Napoleon Bonaparte: His Greatest Love

Jacques-Louis_David_-_The_Emperor_Napoleon_in_His_Study_at_the_Tuileries_-_Google_Art_Project

Napoleon Bonaparte is considered one of the greatest military leaders in Europe. He became the Emperor of France twice and dominated the West for more than a decade. Though he is known for his cynical views, he had a very tender side of him when it comes to the love of his life – Josephine.

They met in 1795 when the young General Napoleon was 26 and Josephine, her real name – Marie Josephe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie, was 32. He was enchanted with her, and she became his mistress shortly thereafter. They married a year later in 1796. Their marriage was turbulent, very passionate, and all-consuming. During the times he was away on a campaign, which was always, he would often write his wife letters, oftentimes romantic, but at times with contempt. An example of his letter to Josephine is found below which historians believe was written on December 29, 1795, after their first sexual undertaking.Josephine_de_Beauharnais,_Keizerin_der_Fransen

‘My waking thoughts are all of thee. Your portrait and the remembrance of last night’s delirium have robbed my senses of repose. Sweet and incomparable Josephine, what an extraordinary influence you have over my heart. Are you vexed ? do I see you sad ? are you ill at ease ? My soul is broken with grief, and there is no rest for your lover. But is there more for me when, delivering ourselves up to the deep feelings which master me, I breathe out upon your lips, upon your heart, a flame which burns me up ah, it was this past night I realised that your portrait was not you. You start at noon ; I shall see you in three hours. Meanwhile, mw dolce amor, accept a thousand kisses, 1 but give me none, for they fire my blood. N.B.’

At times, Napoleon Bonaparte would write his wife a letter both romantic and hateful, passionate and riddled with jealousy, sometimes in the same letter. Napoleon would often accuse Josephine  of not loving him enough and not caring about him.

‘I don’t love you an atom ; on the contrary, I detest you. You are a good for nothing, very ungraceful, very tactless, very tatterdemalion. You never write to me ; you don’t care for your husband ; you know the pleasure your letters give him, and you write him barely half-a-dozen lines, thrown off any how.

How, then, do you spend the livelong day, madam ? What business of such importance robs you of the time to write to your very kind lover ? What inclination stifles and alienates love, the affectionate and unvarying love which you promised me ? Who may this paragon be, this new lover who engrosses all your time, is master of your days, and prevents you from concerning yourself about your husband ? Josephine, be vigilant ; one fine night the doors will be broken in, and I shall be before you.

Truly, my dear, I am uneasy at getting no news from you. Write me four pages immediately, and some of those charming remarks which fill my heart with the pleasures of imagination.

I hope that before long I shall clasp you in my arms, and cover you with a million kisses as burning as if under the equator. BONAPARTE.’

Jacques-Louis_David,_The_Coronation_of_Napoleon_edit

Although they had extramarital affairs with other lovers, Napoleon still crowned Josephine Empress of the French in 1804. But when it became clear that Josephine cannot give him an heir, he divorced her in 1810 six years after her coronation. Despite their separation and Napoleon’s remarriage to an Austrian noblewoman, Josephine maintained her rank and title of empress.

She died of pneumonia in 1814. When Napoleon learned of her death while in exile, he locked himself in his room for days refusing to see anyone. In 1821, on his death bed , Napoleon’s last breath was ‘France, the army, the head of the army, Josephine. ‘ 

The letters of Napoleon Bonaparte were derived from archive.org.

All photos from wikipedia.

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