A young woman by the name of Josephine Rose-Marie Tascher arrived in France from the tropical island of Martinique in the midst of the greatest political and social up heaving. With her innate grace and charm she secured herself a position of prominence that enabled her to capture the affection of Napoleon Bonaparte an up and coming French artillery officer from Island of Creole (www.geocities.com/Paris/Parc.html). This was the beginning of one of histories most passionate and extraordinary love affairs. Napoleon instantly fell in love with Josephine and they married on March 8, 1776. The marriage of Josephine and the great Napoleon was one of turbulence, yet Josephine had a great impact on his decisions and his rise to power and fame. Josephine was a respectable and likable person with a high social status which aided to Napoleon and his advancements. Emotionally, Napoleon was affected greatly by Josephine both directly and indirectly. Josephine’s influence on Napoleon’s emotions was profound in the way that it affected his decisions and actions. Also, Josephine was a smart and intelligent woman whose opinions were of great value to Napoleon and he often took them into consideration when making extremely important decisions.
Socially, Josephine had a great impact on Napoleon’s advancements and his success in many areas of life. Early on in the marriage Napoleon discovered how useful Josephine could be to forwarding his position in society and in the military. He often made her his advocate, taking her along when he went to ask an important favour of someone (Erickson 132). She would often speak on his behalf because her remarkable social skills, amiable personality (Cartland 104), and because of her high social status that she obtained from her first husband1. Remarkably, it was Josephine who in the winter of 1795 asked that Napoleon be given command of the Italian army (Erickson 132). Sure enough shortly after her request he obtained command (Erickson 132). It was also Josephine’s aristocratic connections, her position as a leader of Directory Society, and her distinguished name that helped to advance Napoleon’s social status (Erickson 134). Napoleon once confided to his secretary that, “She (Josephine) had beneath my side during my early years when my future was far from assured, she had lent me her aristocratic status to assist my many ambitions,” (Erickson 277). For this helped the people of France to see “him less as conspicuous foreigner lacking in a distinguished breeding” (Erickson 134) and more of someone that they could relate to 2. Josephine often helped her husband in his social duties as Emperor by entertaining military men and ambassadors (Erickson 242). She always remembered people’s names and had a gift for making people feel special and welcomed (Erickson 242). Napoleon himself once said “I win battles but Josephine wins hearts.” (Laing 148). Her natural social skills were a great asset to his rise and popularity. At first it was Josephine’s social status that helped Napoleon but later on it was her good spirited nature and her likable personality that helped to create a better image of Napoleon therefore helping him in his advancements.
Josephine had a major influence on Napoleon emotionally, directly and indirectly by making him feel secure, providing him with emotional support, and giving him confidence which ultimately had a bearing on his decisions and actions. Sadly before Napoleon had met Josephine he was on the verge of suicide he was lonely and depressed (Laing 128). Fortunately “Josephine had transformed life for him, given him meaning to ambition, and crowned his success with pleasure,” (Laing 128). Mlle Avrillon, one of Josephine maids, even saw his dependence on her and her swift response to his needs, “whenever he suffered the slightest indisposition, when any problem aroused to worry him, she was, so to speak, at his feet, and at such times he could not get along without her,” (Erickson 132) This demonstrates how much her emotional support helped Napoleon and how he relied on it to continue his aspirations (Erickson 132). Napoleon was convinced that his good fortune in battle, politics, and all the important areas of life was linked to his finding and falling in love with Josephine. She was his charm and “his talisman”2 (Erickson 253). From the time they met he had nothing but opportunities and success (Erickson 253). “He was convinced that I brought him luck, and nothing would induce him to start on a campaign without previously kissing me,” Josephine once admitted of Napoleon (Laing 101). Therefore, even without her being present on the battle field, or even in the same country, it was Josephine’s inspirational spirit, that encouraged Napoleon throughout all of his major victories against Egypt, Prussia, Russia. Josephine’s role in Napoleon’s victory was clearly understood by the sharpest of her observers, Claire de R musat one of Josephine’s closest friends once said “What a situation for a woman to find herself in – as one of the motivating influences for the triumphal march of a whole army,” (Laing 101). Onetime when Napoleon was on campaign he was holding a glass portrait of Josephine, all of a sudden he grew pale and the glass shattered in his hands, he said, “Either my wife is very ill or she is unfaithful.” (Erickson 140). For that day Napoleon would not leave his tent and sat starring at the wall while he should have been out helping his soldiers prepare for a battle that was to take place the next day (Erickson 140). Just the thought of something bad happening to Josephine turned Napoleon into a temporary basket case. Likewise, when Napoleon was being pressured into divorcing to Josephine and it appeared in newspapers all around Europe he became very upset because he truly loved her3 (Erickson 191). He turned into an emotional wreak which affected his battles. On account of this he was suffering defeat after defeat (Erickson 191). After this he was convinced that if he divorced Josephine it would equal bad luck for him which it did (Cartland 132). He wrote a letter to her saying, “I believe it would bring misfortune on both of us if, of my own accord, I tried to separate my life from yours.” (Cartland 132 ) Napoleon was tremendously tied to Josephine emotionally, by affection, need, and superstition.
Josephine’s opinions and ideas strongly influenced Napoleon and helped his advancements in power and success. She was very much her husband’s political confidence. When Napoleon was plotting to overthrow the directory of France (Laing 102). She was present at every conference along with the other co-conspirators. She did not only listen but she gave her opinion, her feelings and questioned the motives of the others to make sure they were genuine (Laing 102). Also, whenever there was a clash of personalities or a fight she was always the one to restore the calm (Laing 102-103). The citizens of Milan knew of the impact Josephine had on her husband. In 1798 when Josephine went to meet her husband in Milan they presented her with gifts of luminous pearls, silk, lace, antique vases, and many other expensive gifts. Josephine soon discovered that the gifts were bribes. Napoleon was imposing heavy taxes on the conquered population and was taking things such as valuable art from them (Castelot 138). The people of Milan hoped that Josephine would be persuaded to use her influence to moderate her husband’s actions (Epton 138). Josephine being the humane and caring person she was talked to her husband and in response he became more lenient to the people of Milan (Epton 138). She also, influenced Napoleon into sparing the lives of nine people who were involved in plotting an assassination on Napoleon (Laing 123). In the end her good natured heart must have affected him for he did not go ahead and kill them (Laing 123). Josephine’s good friend Claire R musat once said that “She (Josephine) acted as the original link between the French nobility and the Consular Government.”(Laing 123). She would listen to their needs and tell Napoleon what she thought should be done to satisfy them fairly (Laing 124). When Josephine was Empress, Napoleon made it part of her job to enforce the new social code and it is said that he did this because many of the reforms she herself had introduced (Erickson 240). Napoleon had many great ideas and actions which Josephine often gave her input into and had an effect on the final result.
Josephine Bonaparte had an immense impact on her husband Napoleon, assisting him to his rise to one of the greatest political powers and military leaders that Europe has ever seen. Josephine’s social powers and great personality assisted and affected Napoleon. The emotional ties that bonded them greatly impacted Napoleon from day to day. It was also her opinions that influenced him, for he often listened to them and took them to heart. Napoleon remained grateful til the day he died for her “devotion and self-sacrifice” (Laing 193) and regretted divorcing her for the rest of his life. After Josephine’s death in 1814 Napoleon described Josephine as “The most alluring, glamorous creature I have ever known . . . A woman in the full sense of the world – volatile, spirited and with the kindest of hearts . . . she was the woman I loved above all.” Would Napoleon have reached the fame and status he is known for around the world had he not married Josephine?
he once said, “That the disappointments . . . took their toll, made their mark, and blighted, one by one, his capacity for love. Perhaps he would have been a better man had he been more loved, and above all a better man”3 (Laing 101)
1Josephine’s first husband was the Vicomte de Beauharnais was a rich aristocrat who was guillotined during the French Revolution. She had two children with him Hortense and Eugene. He left her lots of land and money but one of the most important things that she gained out of the marriage was a respectable family name which Napoleon also gained from.
2Corsicans were thought of as lower people and Napoleon’s Corsican decent could have hindered his advancements because of stereotypes such as they were dirty and poor islanders with no education or class. Also Corsican society had very different ideals and values from those of Paris which people sometimes associated Napoleon with even though he moved to Paris when he was nine years old. It was also easy for people to realize that Napoleon was an islander because of his accent. He was so worried about being accepted by the people of Paris that he even changed the spelling of his from Buonaparte to Bonaparte to give it a French rather than Italian pronunciation. (Erickson 140)
4At the beginning of their marriage Josephine had many affairs which deeply hurt Napoleon. She also did not write him often which also hurt Napoleon and at times made him furious and irrational. These could be some of the reasons that Lucien believe Josephine partly responsible for the growth of tyranny in Napoleon.
3 Napoleon’s politically advisers and his family urged Napoleon to divorce Josephine because she was unable to produce an heir for him. He did not want to because of his deep love and emotional ties to her. Yet in the end he forced to divorce the love of his life and marry a young Austrian who he eventually had a child with.