Marie Bonaparte 1882-1962
Freud’s princess seeks her dead mother
Marie Bonaparte was many extraordinary things: princess, psychoanalyst, sexologist, leading figure of French culture, cosmopolitan, feminist and patient of Freud. She was distantly related to Lucien, Napoleon’s younger brother, which gave her the right to call herself a princess, and through her marriage to the son of the Greek king she also became a member of a royal family with close connections to the British and Danish monarchies.
The tragedies of her life – growing up without a mother and with a father who took no interest in her, marrying a homosexual, taking countless lovers but remaining ‘frigid’ – did not dent her courage and eventually brought Marie Bonaparte to Freud’s couch. They had an instant rapport, but she continued to make her own decisions. She became a psychoanalyst herself, not only treating patients but using her immense fortune to help psychoanalysis become established in Paris. Psychoanalysis gave her a purpose in life and she managed to hold her own in the fierce controversies that plagued the French psychoanalytical societies. Marie Bonaparte and Jacques Lacan found themselves on opposing sides.
All Marie Bonaparte’s books are said to be autobiographical. That is certainly true of her sexology. Unwilling and unable to resign herself to her ‘frigidity’, she sought help in Freudian analysis, as well as submitting to the surgeon’s knife, allowing Josef Halban to operate on her clitoris three times. Her feminism was such that she allowed herself freedoms previously reserved for men – even in the Parisian milieu that was the cultural centre of the world in the years before and after the Second World War. As a ‘woman of the world’ she lived an engaged life on her travels abroad as well as at home. In 1960, for example, as part of her campaign against the death penalty, she visited Caryl Chessman on death row in California and met President Eisenhower to plead on his behalf, without success.
Hanna Stouten is an expert on the Parisian society of the time, and she describes the life and work of Marie Bonaparte with empathy and imagination, integrating recent research and new material into her story. Marie Bonaparte 1882-1962 is a monument to an extraordinary, courageous and independent woman.
- Elegant and powerful, with a sharp and concise style.
- Presents Marie as a modern woman, both ahead of her time and vindicated by history.