Josephine

Josephine, 1763–1814, empress of the French (1804–9) as the consort of Napoleon I. Born Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie in Martinique, she was married in 1779 to Alexandre de Beauharnais. Two children were born, Eugène (later viceroy of Italy) and Hortense (later queen of Holland). Josephine's husband was guillotined during the French Revolution, in 1794, but she escaped with brief imprisonment. In 1796 she was married, by a civil ceremony, to Napoleon Bonaparte, whom she had met through Paul Barras. Before Napoleon became emperor, they were remarried in a religious ceremony. Josephine took a prominent part in the social life of the time. Napoleon had the marriage annulled in 1809 because of her alleged infertility, so that he might marry Marie Louise, daughter of the Austrian emperor Francis I (Holy Roman Emperor Francis II). Thereafter Josephine lived in retirement at Malmaison.

See biographies by R. M. Wilson (1930), A. Castelot (tr. 1967), and C. Erickson (1999); study by F. Masson.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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