January 10, 1810: World’s Greatest Love Affair Ends in Divorce!

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A Brief History

On January 10, 1810, Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, divorced Josephine, Empress of France, the only woman Napoleon ever really loved.

Digging Deeper

Digging deeper, we find Napoleon and Josephine married on March 9, 1796, beginning a love and lust-filled marriage marred by indiscretions on both sides!

Napoleon, arguably the most important mortal man in history (the subject of more books than any other man, except for Jesus) married Josephine and later crowned her Empress, a title he refused to strip her of even when they divorced.

Josephine, actually born Marie Josephe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie (no wonder Napoleon just called her Josephine!), was 6 years older than Napoleon and had already given birth to a son and a daughter.  The daughter, named Hortense, later married Napoleon’s brother, making her both his step-daughter and sister-in-law!

Alas, Josephine did not bear Napoleon the heir that he craved, neither male nor female, and Napoleon felt compelled to divorce her and remarry someone who would produce children for him.

Reluctantly, the royal couple went their separate ways and just a couple months later, Napoleon married his second wife, Marie-Louise, saying, “I married a womb.”  Clearly, Josephine was his true love, although both he and Josephine famously engaged in affairs.

Napoleon’s children left no significant lineage for him after all, but Josephine ended up becoming a significant source of royal offspring, including Napoleon III, royalty in Brazil and Russia and the current royal heads of several European countries (Greece, Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden, Belgium and Denmark).  Josephine, called Rose before Napoleon “renamed” her, died in 1814 without knowing of all those illustrious descendants.

While in exile, Napoleon pined for Josephine and was never visited by Marie-Louise.  With his final breath, he spoke the name Josephine!

Question for students (and subscribers): Was Napoleon right to divorce Josephine?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

The following are among the best recent books published on this time period (we recommend reading them in the order listed below):

Conner, Susan O.  The Age of Napoleon.  Jaico Publishing House.

Markham, J. David.  Napoleon For Dummies.  For Dummies, 2005.

Zarzeczny, Matthew D.  Meteors That Enlighten the Earth: Napoleon and the Cult of Great Men.  Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013.


About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.