|Marie-Josephe-Rose Tascher was born to Joseph and Rose-Marie Tascher in 1763 on the Caribbean island of Martinique, and was known as Rose or Yeyette as a child. Her family owned the plantation Trois-Ilets, but hurricanes destroyed their estate in 1766 and left them struggling financially.|
The Tascher family had three daughters, and it was hoped that they might make successful marriages to help their family's financial situation. The girls, however, were hampered by both a limited dowry, and a lack of a sophisticated Paris education.
Joseph's sister Edmee, who lived in France, was the mistress of Francois de Beauharnais — a man of rank and money. When his health began to fail, Edmee arranged a marriage between Francois’ son Alexandre and Joseph's twelve-year-old daughter Catherine, to ensure that Francois’ money would continue to support her and help the struggling Tascher family as well. Unfortunately, while the letter announcing the arrangement was en route to Martinique, Catherine died. Joseph, eager to seize the marriage opportunity regardless of Catherine's death, instead accompanied his older daughter Rose to France to marry Alexandre.
Life after the Revolution was difficult for Rose and her two children. To survive, she became the mistress of men who were in a position to help support her. It was during this time that she met Napoleon.
December 1795:He proposed in January 1796, and they wed on March 9, 1796, just prior to his taking command of the army in Italy. She was hesistant at first to marry him, because he was "silent and awkward with women, was passionate and lively, though altogether strange in all his person."