It was on this day in 1796 that Napoleon Bonaparte, the future emperor of France, married Josephine de Beauharnais, an older widow with two children. The marriage scandalized Bonaparte’s family, but he was undeterred in his passion. He called Josephine, “worse than beautiful.” He once wrote to her, “I awake full of you. Your image and the memory of last night’s intoxicating pleasures has left no rest to my senses.” Josephine’s given name was Marie Josephe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie and she was known as “Rose.” Napoleon Bonaparte, however, preferred “Josephine,” and that’s how she was known from the moment they met.
Napoleon was two hours late to the wedding. They’d been engaged for just two official weeks before marrying. In the marriage contract, she made herself four years younger and he added 18 months to his age to make himself 26. He was scruffy, skinny, unkempt, jealous, and once declared, “Power is my mistress.” Josephine was described as sexy, with a low voice and a “lionine walk.” On their wedding day, he gave her a gold medallion with the inscription, “To Destiny.” Two days after the wedding ceremony, Bonaparte left to lead the French army in Italy.
Later, they both committed infidelity, and when it became clear Josephine could not provide him with an heir, they divorced. They were still so besotted that they read statements of devotion to one another at the divorce ceremony.
Of his new wife, he simply said, “I married a womb.”