Skip to main content

Napoleon Bonaparte and Three Women In His Life

Tom Marshal is a freelance writer and he finds enjoyment in reading and writing. Reading, writing and traveling are his favorite hobbies.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte was one of the greatest military leaders in history and created his own footprints in the history of Europe. He was born Napoleon Buonaparte in a Corsican city of Ajaccio in 1769. Because of his shortness, he was nicknamed ‘Little Corporal.’

After his education, Napoleon became a second lieutenant in the French army in 1785. After the successful French Revolution (1789-83), Napoleon actively took part in a war against the British at Toulon for France. Napoleon was imprisoned for ten days on suspicion of treason after he refused an assignment to lead the Army of the West. But as a reward for this punishment, he was later appointed the army’s commander of the Interior in 1795.

The love life of Napoleon went parallel with his war history. He had affairs with many women and had many mistresses also, but three women of his acquaintance had made separate and distinctive marks in the love life of this great hero. They were his first wife, Josephine de Beauharnais; his mistress, Maria Walewska; and his second wife, Maria Louise

Josephine de Beauharniais

Josephine de Beauharniais

Napoleon and Josephine de Beauharnais

In 1795 Napoleon met Josephine at a party hosted by Paul Barras, Napoleon’s mentor and “de facto” Governor of France. At that time, Josephine was the mistress of Paul Barras. Napoleon was 26 years old, and the age of Josephine was 32 at the time of their first meeting.

Josephine’s original name was Marie Josephe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie, and she was born to a poor family as the first of three daughters of a gambling-addict father. She was earlier married to an aristocrat Alexandre de Beauharnais at the age of sixteen. She had a son (Eugene) and a daughter (Hortense) from this marriage. But that marriage was over when she was twenty years of age. In one instance, in 1794, she was arrested with Alexandre for treason and imprisoned in prison in Paris. Alexandere was tried and executed, but because of some luck, Josephine escaped unharmed and became the mistress of Paul Barras.

At the time of the first meeting of Josephine with Napoleon in 1975, Paul Barras was in search to find a way to avoid Josephine because he wanted to accommodate a new mistress in her place. So for Josephine, this meeting with the young hero Napoleon was an opportunity to find a means to survive in French society. Napoleon also was in search of a wife, and he was not concerned about the age of Josephine because he believed that he would get more acceptance in the society if he married an elder woman.

Josephine was a good actress and had all the virtues of a fallen woman. She tried very hard to seduce Napoleon in the first meeting itself. She found success in her effort, and they married in March 1796. A few days after marriage, Napoleon left his newlywed wife in Paris and went to lead a battle against Italians and Austrians.

Napoleon was truly in love with his wife and showed his sincere feelings towards Josephine in many love letters he sent to her. But Josephine had taken this marriage as a convenience to get good living circumstances for herself and her children. She continued to flirt with others in the society, as before, while Napoleon was away from Paris. But while sending replies to the love letters of Napoleon, she showed a lot of intimacy and shared her grief with her husband for being living alone even after marriage. Many of the colleagues and staff officers of Napoleon were aware of the adulteries of Josephine, but Napoleon never doubted Josephine’s love for him.

Signature of Napoleon Bonaparte

Signature of Napoleon Bonaparte

He returned to Paris after winning the battle, and in 1798, he led an army of thirty-five thousand men to conquer Egypt. In October 1799, Napoleon was chosen to head the government with unlimited powers. He regained the French control of Italy after defeating the Austrians. During his rule, he established the Bank of France, reformed the country's legal system by setting up some new laws known as the Code of Napoleon and reorganized the education system.

Napoleon sincerely wanted an heir to name as his successor, but Josephine could not bear a child for him. At last, he has lost interest in Josephine and ceased to love her anymore. This time, Josephine miraculously began loving her husband sincerely because of some unknown reason. But Napoleon showed no further interest in her, but he allowed her to retain the title of Empress and provided for her and her children. Josephine continued to love Napoleon till her death in 1814.

Maria Walewska

Maria Walewska

Napoleon and Maria Walewska

Napoleon, after losing his love for Josephine, had mistress after mistress. In 1807, Napoleon met Countess Maria Walewska in Warsaw, Poland. She was very beautiful and very young. At that time, Maria was twenty but already married 71-year-old Count Anastase Walewski. But this marriage bond did not become an obstacle to Napoleon’s affinity with Maria. She lived with Napoleon for many weeks in Paris and Vienna.

Napoleon divorced Josephine in March 1810. A son was born out of wedlock by Maria Walewska to Napoleon in May 1810. The name given to the newborn baby was Alexandre Florian Joseph Walewski because Maria was legally married to the Count at the time of giving birth to her son. But the Count legally recognized Alexandre as his heir, and later that child became Count Walewski. Maria truly loved Napoleon, and her devotion and love were perfectly sincere. She even visited Napoleon when he was in exile in Elba.

Maria Walewska divorced Count Walewski later and married another Count d’Ornano in 1816. But this marriage did not last long because she died in 1817 after giving birth to a son. But her love for Napoleon was very truthful, though there was no legal binding for her affair with Napoleon.

Napoleon and Marie Louise

Napoleon was very adamant about having a rightful successor of his own blood. His earlier wife Josephine failed to give him an offspring, and the son born to him by Maria Waleska was out of wedlock. So he tried very hard to find a new legitimate alliance to get a lawful heir. He negotiated with the Czar Alexander of Russia to marry his sister. But Czar’s mother was not willing to give her daughter to Napoleon.

Then he made arrangements to marry Archduchess of Austria, Maria Louisa. She was the daughter of the Emperor Francis II of Austria. After the marriage, Napoleon changed her name to Marie Louise for convenience. She was not a good wife as expected by Napoleon, but she could give him offspring in 1811 as he wished. He named his son Napoleon Francois Joseph Charles.

Even though his wife was the daughter of the Emperor of Austria, Austria declared war on Napoleon in 1813. In March 1814, Napoleon stepped down after the defeat of Paris by the coalition group of Britain, Prussia, Sweden and Austria. Louis XVI, brother of Louis XVIII, was placed on the French throne. Napoleon’s wife Marie Louise returned to Austria to her father and her son after this incident. Napoleon never saw his wife and son again till his death.

He was exiled to the islands of Elba by the enemies. But after ten months, in February 1815, he returned to power after forced Louis XVIII to flee from the country. But the opposition forces gathered against the new powerful Napoleon, and the Battle of Waterloo started three months after he regained power.

In June 1815, Napoleon was defeated by the combined forces of the British and Prussian armies. He was surrendered to the British and was sent into exile on the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. Napoleon remained a captive for the next six years till his death on May 5, 1821, of cancer. His wife Marie Louise married an Austrian General Count von Neipperg, in 1821, a few months after Napoleon’s death.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Geoff on August 31, 2020:

No mention of his lifelong love, Desiree Clary! on June 24, 2020:

You mispelled Beauharnais

Kahleen Joyce on March 25, 2019:

Napoleon was a little man, and the mentality to match. He was more like a tiny dog wanting to fight very large dogs.

Leroyzulu on December 05, 2018:

O really o heard different

Bendeguz79 on August 08, 2018:

Napoleon was a butcher and a mass-murderer and clearly a maniac.

He should have been tried as war criminal by the European forces and by the French people.

Anabela on May 28, 2018:

I was disappointed not to see here one of his most beloved mistresses, Pauline Foures (while he was in Egypt). It was a remarkable woman way ahead of her time.

Disha on April 09, 2017:

Thank u so much to give this information based on Napoleon and his wives. I'm a Napoleon buff and like him so much .I love him .

Tom Marshal (author) from India on December 15, 2014:

Thank you Afzal for your comment. History is considered as a dry subject and not many people are interested in it. Only a small number of readers are interested in historical details or about world leaders. That may be the reason for not getting much response for your hub about Napoleon.

Nigham from Pakistan. on December 15, 2014:

Hello Tom!

Excellent research and Great Hub. :)

I wrote a hub on him (Napoleon) and Josephine (well, majorly on Josephine) and received not that kind of response I was expecting.

It seems nobody likes Napoleon that much. *sighs*