18-19th Cent. Joséphine de Beauharnais, Empress Consort of the French.
Detail of The Coronation of Joséphine in Notre-Dame de Paris
by Jacques-Louis David 1804
Musee du Louvre
Marie Josèphe Rose de Tascher de la Pagerie was born on 23 June 1763, in Les Trois-Îlets, Martinique, in the West Indies. She was the daughter of Rose-Claire des Vergers de Sannois (27 August 1736 - 1 June 1807) and Joseph-Gaspard Tascher de la Pagerie (5 July 1735 - 7 November 1790). Marie Josèphe Rose's parents were married on 9 November 1761. Known as Rose, she was raised on a sugar plantation. In October 1799, she went to France with her father, to marry Alexandre François Marie de Beauharnais, Vicomte de Beauharnais (28 May 1760 - 23 July 1794). He was the son of Marie Henriette Pyvart de Chastullé (1722-1767) and François V de Beauharnais (16 January 1714 - 18 June 1800). Rose and Alexandre de Beauharnais were married on 13 December 1779, in Noisy-le-Grand. They had two children, a son and a daughter.
The Children of Marie Josèphe Rose and Alexandre François Marie de Beauharnais:
Eugène Rose de Beauharnais (3 September 1781 - 21 February 1824)
In 1783, Rose and Alexandre were separated. Her father, Joseph Gaspard died on 7 November 1790. The Comité de Salut ordered on 2 March 1794, the arrest of her husband Alexandre François Marie de Beauharnais. He was jailed in the Carmes prison, in Paris. The Committee ordered her arrest on 19 April 1794. Alexandre François Marie de Beauharnais was sentenced to death and guillotined, together with his cousin Augustin, on 23 July 1794, on the Place de la Révolution, in Paris. Rose barely escaped the guillotine and was released on 6 August 1794, due to the fall and execution of Robespierre, which ended the Reign of Terror, and the intervention of her friend Thérésa Cabarrus, Madame Tallien (1773-1835). In 1795, she met Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 - 5 May 1821). He was the son of Letizia and Carlo Bonaparte. Napoleon nicknamed her, Joséphine. In a letter to her in December 1795, Napoleon wrote, "I awake full of you. Your image and the memory of last night’s intoxicating pleasures has left no rest to my senses." In January 1796, Napoléon Bonaparte proposed to her. Joséphine and Napoléon were married on 9 March 1796. Bonaparte left on 11 March 1796, to lead the French army in Italy. In February 1797, he wrote, "You to whom nature has given spirit, sweetness, and beauty, you who alone can move and rule my heart, you who know all too well the absolute empire you exercise over it!" In another he wrote, "The charms of the incomparable Josephine kindle incessantly a burning flame within my heart." And later, "I hope to hold you in my arms before long, when I shall lavish upon you a million kisses, burning as the equatorial sun." Her daughter, Hortense was educated at the school of Jeanne Louise Henriette, Madame Campan (1752-1822) at St. Germaine along with Napoléon's youngest sister, Caroline Bonaparte (25 March 1782 - 18 May 1839). Madame Campan was the former lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette, Queen Consort of France and Navarre (1755-1793). In 1796, Joséphine began an affair with Hussar lieutenant, Hippolyte Charles. Bonaparte was persuaded to ignore her indiscretions on the grounds a stable marriage was necessary for his political ambitions. During the Egyptian campaign of 1798, Napoléon Bonaparte started an affair with Pauline Bellisle Foures, who became known as "Napoleon's Cleopatra." In 1804, he said, "Power is my mistress." Her daughter, Hortense married Louis Napoléon Bonaparte (2 September 1778 - 25 July 1846) on 4 January 1802. He was the brother of Napoléon Bonaparte.Joséphine and Napoléon were crowned Emperor and Empress of the French in 1804, in the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, by Pope Pius VII. Napoléon first crowned himself, then put the crown on Joséphine's head, proclaiming her Empress of the French.
Joséphine de Beauharnais, Empress Consort of the French
by François Gerard
Since the Imperial couple were not fertile together, Joséphine agreed to be divorced so Napoléon could remarry in the hopes of having an heir to succeed him. Joséphine and Napoléon were divorced on 10 January 1810. Napoléon Bonaparte married by proxy Marie-Louise, Archduchess of Austria (12 December 1791 - 17 December 1847) in March 1810, before they were married in person on 1 April 1810, at the Louvre. Napoléon Bonaparte removed Louis from the Dutch throne and annexed the Kingdom of Holland on 1 July 1810. After her divorce, Joséphine lived at the Château de Malmaison, near Paris. Hortense was chosen to be one of the godmothers to Napoléon François Joseph Charles Bonaparte (20 March 1811 - 22 July 1832). The son of Marie Louise of Austria and Napoleon Bonaparte, known from birth as the King of Rome.Joséphine walked with Alexander I, Tsar of Russia (1777-1825) on 25 May 1814, in the gardens of Malmaison. Joséphine de Beauharnais died of pneumonia, aged 50, on 29 May 1814, at Rueil-Malmaison, Île-de-France, France. She was buried at the St. Pierre and St. Paul church in Rueil. In April 1814, Napoléon Bonaparte was forced to abdicate his throne and exiled to the island of Elba. Marie Louise returned to Austria, never to see her husband again. At the restoration of the Bourbons in 1814, Hortense received the protection of Alexander I, and was created Duchess of Saint-Leu by King Louis XVIII. Hortense died on 5 October 1837. She was buried next to her mother at the St Pierre-St Paul church in Rueil-Malmaison. Napoléon claimed to a friend, whilst in exile on Saint Helena; "I truly loved my Josephine, but I did not respect her." Shortly before Napoléon Bonaparte's death on 5 May 1821, at St. Helena, he wrote, "I ought not to have allowed myself to be separated from Joséphine. No, I ought not to have been divorced from her; that was my misfortune." Despite his numerous affairs, eventual divorce, and new wife, Napoléon's last words on the Island of St. Helena were; "France, the Army, the Head of the Army, Joséphine."