All About History

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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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