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osephine de Beauharnais (1763-1814) was the only woman Napoleon truly loved. They met at a ball, hosted by Josephine’s lover, Paul Barras, in 1795. Josephine was irresistibly attractive. She was exotic, had grace, and was infamous for her lovemaking skills. Until she met Bonaparte, she was called “Rose”. It was Napoleon who began calling her Josephine. He was a 26-years-old general on the rise and she was a 32-year-old widow with two children and determination to survive in the political turmoil of the French Revolution. After all, her first husband had been executed by guillotine.

Napoleon and Josephine had a tumultuous marriage

Napoleon and Josephine had a tumultuous and passionate relationship (Image: blog.napoleon-cologne.fr/)

Young Napoleon was smitten by Josephine and they married in 1796, despite the disapproval of Napoleon’s family.

Josephine made herself four years younger and Napoleon two years older on their marriage certificate to create an appearance of the same age.

During their wedding night, Napoleon discovered he had to share a bed with Josephine’s dog, who was very protective of her.

While the newlyweds were having sex, Napoleon suddenly screamed. The dog had bitten him on his leg. Josephine spent the rest of the night bandaging Napoleon’s wound and he was worried about getting rabies.

Only two days after the wedding, Napoleon left to fight in Italy.

Josephine immediately found herself a lover, a handsome lieutenant Hippolyte Charles.

Napoleon wrote passionate love letters to Josephine

Young Napoleon in 1796. This is how Napoleon looked like when Josephine met him for the first time (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Napoleon wrote Josephine passionate letters, but she seldomly replied. His letters were full of love and emotions, hers dry and boring. She also mockingly read his letters to her friends.

“I write you, my beloved one, very often, and you write very little. You are wicked and naughty, very naughty, as much as you are fickle.”

— Napoleon to Josephine

Napoleon was head over heels in love with mesmerizing Josephine.

“…To live within Josephine is to live in the Elysian fields. Kisses on your mouth, your eyes, your breast, everywhere, everywhere…”

— Napoleon to Josephine
Joséphine de Beauharnais was Napoleon’s true love and his first wife (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

“How happy I would be if I could assist you at your undressing, the little firm white breast, the adorable face, the hair tied up in a scarf a la creole…”

— Napoleon to Josephine

Certain parts of Napoleon’s letters were very erotic…

“A kiss on your heart, and one much lower down, much lower!”

— Napoleon to Josephine

…and very explicit…

“…You know that I will never forget the little visits, you know, the little black forest… I kiss it a thousand times and wait impatiently for the moment I will be in it…”

— Napoleon to Josephine
Napoleon and Josephine (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Napoleon was kissing the image of Josephine all the time. She barely looked at his picture.

Only a few months later, Josephine visited Napoleon in Italy. She took her lover Hippolyte with her. Napoleon was so blindly in love with Josephine, that he didn’t want to notice her affair.

On her return to Paris, Josephine continued having sex with Hippolyte.

Napoleon had revenge sex in Egypt

Napoleon (Image: Wikimedia Commons) and Pauline Foures, his mistress in Egypt (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

However, two years later, during the Egyptian Campaign (1789-1801), Napoleon’s brother told him about Josephine’s affair, and this time Napoleon believed.

“I don’t love you, not at all; on the contrary I detest you — you’re a naughty, gawky, foolish slut.”

— Napoleon to Josephine

Unfortunately, the love letter was intercepted by the British and published to humiliate Napoleon.

He actively sought a mistress. After checking the local beauties, he realized he wasn’t attracted to any of them.

Soon, he met Pauline Foures, the wife of one of his lieutenants. He began an affair with her to get revenge on Josephine.

Although Napoleon sought a divorce, he forgave Josephine. He was afraid of abandonment. Also, she stopped having affairs and tried to win him over.

However, Napoleon was no longer a man who could be won over by a woman. Now, power was his true love.

“My mistresses do not in the least engage my feelings. Power is my mistress.”

— Napoleon

Josephine could not have children anymore

Coronation of Josephine as the empress of the French Empire in 1804 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

During their marriage, Napoleon became the de facto ruler of France. First as a First consul (1799-1804) and then as an emperor of France (1804-1815). Josephine became the empress. 

To cement his legacy, Napoleon needed an heir.

For a long time, he believed he was sterile since Josephine had two children (Eugene and Hortense) from her previous marriage and they had none.

To test whether he was sterile or not, Napoleon began an affair with Eleonore Denuelle de La Plaigne, his sister’s maid, and nine months later his son, Charles Leon, was born. This was clear proof, it was Josephine who couldn’t have children.

Josephine had had an abortion a few years earlier, which destroyed her ability to bear any more children.

The sad divorce of Napoleon and Josephine

Napoleon and Josephine divorced in 1810 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Although he loved her, they divorced in 1810, expressing devotion to each other. Napoleon needed an heir. The same year, he married Austrian princess Marie Louise.

Napoleon gave Josephine a mansion and a generous annual income as a divorce settlement. They remained in a good relationship, much to the chagrin of his new wife.

“The only thing that ever came between us was my debts; certainly not his manhood.”

— Josephine after divorcing Napoleon

In 1814, Napoleon was exiled to Elba, a small island near the French coast. That same year, Josephine died.

After hearing the news about Josephine’s death, Napoleon was devastated and he locked himself in his room, staying there without food and water for two days.

In 1821, Napoleon died in exile on the island of Saint Helena in the Atlantic Ocean. Even on his deathbed, he was thinking about Josephine.

“France, l’armée, tête d’armée, Joséphine” (“France, the army, head of the army, Joséphine”)

— Napoleon’s last words

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