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Mimi Matthews, au­thor of The Dog That Bit Napoleon, shares anec­dotes from her his­tory of fa­mous pets Q First off, why did a pug bite Napoleon?

A Jeal­ousy! The pug, named For­tune, was the pam­pered pet of Joséphine de Beauhar­nais. On her wed­ding night with Napoleon, the spoiled — and quite ag­gres­sively pro­tec­tive — lit­tle dog bit the fu­ture em­peror on the leg when he at­tempted to join his new wife in bed. Napoleon would bear the scars from For­tune’s at­tack for the rest of his life. Q What made you de­cide to write a his­tory of pets?

A I’ve been an an­i­mal lover and ad­vo­cate all of my life. I’ve also writ­ten and re­searched ex­ten­sively on 19th-cen­tury his­tory. For my first non­fic­tion book, it seemed only nat­u­ral to com­bine my in­ter­ests. Q How did at­ti­tudes to­wards an­i­mals change dur­ing the 1800s?

A Peo­ple have al­ways been fond of their pets. How­ever, dur­ing the Vic­to­rian era they were be­com­ing much more con­cerned with the sub­ject of an­i­mal wel­fare. This was the pe­riod in his­tory when an­i­mal pro­tec­tion laws were passed, an­i­mal wel­fare groups were formed and var­i­ous res­cue homes were founded. Q Aside from For­tune, who is your favourite an­i­mal in the book?

A I would have to say that Prince Al­bert’s grey­hound Eos is my favourite. She was with him from the age of 14 all the way up un­til he mar­ried Queen Vic­to­ria and be­came a fa­ther.

In a let­ter writ­ten af­ter her pass­ing, he calls her a sym­bol “of the best and fairest sec­tion of my life.”

The Pug That Bit Napoleon: An­i­mal Tales of the 18th and 19th Cen­turies is avail­able now for £15 from Pen & Sword.

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