Josephine Beauharnais

(Josephine Bonaparte)


First wife of Napoleon, Josephine de Beauharnais was a popular Empress and faithful spouse to Napoleon. Throughout their marriage, Josephine was one of Napoleon's closest advisors and he divorced her for political rather than personal reasons. Josephine was a glamorous and well-connected socialite, and was regarded as a good mother who remained strong and graceful, despite her many hardships.

Josephine was chosen to replace her recently deceased sister as wife of Alexandre de Beauharnais in order to save her family from poverty. While the marriage was not a happy one, she did bear him two children, Hortense and Eugene de Beauharnais. During the Reign of Terror in France, Alexandre was killed by the guillotine while Josephine was shut away in prison for retaining counter-revolutionary acquaintances. Five days after her husbandís death, Reign of Terror initiator Maximilian Robespierre was executed and she was released.

Now a widow, Josephine began having intimate relationships with several political leaders, among them Napoleon. Napoleon proposed one year after their first encounter, and they were wed shortly thereafter. He continued to keep several mistresses, though, which tarnished the loversí relationship. She nearly separated from him before their coronation when she caught him with another woman, but the two were reconciled and Josephine became Empress of France. Napoleon divorced her so that he could marry into a royal family and produce an heir for his growing empire, but the two remained on good terms until her death of pneumonia during Napoleon's imprisonment in Elba.

Key events during the life of Josephine de Beauharnais:

Married Alexandre de Beauharnais
Arrested by the Committee of Public Safety during the Reign of Terror
Released following the end of the Reign of Terror
Married Napoleon Bonaparte
Crowned Empress of France
Napoleon divorced her because she did not bear any children
Died of pneumonia

Book Links
Josephine  by  John S. C. Abbott

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Parentage and Birth  in  Hortense  by  John S. C. Abbott
Marriage of Josephine and Bonaparte  in  Hortense  by  John S. C. Abbott

Image Links

Josephine taking leave of her children
 in Hortense

Reconciliation between Napoleon and Josephine
 in Hortense

The DivorceAannounced
 in Hortense
Napoleon crowning his wife, Josephine
Napoleon crowning his wife, Josephine
 in Back Matter

Short Biography
Napoleon Victorious general who rose to power during the French Revolution. Crowned himself Emperor and restored France to greatness.
Maria Antoinette Extravagant Queen of France. Beheaded during French Revolution.
Robespierre Key figure of the French Revolution. Leader of the Reign of Terror.
Georges Danton Key figure of the French Revolution who was eventually lost his head.
Eugene de Beauharnais Stepson of Napoleon, who accompanied him on all his early campaigns. Later Prince of Italy.
Hortense Beauharnais Step-daughter, and sister-in-law of Napolean Bonaparte, and mother of Napoleon III of France.