garden.
The back of the house boasted a wilderness garden, complete with artificial stream and artfully artless follies. Here’s one of my rather lopsided photos of the back of the house:
Here’s what it would have looked like when Emma (heroine of Pink IX) was partying there:
And here I am, checking it out. (Confession: I’d broken the heel off a shoe tromping around Paris, so I was forced to roll up the hems of my jeans and resort to flats.)
I’m standing right near the spot where Napoleon’s private theatre once stood. Unfortunately, it was torn down long, long ago– but it was there in 1804, home to the Bonaparte family’s amateur theatricals. (And, of course, to a masque by one Mr. Augustus Whittlesby!)
Sadly, not much of Josephine’s famous rose garden remains. I visited in October– and the book is set in summer– so you have to imagine all of this blooming wildly. You can also read all about in the Jardin de la Malmaison.
On the other hand, Napoleon’s summer house did survive. The Emperor liked to work out here in hot weather, a detail than proved very useful for the purposes of my plot.
If you haven’t seen it already, you can read a bit of the first chapter of The Garden Intrigue here. More coming up soon!