Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Three Maries

Marie Louise, The Story of Borsari Perfumes

Three Maries in the life of Napoleon Bonaparte

Jul 22, 2010 17:48 Moscow Time
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War of 1812. Photo: RIA Novosti
On the Voice of Russia World Service we continue our series timed for the bicentenary of Russia’s victory in the 1812 war against France. Our story today acquaints you with three Marias in the life of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Napoleon Bonaparte was known as a talented commander and a great admirer of women. Biographers are at odds as to how many women figured in Napoleon’s life. What is known is that three women, all by the name Maria, played a significant role in the life of the great commander. 
Marie Louise was Bonaparte’s second wife and the elder daughter of Austrian Emperor Franz I. Napoleon married her in 1810 after his 14-year marriage with a Creole beauty, Josephine, ended in divorce. Though he loved Josephine to the rest of his days, the emperor chose a divorce because he wanted an heir and Josephine could not produce one. A year after marriage Marie Louise gave birth to a son, Eugene. Unlike Josephine, she was of royal blood and would not stand the hardships of a shared life with Napoleon. After he lost the war against Russia in 1812, Napoleon had to abdicate and found himself in exile on Elba. He expected Marie to follow him with their son but she didn’t. Then there was a momentary upsurge in his career again followed by a second exile, this time to Saint Helena, where he met his death. Marie Louse didn’t follow him there either. 
Marie Walewska, Napoleon’s illegitimate Polish wife, showed much more devotion. She gave him his first son, Alexander, who was two years older than his legitimate son, Eugene. The emperor kept his Polish family a secret but surrounded it with much care and attention. He awarded Alexander with the title of count and gave Maria a sumptuous mansion in Paris. They met very rarely but Marie Walewska loved Napoleon truly, and she did visit him on Elba, even if for a short time, unlike his legitimate wife. Napoleon’s entourage on Elba were all sure that the visitors were his legitimate Marie Louise and Eugene. Napoleon chose not to disillusion them. Marie Walewska was prepared to follow him to Saint Helena too but was denied this privilege. She died of pneumonia in the luxurious Paris mansion he had given her several years before he died. 
Marie Auber, and her role in Napoleon’s life is shrouded in mystery. She was the one Bonaparte put out a search for on his entering fire-stricken Moscow in September 1812. Marie Auber had been living in Moscow for more than 10 years, owned a hotel and a fashion shop and earned the reputation of a wealthy French lady with extensive connections. Witnesses say Napoleon welcomed Marie as an old friend, led her to his suite, locked the door and ordered the guards not to disturb them. Marie came out several hours later. What had been going on between them is unknown. Some argued the emperor was weaving another of his love intrigues. Others thought otherwise, since the skirt-loving Napoleon was never involved with women who were no longer young. Marie was well over 50 at the time. A version which sounded more plausible was that she was a French intelligence agent and the private talk was needed to discuss the emperor’s further options in Russia. A few days later Marie left Moscow and returned to Paris together with Napoleon and his retreating Grande Armee. 
The three Maries, so different in their love of Napoleon, played a meaningful part in his life.

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