Eclecticism

...making decisions on the basis of what seems best instead of following some single doctrine or style.
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Guest Post by Catherine Delors author of For the King...

I am so happy to be able to present this wonderful guest post by Catherine Delors the author of the fascinating soon to be released novel For the King. This post is so interesting about Napoleon and Josephine. Thank-you Ms. Delors for providing this for my blog and for participating in the HFBRT event highlighting your new book.

Napoléon and Joséphine in 1800


An interesting couple if ever there was one… Bonaparte then is not the portly man we
have come to associate with traditional Napoleonic imagery. He has not yet crowned himself Emperor of the French, but he has seized power a year earlier in a bloodless coup. In 1800 he is the First Consul, a reference to the era of the Republic in Rome. But his regime is already authoritarian, and he will use the bomb attack described in my new novel, FOR THE KING, to eliminate many of his political opponents.


In 1800 Bonaparte is only 31. His valet describes him as thin to the point of emaciation, with a sallow complexion, deep set blue eyes, a high forehead, and already thinning hair. He is of average height for the late 18th century (5 feet six and a half inches in English measurements.)

Josephine is 37, six years older than her husband, and the Bonaparte siblings, who hate her, calls her la vieille (“the hag.”) In fact she looks rather younger than her age, a gracious, elegant brunette.

What about the state of things between them? Sadly, the romance is gone. Oh, Napoléon was utterly smitten in the beginning of their marriage, but within a few months of the wedding, while he was waging war in Italy, she dashed his illusions by taking a lover. He retaliated in kind, and a string of mistresses ensued.

Now she is the one who is jealous. There are a few other clouds on the horizon: Bonaparte would like a son and heir, but a middle-aged Joséphine shows no signs of fertility. Yet Bonaparte’s immediate concerns are to consolidate his grip on power, not –quite yet- to establish a dynasty.

There is also the small matter that Joséphine receives enormous sums, 1,000 francs a day, from Fouché, the redoubtable Minister of Police, to spy on her husband. If Bonaparte knew about this, he would not take kindly to this new kind of betrayal, but the important thing is that he doesn’t know.

The truth of the matter is that Joséphine is a compulsive spender, far more so than Marie-Antoinette ever was, and that she is always in debt in spite of the generous stipend she receives as the wife of the First Consul. Bonaparte cannot comprehend where all that money goes, and she dreads asking for still more to pacify her creditors. This too creates great stress in their marriage.

But what matters in 1800 is that Napoléon and Joséphine are political allies. He knows he owes his rise in the army and national politics to her and her connections. Without those, it is unlikely that his coup would have succeeded. Napoléon and Joséphine planned it together, they would have shared the consequences of any failures, and now they bask together in the glow of success. He may no longer be madly in love, but he values his wife as his closest associate, and also, because he is very superstitious, his lucky star. Maybe, in his mind, she is the one who allowed him to escape the bomb detonated on their path on Christmas Eve 1800 . . .

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for an interesting post. I took a course in Napoleon many years ago while at university in Switzerland, but it was totally about the historical perspectives of battles and kingdoms.

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  2. What a fascinating post! I must read some books on Josephine, such as Gulland's, there are some intriguing things you mention that I must read about. I had no idea that Josephine took a lover first. Wow!

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  3. I didn't know that she spent more than Marie Antoinette! Yet she doesn't get the bad rap the former queen did. Great post.

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  4. Thank you for hosting this guest post! Indeed, LadyDoc, there is much more to Napoleon's story than battles and military tactics...

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  5. Arleigh, your comment cropped up just after I posted mine! Thanks for your kind words. Yes, Josephine's spending was almost pathological. Even after her divorce, when she had retired from public life, she managed to outspend her enormous income.

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  6. Of course you know i LOVED reading this:D Great post Catherine!
    .

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  7. How very interesting. This is all new information to me. Obviously, I have not researched this topic or looked past the usual that one finds in the history books. I had no idea they were unfaithful to each other. This makes certain family stories make sense.
    My Grandmother, born in the late 1800's was named Josephine Beauharnois. The story was that we were related to Napoleon - on the wrong side of the blanket, obviously. Who knows how true it is. Our family's records go back to french trappers and farmers in Quebec in the early 1800's and other than names, there are no real records. Now I am curious, but am sure there is little validity to the claim.
    Best of luck with the release of FOR THE KING. I look forward to reading it.

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  8. It's nice to be able to put a timestamp on where their relationship was at during the point in time where FOR THE KING takes place. People seem to debate whether or not Josephine truly did take a lover; I've read biographies that have asserted both POVs. I suppose only Josephine and Napoleon will every really know the truth of the matter!

    Librarypat, that is so interesting about your family history! You should join ancestry.com and check it out - I know Susie is really great with looking up ancestral roots!

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