zaterdag 31 maart 2012

Women in (pre) Napoleontic times

The Revolution of 1789 was, as we know, not a single revolution at all. It was at least a half dozen revolutions, each kicking at the heels of the one before it. The last was, in fact, Napoleonic. In 1799 he and his colleagues of Brumaire revolutionized France with the Consulate and later with the Empire. "The revolution is over," Napoleon had remarked in his statement to the people of France in December 1799. He was the revolution. He had brought order out of chaos.
As the events of the Revolution unfolded in 1789, women continued their pre-revolutionary public presence. Some even managed to make their grievances known to the king in unofficial cahiers de doléances when he requested suggestions for reframing French affairs. They demanded that some categories of jobs be reserved solely for women, that job training be provided, and that strict measures be taken against prostitution. Divorce, the right to wear trousers (pantalons), the right to vote, and a double tax on bachelors rounded out their lists. At least one woman participated actively in the fall of the Bastille, and when the economic malaise of the summer of 1789 continued into autumn, street savvy female activists and other less likely malcontents marched to the halls of government at Versailles. According to reports, after they promised good behavior, the women milled around, sat in the president's chair, chanted and interrupted the debate. The Journal de Paris reported that while they wore elegant clothing, hunting knives and half swords hung from their belts. Among the alleged heroines was Théroigne de Méricourt, the amazone who popularized women's battle dress: Turkish trousers or bloomers (although the word bloomers was not used until the mid-nineteenth century), a red riding habit, and pistols and a sword at her waist. 


To Olympe de Gouges, a provincial actress who had relocated in Paris, the revolution had missed its mark. Paralleling the primary document of revolutionary ideology, she wrote: "Woman is born free and lives equal to man in her rights…." She continued, "man, are you capable of being just? It is a woman who poses the question. Tell me, what gives you the sovereign empire to oppress my sex?" If a woman could mount to the guillotine to feel its blade, she should equally have the right to vote.

By 1800 as Napoleon solidified his base of power and defined the roles of those around him, he began to make clear what he believed women's roles should be. Mme de Staël bore the brunt of some of his earliest comments. When she asked him "What woman, dead or alive, do you consider to be the greatest?" he replied, "The one who has had the most children."
 The family, of course, became a recurring theme of his government. Even when the family was not at the base of his comments, he was systematically blunt in his remarks. When Mme de Staël was presented in one of her more décolletage dresses, prior to his establishing a more decorous style for fashion, he caught her off guard and silenced her with "no doubt you have nursed your children yourself."

And finally, there was Joséphine herself, widely regarded as one of the most attractive women of her day. For all of the peccadilloes of her early years, she was also indispensable in consolidating his empire. What Napoleon  wanted was splendor, glory, gilt if not gold, and glamour: "Nothing is beautiful unless it is large. Vastness and immensity can make you forget a great many defects." His vastness was the creation of a new nobility that he intended to be unrivaled. Around Empress Joséphine a certain cult was born. Everyone wanted to know where she found her garments, where her hair was coiffed, and from where her jewels came. Au Grand Turc became the rage for silk scarves. Her perfumer was A la Cloche d'Argent, and only the best lace from Chantilly and Brussels would do. But when Joséphine did not bear him the child that he so desired, Napoleon found no difficulty in moving on. "All being said," he wrote at St. Helena, "I like only those people who are useful to me, and only so long as they are useful."napoleon/files/ 

dinsdag 27 maart 2012

The House on the Rue de la Victoire

By Ira Grossman Once upon a time 200 years ago, Napoleon and Josephine lived in a house in Paris’ Rue de la Victoire. It was the only house Napoleon owned as a private citizen. As a landmark, it had a long and colorful history behind it. It was also the scene of several memorable events in the career of this fascinating couple, including one of the earliest encounters between General Bonaparte and Josephine de Beauharnais.
The House on the Rue de la Victoire
The House on the Rue de la Victoire

Napoleon first visited his future wife here at this location on October 15, 1795, according to historian Maurice Guerrini. Proctor Patterson Jones, the editor of Napoleon : An Intimate Account of the Years of Supremacy, wrote, he visited this house “presumably to congratulate the mother of a young man, Eugene de Beauharnais, who had come to Napoleon to request the sword of his father which had been confiscated during the Revolution.” Napoleon was obviously captivated by Eugene’s mother, and became a frequent visitor after that first visit. The house was then known as the Hotel de Beauharnais and it’s street address was No. 6, Rue Chantereine. Interestingly, the street got its name from the frogs that inhabited a marsh nearby. This house later became the scene of several memorable events such as the launching of Napoleon’scoup d’etat of the 18th Brumaire in November 9, 1799 and the marriage between his brother Louis and his step-daughter Hortense.

Insolite : Napoléon Bonaparte a habité le 9e arrondissement !

En vous promenant rue de la Victoire, à la hauteur des n° 47 à 51, vous tomberez devant un panneau de la Ville de Paris qui marque l’emplacement de l’ancien hôtel Chantereine, où résidèrent Joséphine de Beauharnais et le jeune général Bonaparte en 1796...

La rue de la Victoire ne prit ce nom qu’en 1797, en l’honneur de la victoire de la campagne d’Italie par Bonaparte. Elle s’appelait autrefois rue Chantereine (où chante la rainette).
Entre 1776 et 1778, l’architecte François-Victor Pérard de Montreuil (voir aussil’hôtel de Botterel-Quintin) construisit, dans un but spéculatif, deux hôtels particuliers : le premier pour le marquis d’Argenson, le deuxième (illustrations 1 et 2) aussitôt loué au marquis de Ségur qui y installa sa maîtresse, l’actrice Julie Carreau. Rappelons qu’à cette époque, l’actuel 9e arrondissement, n’ était encore qu’un faubourg de Paris à la mode et que nombre d’aristocrates y logeaient leur maîtresse, souvent des comédiennes en vue, dans des maisons de campagne communément appelées folies (souvent de la taille d’un pavillon). La rue de la Victoire ne prit ce nom qu’en 1797, en l’honneur de la victoire de la campagne d’Italie par Bonaparte. Elle s’appelait autrefois rue Chantereine (où chante la rainette).
Entre 1776 et 1778, l’architecte François-Victor Pérard de Montreuil (voir aussil’hôtel de Botterel-Quintin) construisit, dans un but spéculatif, deux hôtels particuliers : le premier pour le marquis d’Argenson, le deuxième (illustrations 1 et 2) aussitôt loué au marquis de Ségur qui y installa sa maîtresse, l’actrice Julie Carreau. Rappelons qu’à cette époque, l’actuel 9e arrondissement, n’ était encore qu’un faubourg de Paris à la mode et que nombre d’aristocrates y logeaient leur maîtresse, souvent des comédiennes en vue, dans des maisons de campagne communément appelées folies (souvent de la taille d’un pavillon).

En 1795, Jospéhine de Beauharnais loue cet hôtel à Julie Carreau, qui en avait fait l’acquisition. En 1796, Napoélon Bonaparte, après son mariage avec Joséphine, s’y installe et y loge notamment le 9 mars 1796, avant de repartir en Italie rejoindre son armée.
En mars 1798, Napoléon Bonaparte acquiert l’hôtel Chantereine auprès de Julie Carreau. La légende dit que le coup d’Etat du 18 Brumairea été organisé dans cet hôtel après son retour d’Egypte.A partir du 11 novembre 1799, après son coup d’Etat, Bonaparte s’installe au Petit Luxembourg. Il offre en 1806 l’hôtel Chantereine à son aide de camp, Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes (l’épouse de celui-ci, Marie Rolier est la fille de l’intendant de Madame Mère). En 1862, lors de l’ouverture de la rue de Châteaudun, l’hôtel Chantereine sera détruit. La frise mythologique du salon a toutefois été conservée au musée de la Malmaison.Aujourd’hui, le nom Chantereine n’a pas totalement disparu du paysage du 9e arrondissement. En effet, n’hésitez pas à entrer dans la cour du n° 39 rue de Châteaudun : la grille d’entrée porte encore le nom "Bains Chantereine". Au fond subsistent un corps de logis et deux ailes avec un joli décor de colonnes et de corniche dorique. Il s’agit de l’ancien Théâtre Olympique, construit en 1796 par Louis-Emmanuel Damesme. A partir de 1807, ce lieu devint une salle de bal et de concerts avant d’être transformé par l’architecte François Delanoy (auteur de la galerie Vivienne) en établissement de bains. C’est aujourd’hui le cadre d’un établissement proposant des activités de ralaxation : Qee. La cour des Bains Chantereine, qui communiquait autrefois avec la rue Chantereine (rue de la Victoire), est restée très pittoresque et nous replonge au début du XIXe siècle.
Franck Beaumont. Sources : Guide du Promeneur 9e, La Nouvelle-Athènes. Insolite-Napoleon-Bonaparte-a-habite-le-9e-arrondissement

zaterdag 24 maart 2012

Pauline Foures: Napoleon's Cleopatra

Born Pauline Bellisle in southern France on 15 March 1778, Pauline was the daughter of a clockmaker, Henri Jacques-Clement Bellisle. She worked as a milliner until she met Jean-Noel Foures a cavalryman on sick leave from the fighting in the Pyrennes. They were soon married, but their honeymoon was cut short by Foures' call-up for the Egyptian campaign. Wives and mistresses were not to accompany the expedition, but, desperate not to be parted, Pauline disguised herself in a Chasseurs' uniform and sneaked aboard the transport ship, La Lucette. The Foures were not the only ones to do this, in fact there were many wives, lovers, and mistresses accompanying the French army to Egypt. 

Pauline remained undetected throughout the voyage and landed with the rest of the regiment at Alexandria. It is difficult to believe that, confined on board a transport ship for 54 days, the couple was able to avoid raising any suspicion. Pauline was to prove very popular with the officers in Egypt, and no doubt her charm, and the chance for some female company, however platonic it may be, caused any suspicious officers to turn a blind eye to her presence. Pauline finally arrived in Cairo on 30 July 1798, with her husband. Finally, she was able to discard her uniform and dress once again as a woman. Though she had only a few dresses, her company was much sought after; to the distaste and anger of her jealous husband 

Pauline's blond hair, her slim petite figure and her perfect smile immediately attracted the attentions of Napoleon. Introductions were made and they chatted awkwardly for a while before Bonaparte, conscious of the many eyes watching them, brought the conversation to an end and left. He was infatuated with Pauline and was determined to make her his as soon as possible. Pauline was not to be won over easily though. She was loyal to her husband, either through love or fear — Foures was an extremely jealous and short-tempered man.

On 17 December 1798, Berthier called for Lieutenant Foures and gave him his orders. He was to travel to Paris and deliver a parcel of dispatches to the Directory, await any reply and then return to Egypt as soon as possible. Foures requested that he be given time for his wife to pack before leaving. Berthier, trying hard not to give anything away, informed him that he must leave immediately and, as the Army did not recognise wives in Egypt, he would travel alone to Paris. Foures bade farewell to his wife and was on his way to Alexandria within a few hours. Pauline was now free from her husband's jealousies and Bonaparte wasted little time in pursuing her.

The same evening, Bonaparte invited Pauline to a dinner party at his lodgings along with a variety of officers and ladies. Pauline was seated at his right hand and Bonaparte could hardly take his eyes off her. She was as charming as ever, no doubt revelling in the attentions of Bonaparte, and the freedom her husband's absence granted her. During the meal, a carafe of water was spilt over Pauline, soaking her dress. Bonaparte quickly came to her aid, offering his quarters for her to "repair the damage". Calling for a lamp, he led the way to his bedroom; the couple were gone for almost an hour. The other guests were not surprised or shocked by their absence, Bonaparte's feelings for Pauline were common knowledge as were hers for him.
The following day, Pauline left her lodgings and was installed in a villa in Esbekiya Square, close to Bonaparte's quarters. She became his companion, and travelled with him wherever he went. Pauline dressed in a general's uniform and wore a tricolour sash as a bonnet. She spent her time entertaining Bonaparte's senior officers, organising picnics in the desert, excursions to the Pyramids, dinner parties, and receptions. She was Bonaparte's hostess and she played the role with vigour and delight. She would ride about Cairo to the cheers of the troops who had nicknamed her "Clioupatre" or "La Generale".
Bonaparte and Pauline were obviously in love. Unlike Josephine, Pauline was happy simply to be his mistress and Bonaparte wished nothing more than for her to bear him a child; something Josephine appeared unable, or unwilling to do. He was more determined than ever that he would divorce Josephine. Whether or not he would then marry Pauline was something he kept to himself, but a child would no doubt have influenced his decision. However, there still remained the small matter of Lieutenant Foures, and he was to return rather sooner than either Bonaparte or Pauline had expected.
Pauline Foures, one of the longest surviving participants in Bonaparte's Egyptian adventure, led a colourful later life. She was a painter, a harp player, wrote two novels, startled the residents of Craponne by taking her small dog to Mass on Sundays and, in 1816 married an ex-guards officer and moved to Brazil to sell exotic wood to France. In 1837, she finally returned to Paris and lived in an apartment surrounded by monkeys.
Pauline died in 1869, probably the oldest survivor of Napoleon's Egyptian campaign. She may not have been one of Napoleon's longest serving mistresses but without doubt, she was certainly one of the most colourful. napoleon/biographies/c_foures

Sadly, it wasn’t to last. Just two months after Pauline’s divorce, Napoleon headed off with this troops to Syria and refused to let her accompany him, instead preferring to send to her the passionate and somewhat mortifyingly intimate love letters that he had once delighted in sending to Joséphine. They resumed their affair as soon as he came back to Cairo, but things were never to be quite the same as Napoléon was already looking forward to returning to France and had decided not to take Pauline back with him. 
Pauline and Napoleon said goodbye to each other in August 1799. She was unaware that he was not planning to return and his last act was to consign her to the case of General Kleber, whereupon they promptly jumped into bed with each other. madame-pauline-foures-napoleons-cleopatra/

vrijdag 23 maart 2012

'I know it already, sir.

Napoleon began his education at a boys' school in Ajaccio. Then, at age ten, he was allowed to enter French military schools for aristocrats and was sent in 1779, with his older brother Joseph, to the College of Autun in Burgundy, France. 

Napoleon later transferred to the College of Brienne, another French military school. While at school in France, he was made fun of by the other students for his lower social standing and because he spoke Spanish and did not know French well. His small size earned him the nickname of the "Little Corporal." Despite this teasing, Napoleon received an excellent education. When his father died, Napoleon led his household. Napoleon-Bonaparte

By dint of solicitation he had secured a place among the free pupils of the college at Autun for his son Joseph, the oldest of the family, and one for Napoleon at the military school at Brienne. To enter the school at Brienne, it was necessary to be able to read and write French, and to pass a preliminary examination in that language. This young Napoleon could not do; indeed, he could scarcely have done as much in his native Italian.  A preparatory school was necessary, then, for a time.  The place settled on was Autun, where Joseph was to enter college, and there in January, 1779, Charles Bonaparte arrived with the two boys. 
Napoleon was nine and a half years old when he entered the school at Autun.  He remained three months, and in that time made sufficient progress to fulfil the requirements at Brienne.  The principal record of the boy's conduct at Autun comes from Abbe Chardon, who was at the head of the primary department.  He says of his pupil: 
 "Napoleon brought to Autun a sombre, thoughtful character.  He was interested in no one, and found his amusements by himself.  He rarely had a companion in his walks.  He was quick to learn, and quick of apprehension in all ways.  When I gave him a lesson, he fixed his eyes upon me with parted lips; but if I recapitulated anything I had said, his interest was gone, as he plainly showed by his manner.  When reproved for this, he would answer coldly, I might almost say with an imperious air, 'I know it already, sir.'" history-world.org/Napoleon

donderdag 22 maart 2012

La maison natale de Napoléon Bonaparte

La maison natale de Napoléon Bonaparte donne au visiteur l'occasion d'admirer le mobilier familial datant de la fin du XVIIIe siècle, ainsi que des souvenirs, des armes, des portraits, mais également des documents relatifs à Napoléon et à ses parents, en Corse.

La famille Bonaparte arrive dans cette maison à la fin du XVIIe siècle, et devient, pièce après pièce, propriétaire de l'ensemble du bâtiment. Elle entreprend alors d'importants travaux. Six des frères et sœurs de Napoléon sont également nés ici. Le prince Victor, héritier de l'impératrice Eugénie, fait don de cette maison à l'Etat. 

Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15 in Ajaccio, Corsica, the second oldest of 8 siblings. His birth occurred just 3 months after the French took over Corsica. As a child, he hated France. His father, Carlo, on the other hand, was a poor French aristocrat. Napoleon didn’t like his father for taking the French side instead of the Corsican side. Letzig, his mother was very strict. She taught the kids sacrifice and discipline. Sometimes Napoleon had to go to bed without supper. Carlo worked very hard so Napoleon could go to the private academy, Brienne, in 1778 which was located in France.  He was very good at math and science. Then he went to a military school in France. 

Ajaccio’s cathedral, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and built in 1593, is steps from the Bonaparte house.   
Napoleon Bonaparte’s Act of Baptism. Archives of Ajaccio (Photos Tomasio) 
In Corsica, the most famous house is the Maison Bonaparte in Ajaccio where Napoleon was born on August 15, 1769.  According to tradition, his mother, Letizia Ramolino was praying in the nearby cathedral when she felt severe labor pains.  She hurried home, only making it to a first floor parlor where she gave birth to her second son, named Napoleon after an uncle who had died in the Corsican struggle for independence.  

dinsdag 20 maart 2012

The greatest harmony existed in the rue Cerutti.

Pierre Felix Cottrau - The Salon of Hortense de Beauharnais (1783-1837) 
In the morning, no visitors were admitted. Hortense and Adele devoted themselves to drawing and painting. They dined alone. In the evening, the doors of the house were thrown open to Hortense's friends. One could enjoy a little music, or one could play billiards and one could always talk. At ten o'clock tea was served, and the conversation was often so enthralling that it was midnight or one in the morning before the party broke up.

Hortense had always disliked the stiff pattern of the old-regime salon, a circle of chairs around the fireplace, with seats for the ladies, while the gentlemen stood uncomfortably. There was a big round table in the middle of Hortense's room, at which everyone could sit down and on which books and fancy work could be spread out. The men did not need to wear tight-fitting uniforms; the women did not need to display a complete harness of jewels. The Bonapartes criticized the informality of Hortense's way of entertaining, and she was afraid that the Emperor, with his growing fondness for ceremony, might disapprove, but he only said, "I
hear that at your house you have an open market for wit/' and she knew he would not interfere. Though she had a large reception every Monday and occasionally gave a ball, invitations to Hortense's small evening parties were much sought after.
Hortense would have been glad to live privately, but, as a member of the Emperor's family in good standing, she had to make frequent appearances in public.

 Salon Malmaison
Hortense also made frequent trips to La Malmaison, where Josephine kept open housefor her faithful friends, always glad to see her daughter and her grandchildren, to whom, at every
visit, she gave extravagant presents. daughter to Napoleon

donderdag 15 maart 2012

Eugénie de Montijo

Eugénie de Montijo, as she became known in France, was educated in Paris, at the fashionable Convent of the Sacré Cœur. When Prince Louis Napoléon, son of Hortense de Beauharnais became president of the Second Republic 
Elysée Palace 
she appeared with her mother at several balls given by the "prince-president" at the Elysée Palace; it was there that she met the future emperor, whom she wed on 30 January 1853. 

Throughout the early 1850s Eugénie and Napoleon played cat and mouse.  He tried to take her arm, she reminded him that her mother took precedence over her, and consigned her frustrated swain to escorting her mother on walks.  She made it clear their was no action without marriage, he sent official emissaries to call on Dona Manuela and Eugénie to inform them that under no circumstances would he be marrying Eugénie.  He sent her completely inappropriate gifts, the sort that men sent mistresses, not women they were courting, sheaccepted them, and reciprocated with…nothing! He invited Eugénie to events specifically engineered to tempt or trick her into an assignation, she stubbornly remained surrounded by chaperones and other men.  At once house party Napoleon is reputed to have asked Eugénie the way to her room (some versions say ‘heart’), to which she coyly replied “through the chapel Sire.” 

woensdag 14 maart 2012

The Château de Saint-Cloud

The Château de Saint-Cloud was a Palace in France, built on a magnificent site overlooking the Seine at Saint-Cloud in Hauts-de-Seine, about 10 kilometres west of Paris. Today it is a large park on the outskirts of the capital and is owned by the state, but the area as a whole has had a large part to play in the history of France. The castle's grounds are part of today's Parc de Saint-Cloud. 

The Saint-Cloud orangery was the setting for the coup d'état of 18 Brumaire (10 November 1799), in which the Directoire was suppressed and the Consulat declared. Less than five years later, Napoléon Bonaparte was proclaimed as Emperor of the French on 18 May 1804 at Saint-Cloud. Saint-Cloud was later used by Bonaparte's family and was their main seat along with the Palais des Tuileries in Paris.

19th century
Napoleon made Saint-Cloud his preferred residence and transformed the Salon de Vénus to a throne room, which Saint-Cloud had naturally lacked, but neither he nor the occupants to follow did much more to Saint-Cloud than works of interior decoration. When the Prussians captured it in 1814, they supposedly found Altdorfer's The Battle of Alexander at Issus hanging in the Emperor's bathroom.

Today, only a few outbuildings and its park of 460 hectares remains, constituting the Domaine national de Saint-Cloud. It includes the garden à la française designed by Le Nôtre, Marie-Antoinette's flower garden (where roses for the French state are grown), a garden à l'anglaise from the 1820s (the Trocadéro garden), ten fountains, and a viewpoint of Paris known as "la lanterne", because a lantern was lit there when the Emperor Napoléon I was in residence. 
In October 1801, the First Consul Napoleon Bonapart ordered the reappointment of Saint-Cloud. Charles Percier and Pierre François Léonard Fontaine, the two most fashionable architects of the day, altered and decorated the imperial châteaux of Malmaison, Compiègne, and Saint-Cloud. ClaudeGalle, an important bronze caster and gilder, received an order from Napoleon for the Château of Saint-Cloud worth more than 65,000 francs. After being rearranged and refurbished, the palace of Saint-Cloud became the official center of consular and subsequent imperial power. Seated at the hourglass-shaped desk of his own design at Saint-Cloud with its busts of Caesar and Hannibal, Napoleon wrote his dispatches. As the main headquarters of Napoleon, Saint-Cloud became the scene of many significant political and personal events of his era, most notably: the proclamation of the empire in 1804 in the Galerie d'Apollon; the baptism of Louis-Napoleon by Pope Pius VII in 1805; the civil marriage of Napoleon and Marie-Louise in 1810; the celebrations for the baptism of the King of Rome in 1811.

The palace of Saint-Cloud was destroyed during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Only the picturesque park remainsgeorgianindex/Napoleon/Saint-Cloud/


zaterdag 10 maart 2012

March 9, 1796. "To Destiny."

When Napoleon married Josephine, she wore violets, and on each anniversary Josephine received a bouquet of violets. 

Falling in love

Napoleon fell madly in love with Josephine. His passion is reflected in the many love letters that have survived. One classic example, written in Paris in December 1795, appears to follow an amusing evening, perhaps their first sexual encounter, and can be found in a 1931 edition of their letters:
I awake full of you. Your image and last evening's intoxication have left my senses no repose whatever. Sweet and incomparable Josephine, what a strange effect do you produce upon my heart! Are you vexed? Do I see you sad? Are you troubled? . . . My soul is crushed with grief, and there is no repose for your lover; but is there any the more when, abandoning myself to the profound emotion which masters me, I draw from your lips, from your heart, a flame which consumes me? Ah! It was last night I really understood that your portrait was not you! You are leaving at noon; I shall see you in three hours. Meanwhile, mio dolce amor, a thousand kisses; but do not give me any, for they burn my blood.

Napoleon was deeply in love, but Josephine wasn't so sure. She had a pretty good deal going — she was involved in a number of business and other affairs and was maintaining a, ahem, close relationship with Paul Barras. Barras, on the other hand, may well have been anxious to move his rather expensive plaything on to someone else. Indeed, it seems that he arranged for Napoleon to be appointed commander of the French army in Italy in exchange for Napoleon's marrying Josephine.
It's a bit hard to understand why Josephine was interested in Napoleon at all. Sure, he was a young hero, but he was also penniless and fairly lacking in social graces. Josephine, on the other hand, had pretty much made it by the time she met him. She had climbed to the very top of the social ladder and was involved in all sorts of interesting things.
And then there was the little matter of Napoleon's family. Josephine was 32 years old, 6 years older than Napoleon. She was previously married, had two half-grown children, and had little in the way of money, plus her connections were dubious in their nature. Napoleon's siblings and mother were convinced that he could do far better and that Josephine would be a disaster for him. They did everything they could to discourage the marriage. Had Napoleon's mother, Leticia, been on hand in Paris, she likely would have exerted her influence, and the marriage would not have taken place.

Questioning her future

Josephine was also not convinced that marrying this young general was the best decision she could make. Marrying a general may sound like a good deal, but generals have a tendency to be sent to far-away places where they can end up being killed. In addition, generals were still very political, and if they fell out of favor they could find themselves at the very least out of a job. Napoleon had already discovered how easy it was to suddenly be on half pay. Josephine, who was involved in military supply dealings, was well aware of the downside to military careers.
Josephine's friends counseled against the marriage. Of greater importance was the opposition of her daughter, Hortense. But Josephine may well have figured that any daughter would fear losing her mother to a man who would not be her real father. As it happened, Napoleon was an excellent stepfather to both of Josephine's children.
And then there was the little matter of General Hoche, whom Josephine had met, so to speak, while in prison (see the earlier section "Facing the guillotine"). Not only was Josephine not in love with Napoleon; she had hoped that General Hoche would leave his wife and marry her. (She finally realized that he would never do so, which may be why she eventually agreed to marry Napoleon.)
Not in love and faced with the opposition of friends and his family, Josephine stalled when Napoleon asked her to marry him. His passion worried her, as she was unable to match it. Besides, any fire can cool quickly, so Josephine made Napoleon wait through the winter of 1795-1796. Finally, faced with her increasing age, diminishing prospects, and Napoleon's persistence, Josephine relented and agreed to marry him.

Marrying their future

Napoleon and Josephine agreed to a civil ceremony at 8:00 p.m. on March 9, 1796. Josephine was there early, wearing Napoleon's famous gift to her, an enameled medallion engraved "To Destiny." (They could not have possibly imagined how significant those words would be.) Barras, serving as a witness, was on time, as were other members of the wedding party. Only one person was missing: the groom!
Anyone can be a little late, even to his own wedding, but as the minutes dragged on into first one hour and then two, emotions must have been on edge. The official who was to marry them left, and an underling was on hand for the ceremony, even if the groom was not. You can only imagine what thoughts were going through the various minds there assembled.
If any of them had known Napoleon well, none of this would have been all that big a surprise. As general in chief of the Army of France in Italy, Napoleon had been planning a campaign and had become so engrossed in his maps that he had completely lost track of time. Clearly, his priorities were not those expected of a typical groom. Then again, Napoleon was not a typical groom.
Nothing about the wedding was normal. Josephine lied about her age on the marriage certificate, claiming to be 4 years younger, and Napoleon added 18 months to his age. The end result was that they appeared to be roughly the same age.
Josephine's children had been apprehensive about their mother's marriage to this young general. True, Napoleon had treated her son with kindness in the matter of his father's sword (if that story is really true), but like any children, they worried about how their stepfather would relate to them.
The day after the wedding, the newlyweds went to visit her children. Napoleon was at his most charming and generous. He arranged to send his own younger brother Jérôme to go to school with Eugène, visited their school, and generally did whatever he could to make them feel comfortable with him. By the end of the visit, Josephine's children knew that they had a new father they could trust — and love.
Napoleon and Josephine were married. One of the greatest love stories in history had begun. But it didn't start out very promising. Within a couple days, Napoleon was off to Italy and glory, while Josephine was to stay home.


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