Marie Walewska – the Polish Esther

Peter Friedman, USA


The Old Testament Book of Esther relates the story of how a common girl was able to save her people from destruction by a tyrannical king. She was convinced by her people to offer herself to the king as his wife, thereby assuring the safety of her people. The king was impressed, married her, and her people were saved. Whether she came to love the king is unknown.


The beginning of the story of Napoleon’s relationship with Marie Walewska mirrors the story of Esther. While Marie Walewska initially became involved with Napoleon in the patriotic interest of Poland, her relationship with him evolved into something quite different in the end. Marie Walewska was the only woman Napoleon knew who cared for him in spite of his stardom, and the feeling was returned as it was for no other woman in his life.


Peter M. Friedman has been the resident lecturer for the Karpeles Manuscript Library in Santa Barbara, California since 1983. He was the representative for the Mary Rose Trust and Prince Charles in the US from 1982 to 1987, lecturing on the Tudor period and raising funds for the Trust. His interest in Napoleon began when he was a child, having been given a book on the life of Napoleon as a gift. His interests further evolved when he began collecting Napoleonic letters and manuscripts in 1983, and recently formed Friedman Historical Manuscripts to buy and sell such letters. He was a charter member of the Napoleonic Society of America in 1983 and participated until 1988 writing articles for the NSA Newsletter. Today, Peter is the Chief of Staff for the Napoleonic Historical Society, and is a Director and Executive Editor of First Empire magazine. On June 1 st the Friedman Manuscript Library will be open to the public in Concord, California.

Peter lives in Pleasant Hill, California. He is the owner of Friedman Aviation Enterprises, working specifically on the C9 transport aircraft for the US Navy, US Marine Corps, and several aircraft operated by the US Air Force in the “Air Force One” fleet.