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On the track of Cora Pearl

By tboullemier, Jul 25 2017 09:51PM

I have just been transported back to the life and times of my novel Leonie and the last Napoleon.

But not in Paris, where the book is set during France’s glittering Second Empire.

It happened in London at the Grosvenor Hotel.

When my wife Marie and I checked in before an Orient Express Pullman ride from the adjoining Victoria Station, we discovered the hotel had a “Cora Pearl Suite”. So we had to book it.

For those who haven’t read the novel or know the period, Cora was an Englishwoman, notorious as the leading courtesan in Paris during the rule of Napoleon lll.

She was the willing plaything of the Emperor, his cousin Prince Napoleon Jerome, his half brother the Duke de Morny, the Prince of Orange, the Duke de Rivoli and Prince Achille Murat. Among countless others

Apparently when she visited London she was wont to stay at the Grosvenor where her suite is now proclaimed as “The Courtesan’s Boudoir”.

It is decorated in fine Second Empire style with a six-foot tall painting of the lady herself above the very large bed.

A book of her reminiscences lay on the chaise longue. For perusal only – not to be taken away, we were told. Suffice to say they could hardly have been racier and confirmed the mentions I make of her in my novel.

Perhaps she stayed at the Grosvenor because the Paris boat train left from the adjoining station. But apparently the management wasn’t that keen on her custom.

She once brought swans into the hotel and it took the efforts of Prince Napoleon to smooth things over.

In Paris, her wealthy clients financed a string of racehorses and several houses. But when war broke out with Prussia, she put one to good use. She converted it into a hospital and helped nurse victims of the shells that fell on the city in 1870, during its five month siege.

She was brave too. She escaped from Paris by balloon, drifting over the encircling Prussian army dressed as a man.

I should add that both our wonderful Pullman trip and our night in Cora’s suite were equally memorable.

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