In honour of the release of Notorious Royal Marriages, by Leslie Carroll (great book! read my review here)-
Here is a creative post on one of my favourite Royal Couple...(no kidding?)...
Samson and Delilah, Cleopatra and Marc Anthony; you know the saying, beside every great man there is a Fantabulous woman!
Josephine and Napoleon…
Renowned for his reputation as a great conqueror and leader, Napoleon has left his mark in history. Certainly he never was, completely loved by all, but one thing is undeniable- Napoleon did change the course of times. His great conquest plans and triumphs were largely based on his studying the works of Le grand Charlemagne. Napoleon idolized both Charlemagne and Alexander the Great- wanting to immortalize his feats and image to hold his own, in what is unmistakably the world’s greatest company.
Napoleon used to stay up late studying the works of these great heroes, mostly to the wee hours of the morning. Josephine often awoke early and found him already sitting and studying maps and plans, his hair hanging scraggly over his brow. Deep in thought and unwavering in determination, Napoleon was certainly driven, but his thirst for power was not quenched by masterminding alone…
How much of a place did Josephine hold in Bonaparte’s life? What was her role in his grand plan? And for Josephine- why would she settle for the scrawny little Corsican who at the time had nothing but eager ambition to fill his pot?
It would seem that at a time after having lived a life way too full for someone still relatively young, things would change dramatically for Josephine. She had experienced a lifeless marriage, the beheading of a husband, prison, hunger, devastation, deprivation and- the Revolution; all this while trying to survive and mother her young children. After having skimmed the guillotine by a thread, Josephine gradually began to rebuild her life and immerse herself into society while accumulating friends in relatively high places.
History has not always been kind to Josephine, too often depicting her as flimsy with a less than shiny reputation when it came to love and loyalty. But then again, she lived in France in the 18th c, when circumstances begged for her to be seen this way, whether it was true or not; appropriately so, it being a man’s world in every way. There’s not much any woman could have done without risk of soiling her reputation. Josephine, along with other heroines of the past, too often bears the brunt of harsh and crude criticism.
Whatever the circumstances, fate had it that Josephine and Bonaparte (as she always called him) were soon to be joined, then remembered and immortalized in the great hall of destiny. He, a little shy and some years younger- perhaps a little too awkward, but definitely interested, aroused, curious and, yes, romantic--Josephine was much more aloof and conscious of all of his faux-pas. After all what could this newbie in her entourage possibly have to offer her? His manners were odd, and his appearance scarcely led to endearment.
Bonaparte thought her irresistible, experienced, well-bred and a noble. He envisioned his future and advancement with Josephine by his side. She, on the other hand, was not yet convinced and probably found the situation somewhat comical; definitely not serious enough to impact her.
However, this was no joke…Caught in a whirlwind of love, demands, conquests, ascensions, trials and separations, the lovers lived a passion that nearly consumed them. Josephine’s initial resistance to what seemed an absurd situation (or relationship) capitulated into Bonaparte becoming Josephine’s breath of life.
For his part, Bonaparte adored Josephine and thought about her relentlessly, with poems and letters to prove it; his ‘lucky charm’, is what he nicknamed her. Napoleon knew the impact that Josephine had on people, with her kind and gentle ways mixed with a keen sense of business and real touch of class. Combine this with the Conqueror’s incredible strength of mind, grand determination and indestructible self-assuredness –this couple was on fire! With that kind of combination, ascension to rule an Empire was inevitable. Together they were invincible and Napoleon thought he could live forever…continuing his destiny through the fruit of their love…an heir to the throne.
Hmm…Trouble in paradise, where in the royal palace the queen gets banished. Bonaparte clearly had not calculated everything. In a perfect world his Empress would have given birth to his many little Napoleons and the succession would have proceeded, in all’s well that ends well. In this case, we all know how the story ends with both lovers agreeing to part knowing that their love was secondary for the good of their country and its people (a rule that all good royals pledge to abide by).
This was a heart-wrenching situation for both. The remedy to Napoleon’s masterminding a son for heir involved marriage to a new royal wife as the plan. Marie Louise of Austria, try as she may, would never amount in being anything remotely close to Napoleon’s Josephine, and she knew it; everyone did.
Nonetheless, Napoleon begot his heir and he rejoiced…and, so did Josephine. She had, after all, helped make this possible through the acceptance of living without love in order to give her Bonaparte the greatest gift she could; accepting the divorce in order for him to remarry and beget an heir. Their sacrifice had not been in vain. She could give him no greater proof of loyalty or love- her seal.
Josephine could never have imagined loving to this extent- never imagining that the infinite depths of their love would remain just that; infinite. It is written that in their final breath, each one called out the other’s name.
Beside every great man their stands an even greater woman.
Reproduction of Napoleon's Farewell To Josephine (or My Destiny And France Demand It), a painting by Laslett John Pott.
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Good Luck to All!
We're hosting a slew of events this week over at our Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table Site- please be sure to check the Calendar of Events to join the fun!
FRIDAY- JAN. 8TH
Guest Post: Lizzy
Creative Post: Lucy (Josephine and Napoleon)
Book Review: Amy