Joséphine (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Joséphine’s life exemplified the chaos and unpredictability of the French Revolution and subsequent warfare. Popularly loved as “the good Joséphine,” her social talents assisted Napoleon Bonaparte in creating stability and reconciliation among the various factions dividing the citizens of France.
Marie-Josèphe-Rose Tascher de la Pagerie was born on the French Caribbean island of Martinique. She descended from the middle ranks of the French nobility who had emigrated to the colonies to make their fortunes growing sugar and was therefore Creole (born overseas but of French ancestry). Everyone called her Marie-Rose until she met Napoleon Bonaparte, who preferred “Joséphine.” She attended a local convent school for four years during a privileged childhood. When she was sixteen, her family arranged her marriage to a wealthy and well-educated Frenchman named Viscount Alexandre de Beauharnais. In France she entered a sophisticated world where her lack of formal education disappointed her husband. The birth of their son Eugene (1781) and daughter Hortense (1783) did nothing to draw the couple together.
Soon the viscount demanded his freedom by falsely accusing Joséphine of infidelity and ordering her out of his house. She took refuge in a convent and complained to legal officials about his unreasonable behavior. The courts ordained a permanent separation and ordered...
(The entire section is 2069 words.)
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