Thursday, November 22, 2012

Karl XIV Johan,King of Sweden, and his Queen Desire

Quite a resemblence between Bernadotte (Karl XIV Johan) and Carl XVI Gustaf, king of Sweden ...
One more site on the genealogy of bernadotte, but just beginning at Hans
Desiree was the daughter of a rich silk, wine, or soap merchant.  After the French Revolution broke out, one of her brothers committed suicide, one of her sisters was deserted by her husband, their father died, and her eldest brother was arrested and threatened with the guillotine and the confiscation of the family fortune.  The Clarys managed to have him freed and to save their fortune too; in the process, Desiree met a young man named Joseph Bonaparte.  She became very close to Joseph and his family, perhaps because the Bonapartes were tight-knit and, as a general rule, looked after their own.  Her sister Julie married Joseph while Desiree got engaged to his brother Napoleon.  Legend says that her family broke the engagement because they felt that one penurious Bonaparte in the family was enough, but this is only a legend.  Napoleon broke the engagement in order to marry Josephine Beauharnais, the love of his life.  Desiree remained very friendly with the Bonaparte family despite the broken engagement.  She married Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, one of Napoleon’s marshals.  Bernadotte periodically plotted against Napoleon and annoyed him in other ways, but his marriage to Desiree gave him what amounted to a get out of jail free card.  Napoleon once confided to a friend that Desiree had been his mistress before she married Bernadotte, and that he’d felt so guilty about this that he’d chosen to wink at Bernadotte’s misdeeds.

When the Swedish succession became imperiled, it was decided that one of Napoleon’s marshals should be adopted into the royal family so that he could inherit the throne and protect Sweden from Napoleon. Bernadotte was the marshal selected.  Desiree thought that they could accept the offer and remain in Paris, but Bernadotte, the more realistic of the two, immediately moved to Sweden along with their only child, Oscar.   Desiree dragged her feet about joining them.  Napoleon eventually forced her to go, but she returned a few months later because she hated the formal Swedish court, because she was homesick, and because her marriage was unhappy; it seems that her husband was unfaithful to her.  Her time in Sweden was so stressful that she developed a severe case of eczema or psoriasis, which plagued her for the rest of her life and sometimes forced her to wear veils.  Napoleon was aghast when Desiree returned to Paris, but permitted her to stay.  She spent her days with her siblings and their children and with members of the Bonaparte family; all of them blithely ignored the fact that Bernadotte had joined the ranks of Napoleon’s enemies.  After Napoleon fell from power, she used her influence to help the Bonaparte family insofar as she could do so.  She was briefly reunited with her husband at that time, but he was unable to convince her to return to Sweden with him.

Louis XVIII permitted her to stay in Paris, but she was not precisely welcome at his court because of her Napoleonic associations and because of her informal separation from her husband.  It was about this time that she fell in love with the Duc de Richelieu, who did not return her feelings and avoided her as best he could.  She seems to have been content to love him from afar.   She eventually returned to Sweden to attend her son’s wedding.  She hoped to return to France once the ceremony was over, but her husband refused to let her leave.  She was eventually given a coronation ceremony as a reward for staying.  She seems to have gotten along well with the husband and son she’d deserted and to have settled into the routine of the Swedish court fairly well, but after her husband’s death she made plans to return to Paris.  Perhaps because her health was failing, she ultimately decided to stay in Sweden, but there can be no doubt that her heart was always in France.  
 There is a very good novel on Desiree written by a woman named Annemarie Selinko about 50 years ago.

There is an old Hollywood movie, made by 20th Century-Fox, called "Desiree" (1954).
It pretty well folows the storyline that you've told about Miss Clary.
Jean Simmons plays Desiree and Marlon Brando is Napoleon.
Merle Oberon plays Josephine and Michael Rennie is Bernadotte.

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