Thursday, April 9, 2009

Le Jeudi de Josephine: Hortense

The beautiful Hortense was born in Paris on April 10, 1783. She was the daughter, and second child of (Josephine) Rose Tascher de la Pagerie (Bonaparte) and Alexandre Vicomte de Beauharnais. Josephine and Alexandre separated just a little while after her birth. The separation caused her to be away from her brother, Eugene, most of the time.

Let’s just say that her childhood was not a very happy one. Hortense and Eugene had to live through the terror of having their parents imprisoned during the French Revolution. Her father met his tragic end by ways of the guillotine, while Josephine was spared and later released. When she made it back to her children, who had lived their lives in misery by scourging the streets for most of the time, she had changed; she was poor and widowed and had to get her life back together for the sake of her children.

Josephine met Napoleon two years later. When he asked her in marriage, Hortense was not amused. She did not like Bonaparte and was jealous of his time with her mother. She eventually warmed up to him and became a loving and caring daughter. Hortense attended Madame Campan’s at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. She was educated in languages, acting, and dancing. She was extremely talented especially at playing the piano and the harp.

When she became of age to be married, Louis Bonaparte, Maopoleon’s younger brother was presented to her. It took her some time to make up her mind; and when she did finally accept, it seemed to have been more to please her mother and Napoleon rather than herself. The marriage was not a happy one, with Louis being fanatically jealous; this suffocated Hortense nand rendered her extremely miserable in her marriage.

When Napoleon and Josephine became Emperor and Empress, Hortense and Louis were crowned Queen and King of Holland. The marriage produced three boys; the first son, who was the hiooeful Napoleon heir to the crown, suddenly died from an illness when he was about five years-old. This was a shock for Hortense. She became ill with depression and was literally unable to speak or react for months.

She was sent to a spa in the French Pyrenees to try to recover from this devastating pain. King Louis met her for a reconciliation- which brought forth the birth of their third son. From his intense jealousy, Louis never believed the baby to be his own. The couple finally split up during the time of Napoleon’s exile to Elba. And, it was during this period that she fell in love with Charles de Flahaut.

When Npaoleon escaped from exile to reclaim his throne, Josephine had already passed away, but Hortense was dutifully by her step-father’s side. At the time of his eventual fall and exile to St. Helena, Hortense left France for she had been on the side of the usurper; having noone left for her to rely on , she escaped with both her sons…and also, pregnant by Charles de Flahaut.

While exiled in Switzerland, Hortense began to write her memoirs. She once again took up the arts and composed music, published her romances and drew and painted. Many illustrious artists, such as Alexandre Dumas, Franz Liszt and Lord Byron visited the exiled Queen. In 1837, la ‘Reine d’Hollande’ died from cancer at 54 years-old. Her youngest legitimate son became Napoleon III and chose a piece composed by his mother, to be the national hymn: Partir pour la Syrie.

For more wonderful pictures of Hortense please see: My Napoleon Obsession.

For a more in-depth read, please see:

Here is a video of Hortense's "Partir pour la Syrie"



May said...

Thank you! I never knew about Hortense... beautiful portraits and music.

I really love these Thursday posts, by the way:)

Anonymous said...

Your posts are so entertaining! This one was grand and doesn't she look like her mother!?

Carmi Cimicata said...

Thank you so much for the link! I am on a Hortense binge right now....I really under-estimated her. Her biography is fantastic....and you feel like you are really in her head! Two big volumes...but you can't put the book down.

Marg said...

Fascinating post about a member of a fascinating family!

Lucy said...

Matterhorn, you're such a good friend- thanks so much for your comment:)

Hi God's Princess:) I do find that Hortense portrays the same grace as her mother. Thanks, I'm glad you're enjoying my posts:)

Hey Carmi! I agree that there is so much to Hortense- she's an intricate character whose life is no less complicated than Josephine's...I will be reading more aobut her too. Thanks:)

Hi Marg- Hortense's life really is fascinating-that was an incredible time in history. Thanks:)

Kirsten Steen said...

Thanks Ms. Lucy, for the historical snippet on a figure I've not read much about. Have always wanted to pick up more history but never made enough time so very much enjoying these blogs that make it so easy (and interesting). Love the purple dress in the video that matches the room!

Lucy said...

Hi Ms.K @Write on Thyme- I'm happy you're enjoying these posts:) Your blog is fascinating too.

Ninon said...

I didn't know that much about Hortense but I've always been curious about her. Thanks for this post!

Lucy said...

Thanks Ninon:) BTW, that Medici portrait you posted on your blog is fabulous, what a beauty.

Cynthia L. H. said...

You have piqued a new interest in me!
I will look forward to returning for more!
Thank you,

Lucy said...

Please come back to visit Cynthia- It makes me so happy when people share my same interest! Thanks:)

Viola said...

Thank you so much for this post, Ms.Lucy. I didn't know much about Hortense. She was very talented and interesting so I hope that I can find a book about her. I'd love to read more about her!

Lucy said...

Hi there Viola! Thanks for your comment. Hortense really was a very talented person and she had quite an intense life. You might find her memoirs also very interesting to read:)

sallymandy said...

Fascinating, Ms Lucy! I loved this post. Geez, who would have wanted to be royalty? I think I need to read more of your Jeudis de Josephine.

(I wanted to see your most recent post but could not view the art photos...?)

Lovely Easter to you.

Lucy said...

Thank you Sallymandy:)

I don't know what's up with Blogger again...but I think it's ok now.

Stoessel said...

An enchanting story of Hortense.
Hortense lived in exile at Lake Constance, and had a son named Charles Louis Bonaparte. This is the father of an illegitimate child Bonaventure by a love affair with Maria Anna Schiess. I am a descendant of this son of Napoleon III. Read more at my blog
P.S.: IGENEA.COM (CH) now searching the DNA of the offspring of the various members of the family of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Anonymous said...

New exhibition in Arenenberg:
At the table - À Table! - Köstlichkeiten aus fürstlichen Küchen und Kellern - Delicacies from royal kitchens and basements.

The visitor learns that a dinner on aluminum dishes at the time of Napoleon III. zu den teuersten Vergnügungen gehörte. was one of the most expensive pleasures.

Anonymous said...