JOSéPHINE BONAPARTE … HER LETTERS TO GO ON AUCTION IN PARIS …

The worried wife is not how one imagines Joséphine Bonaparte. However, three letters she had written while her husband was making war, are to go under the hammer tomorrow at Sotheby’s in Paris, and they reveal that she was no less worried about her husband’s safety than any wife of the  lowliest soldier. “Ayés surtout […]

Painting by David of the coronation of Napoleon and Josephine.

Painting by David of the coronation of Napoleon and Josephine.

The worried wife is not how one imagines Joséphine Bonaparte.

However, three letters she had written while her husband was making war, are to go under the hammer tomorrow at Sotheby’s in Paris, and they reveal that she was no less worried about her husband’s safety than any wife of the  lowliest soldier.

“Ayés surtout bien soin de l’empereur,” she wrote. (Above all, take care of the Emperor.)

This she wrote on October 15, 1806.

Her man was of course Napoléon Bonaparte, self-proclaimed and self-crowned Emperor of France since 1804 and at that time battling the Prussians in the Battle of d’Iéna.

Sculpture of Napoleon in Paris's Louvre Museum (copyright marilynztomlins)

Sculpture of Napoleon in Paris’s Louvre Museum (copyright marilynztomlins)

 

Having left Paris for the town of Mayence, she wrote the letter to the Napoléonic Marshall Louis-Alexandre Berthiere, Prince of Wagram and Neuchatel, and Napoléon’s Chief of Staff.

She continued: “Faites qu’il ne s’expose pas trop. Vous êtes un des ses plus anciens amis et c’est sur votre attachement que je me repose.”  (Ensure that he does not expose himself too much, you are one of his oldest friends and it is your attachment to him which calms me.)

At the time, however, Napoléon was two-timing his empress.

What is more his mistress – Eléonore Denuelle de la Plaigne – was two months from giving birth to his child. The child, a son, Charles Léon, to become Count Léon, was Napoléon’s fist child: Joséphine, already in menopause when Napoléon married her was unable to bear children.

Joséphine wrote Marshall Berthiere again on June 2, 1809, and on June 5, 1809, no less concerned for the safety of her man.

The three letters are now being auctioned on behalf of its owners, the marshall’s family.

Said Frederique Parent, from Sotheby’s of Paris: “These are wonderful letters, so intimate and revealing, to a man who was a trusted friend.”

He further spoke of what a privilege it was to have touched them – to have held them in his hands.

One of Josephine's letter to be auctioned.

One of Josephine’s letters to be auctioned.

That June of 1809 when Joséphine wrote two of those three letters, Napoléon was contemplating divorcing her. She was obviously not going to give him the legitimate heir he, Emperor of France, had to have. (Joséphine was already the mother of a daughter and a son by her first husband, Alexandre de Beauharnais, guillotined during the French Revolution: in 1794.)

Napoléon however needed a reason more solid than his wife’s menopause to get rid of her. He therefore, in his hour of need, turned to the very man Joséphine had turned to in hers: Marshall Berthiere. He asked him to supply him with evidence that Joséphine was cheating on him: she was. The Marshall however refused to oblige, He did though, a year later (1810), set off for Austria to seek, on behalf of his Emperor, the hand of Archduchess Marie Louise in marriage.

The story is that when Napoléon told Joséphine over supper in her apartment in the Chateau de Malmaison, one of the places they called ‘home’ , that their marriage was over, she gave such a loud sob that it was heard in the adjoining ante-chamber.

Marie-Louise, France’s new empress, dutifully presented Napoléon with a son and heir: blue-eyed and curly-haired Napoléon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte, to be given the title Prince Imperial, King of Rome, Prince of Parma, and briefly Napoléon 11, but to become known as Franz, Duke of Reichstadt, after his father’s fall and exile to Saint Helena when he had returned to Austria with his mother.

The estimated price that a letter of Joséphine will fetch is between €8,000/€10,000. (US Dollars 111,000/138,500 – Pounds Sterling 6,600 / 8,230)/  You can take it from me that it will fetch much much more than that.

The auction coincides with a Joséphine exposition being held in Paris’s Musee du Luxembourg. It runs through to June 29 this year (2014). I’ve seen it and I can highly recommend it.

I was stunned at the luxury of her life during and still after her marriage to Napoléon.

No wonder she gave such a loud sob when he told her that he was divorcing her. I would have done the same at the thought of losing the prestige and all those beautiful places for a weekend, and I am sure that so you would have!

Napoleon made several of the splendid chateau around Paris his residences. One of them was Rambouillet and he even had a palace built there for his son, the legitimate one that is – the Prince Imperial. The child, however, never even spent as much as one night there.

Rambouillet Feb 2014 - 7

Rambouillet (copyright marilynztomlins)

 

Rambouillet from another angle (copyright marilynztomlins)

Rambouillet from another angle (copyright marilynztomlins)

Rambouillet - palace Na;poleon built for his infant son. (co;pyright marilynztomlins_

Rambouillet – palace Napoleon built for his infant son. (copyright marilynztomlins)

 

Rambouillet - another view of the palace of Napoleon's infant son (marilynzrtomlins)

Rambouillet – another view of the palace of Napoleon’s infant son (marilynztomlins)

 

 

 

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

2 Responses

5-1-2014 at 15:01:16

Joséphine has always been a person of interest to me, because we have the same name I guess. I would love to have those letters, however, it’s not to be. I loved Malmaison, it was the best place I ever visited as it was still furnished they way they had lived. Would love to see that exposition too.

5-1-2014 at 15:38:32

Jo, I thought of you when I wrote this. I would also love to buy those letters,but alas, it is not to be. I hope that Malmaison buys them.

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