Napoleon on March 9, 1796 married Joséphene de Beauharnas. She was a widow with two daughters when Napoleon met her. She was not very loyal when Napoleon was away on his campaigns in Italy and Egypt. He almost divorced her when he returned from the Egyptian campaign. Napoleon became 1st Consul in 1800 and then Emperor in 1804. The French armies continued a conquest of Europe while Napoleon's power became more and more secure. Napoleon loved Josephine from the beginning. She only gradually came to love him. The love affair between her and Napoleon is one of the great love affairs of history. He reluctanly divorced her when their were no male offspring. Joséphine's grandson, the son of her daughter Hortense and Napoleon's younger brother Louis, Louis Charles would later rule as Napoleon III.
Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie was born on June 23, 1763 in Troits-Ilets, Martinique. As a girl she was impetuous if not wild an undisciplined.
Joséphine married a young married French arristocrat and army officer, Alexandre, Vicomte de Beauharnais (1779). It was an arranded marriage. The two were never close, but Joséphine was loyal to him to the end. Although an early moderate leader of the Revolution and military commander, he fell out of favor as a result of a lack of military syccess. He was guillotined during the Reign of Terror (1794) as was nearly Joséphine.
Alexandre and Josephine had two children: Eugène de Beauharnais (1781-1824) and Hortense de Beauharnais (1781-1824). Few children had more drastic swings in their childhoods. Born into a wealthy aristocratic family after the Revolition they were the darlings of Paris because of their father's prominent position. Both experienced the Reign of Terror when their father was guillotines and their mother inprisoned and nearly executed herself. Then their mother married Napoleon and became Emperess. After the Revolution Joséphine almost sent the children to England, but there father objeced to his children becoming emigrees. Instead Eugène was taught carpentry to demonstrate the family's Republican virtues. Eugène remembered the dread of the Terror. After hismother's marraige, Napoleon took a great interest in Eugène. Eugene was appointed Viceroy of Italy. He married a princess of Bavaria. Their daughter, Josephine of Leuchtenberg, married King Oscar I of Sweden thus linking Emperess Joséphine to the royal families of Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Sweden. Joséphine arranged for her daughter Hortense to marry Napoleon's brother Louis (1802). Neither Hortense or Louis liked the idea, but the Emperor insisted. Napoleon installed the two as King and Queen of Holland. Joséphine's grandson, the son of her daughter Hortense and Napoleon's younger brother Louis, Louis Charles would later rule as Napoleon III.
Widowed in the Reign of Terror, Joséphine emerged as a socially popular figure in the aftermath of the Terror. She was mistress to several prominent political figures. It was in the Paris social swirl that she met rising General Napoleon Bonaparte.
A fascinating footnote of modern history is that perhaps the greastest French leader of all time, Napoleon Bonaparte, as a boy did not speak French and grew up hateing France. He was sent by his father, who has decided to coolaborate with the French invaders, to study in a French military school. Napoleon never really forgave his father for collaborating with the French. It was in these schools, however, where he was dismissed as a foreign nobody that Napoleon virtually slowly became French--although he was unaware of it at the time.
Napoleon on March 9, 1796 married Joséphene de Beauharnas. She was a widow with two daughters when Napoleon met her. She was not loyal when Napoleon was away on his campaigns in Italy and Egypt. She had a number of affairs and Napoleon learned of them. He almost divorced her when he returned from the Egyptian campaign (1799). Napoleon became 1st Consul in 1800 and then Emperor in 1804. Napoleon crowned her Empress in Notre-Dame cathedral. She was not popular with Napoleon's family, in part because of her affairs. Napoleon's mother refused to attend the the Coronation (December 2, 1804). The French armies continued a conquest of Europe while Napoleon's power became more and more secure. Napoleon loved Josephine from the beginning. She only gradually came to love him. The love affair between her and Napoleon is one of the great love affairs of history.
Napoleon crowned himself Emprorer of the French and created an empire that covered most western and central Europe. He was the greatest military genius of his time. Napoleon's armies crushed one foe after another
until he seemed invincible. For nearly twenty years, many European nations fought him.
Napoleon had an unimpresslve appearance, but he carried himself well. He stood slightly below average height. His courage and short stature led to his early nickname of le Petit Corporal, or the little corporal. He had heavy eyebrows and a weak mouth, but his powerful personality shone in his eyes. His mother encouraged and helped him in his rise to the height of power. His soldiers adored him. He personally directed complicatef milittary maneuvers and at the same time controlled France's press, its police system, its foreign policy, and its home government. He pioneered new strategy and tactics, and became one of the great military commanders in history. Napoleon also proved himself a talented adminstrator. He supervised the work of preparing the system of laws called the Code Napoleon or Napoleonic Code. In addition, he founded the Bank of France, reorganized the French education system, and established a strong centralized government. Napoleon created and juggled kingdoms at will. He placed his relatives and friends on the thrones of Europe. And, finally, he brought about his own downfall. Napoleon's collapse came partly because his pride and stubbornness forced him to go ahead with doubtful plans, and partly because he betrayed the faith of many people.
Joséphine was the love of Napoleon's life. But she did not produce an heir that the Emperor so desperately needed. He reluctantly divorced her and on 1810 mairred the Austrian Hapsburg Princess Marie Louise. She was devestated but reluctantly agreed to be divorced. The divorce in itself was historic (January 10, 1810). Divorce in Catholic Europe was almost unheard of. The Napoleonic Code fundamenttally changed French law. The Emperor and Joséphine's divorce was the first under the new Napoleonic Code.
After their divorce, Joséphine lived quitely at the Chateau de Malmaison, near Paris. She died in
1814 as her former husband's empire was crumbling. She is buried near the Chateau, at the St. Pierre and St. Paul church in Rueil. Her daughter Hortense is burried near her.
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