Today marks the birth date of Eugène Rose de Beauharnais, Josephine’s first and only son by Alexandre de Beauharnais (her first husband).
Eugene had a wonderful and close relationship with Josephine, who in turn was especially attached to her firstborn. Eugene was never the brilliant scholar or the very literate type as his father, Alexandre would have liked him to be. In other words, the two did not have much in common- Eugene was somewhat of a slight disappointment for his father. The young boy, who preferred riding his horses to reading books, had a spirit that soared for adventure. But, he was also blessed with a gentle and caring nature, which would explain why Josephine adored him so; He never disappointed or hurt his mother, whom he loved more than anyone in the world. He was also very protective and loving towards his sister Hortense. He became her pillar of strength and confidant, especially during the years of her dreadful marriage.
Eugene was thirteen when he lost his father by ways of the guillotine. Not long after this crucial time, Josephine was also incarcerated, leaving Eugene and Hortense often cared for by the people in Josephine’s immediate circle- and other times, just fending for themselves in the streets. This certainly added a dimension of sorts to his teenage years, spurring him rapidly into manhood and into the role of protector of his younger sister.
It is of no surprise that when Josephine and Bonaparte became an item, that Eugene immediately felt drawn to Napoleon’s magnetic persona. The emperor engulfed all the qualities of leadership, adventure that Eugene also had a passion for. And, the fact that this great man also loved his mother dearly, showing much more fervor in her regards, than his own standoffish father ever did, endeared him even more so. The affection was mutual, and Napoleon taking a special interest in this willing and promising young man, showed him his love and appreciation by adopting him in 1806; he was 25.
Eugene always fulfilled his duties as a loving son, devout combatant, dedicated leader and most loyal disciple of Napoleon Bonaparte the Emperor. He even accompanied his father to Egypt, where he experienced and witnessed excessive forms of battle…in fact, when he returned from these battles, he was particularly silent and distant, alarming Josephine and causing her great pain to see this sudden and extreme change in her son. Yet, it still remained that what was important to Eugene was that he had not failed Bonaparte-he had made his father proud. His dedication went beyond the call of duty and his loyalty made it such that within the course of actions, he never deterred to remain faithful until the end.
Eugene was also a loving husband to his wife Princess Augusta Amalia Ludovika Georgia of Bavaria, whom he married in 1807. She was the eldest daughter of Maximilian I of Bavaria. Eugene was a devoted husband and most loving father to their seven children. Josephine reveled in their loving relationship. She was extremely proud of her son and the wonderful, man, husband, father that he had become despite the exceptional and tumultuous challenges he was dealt with in his youth.
In terms of royal titles, in 1804, Eugene was bestowed the title of French Prince of the Imperial Royal Family. Then in 1806, his royal father-in-law made him Duke of Leuchtenberg. And in 1807, when Bonaparte united Venice to his Kingdom of Italy, Eugene was made Prince of Venice. Consequently, all of Eugene’s children were royals who themselves married into royalty; thus, rendering them heirs in direct lineage to Josephine, their grandmother.
Here is a painting by VIGER Hector (1819-1879)of Josephine, Eugene and Hortense visiting the detained Alexandre in Luxenbourg (the guillotine would follow...)
*****To see the compassion and love expressed in words by Eugene himself, please read the letter he addressed to Napoleon, his dad, after Josephine’s death. It is the most touching letter ever. You can read it in summary form here- or- in the last pages of Sandra Gulland’s: The Last Great Dance on Earth (Or in the last part of the Josephine B. Trilogy)