Léon Gambetta is remembered for escaping the Prussian siege of Paris in 1870 in a hot air balloon and for his subsequent role in founding the French Third Republic. This study provides a thoroughly new perspective, focusing on the ten-year relationship between Gambetta and his lover, the courtesan Léonie Léon. This relationship was both personal and epistolary, their face-to-face meetings complemented by daily letters. As this unpublished correspondence reveals, their intimate partnership was also a political partnership, with Gambetta turning for counsel to his 'wise Minerva'. Their letters reveal the weight of contemporary gender expectations on the couple's thinking and behaviour, and the social conventions that excluded Léon from 'respectable' circles. Susan K. Foley and Charles Sowerwine use this fascinating correspondence to provide a richer portrait than Gambetta's previous biographies, introduce the unknown figure of Léon, and produce a unique glimpse into the political and cultural world of 1870s Paris.