The small wooden trunk is covered with red leather, painted with an ocher floral embroidery and studded with brass nails — and it couldn't have announced its owner's intention more clearly.
The 19-year-old Baltimore beauty who packed the trunk with her books and with a black lace mantilla wasn't planning to merely travel between two continents. She was determined to conquer them.
On one side of the trunk, plain and simple, is stenciled her birth name, "Elizabeth Patterson." But on the other side, not one, but two labels declare the trunk to be the property of "Madame Bonaparte, nee Patterson."
Never mind that her imperious brother-in-law,...