Days after Napoleon and Josephine were married, Napoleon
left to command the French army near Italy. Throughout
the following months, he begged her to join him in Milan
for their honeymoon:
have your letters of the 16th and 21st.
There are many days when you dont write. What
do you do, then? No, my darling, I am not jealous,
but sometimes worried. Come soon; I warn you, if you
delay, you will find me ill. Fatigue and your absence
are too much.
letters are the joy of my days, and my days of happiness
are not many. Junot is bringing twenty-two flags to
must come back with him, you understand? hopeless
sorrow, inconsolable misery, sadness without end,
if I am so unhappy as to see him return alone. Adorable
friend, he will see you, he will breathe in your temple;
perhaps you will even grant him the unique and perfect
favor of kissing your cheek, and I shall be alone
and far, far away. But you are coming, arent
you? You are going to be here beside me, in my arms,
on my breast, on my mouth? Take wing and come, come!
kiss on your heart, and one much lower down, much
July 17, 1796
have received your letter, my adorable friend. It
has filled my heart with joy. I am grateful to you
for the trouble you have taken to send me the news.
I hope that you are better today. I am sure that you
have recovered. I earnestly desire that you should
ride on horseback: it cannot fail to benefit you.
I left you, I have been constantly depressed. My happiness
is to be near you. Incessantly I live over in my memory
your caresses, your tears, your affectionate solicitude.
The charms of the incomparable Josephine kindle continually
a burning and a glowing flame in my heart. When, free
from all solicitude, all harassing care, shall I be
able to pass all my time with you, having only to
love you, and to think only of the happiness of so
saying, and of proving it to you? I will send you
your horse, but I hope you will soon join me. I thought
that I loved you months ago, but since my separation
from you I feel that I love you a thousand fold more.
Each day since I knew you, have I adored you yet more
and more. This proved the maxim of Bruyere, that "love
comes all of a sudden," to be false. Everything in
nature has its own course, and different degrees of
I entreat you to permit me to see some of your faults.
Be less beautiful, less gracious, less affectionate,
less good, especially be not over-anxious, and never
weep. Your tears rob me of reason, and inflame my
blood. Believe me it is not in my power to have a
single thought which is not of thee, or a wish I could
not reveal to thee.
repose. Quickly re-establish your health. Come and
join me, that at least, before death, we may be able
to say, "We were many days happy." A thousand kisses,
and one even to Fortuna, notwithstanding his spitefulness.
July 17, 1796
write you, me beloved one, very often, and you write
very little. You are wicked and naughty, very naughty,
as much as you are fickle. It is unfaithful so to
deceive a poor husband, a tender lover! Ought he to
lose all his enjoyments because he is so far away,
borne down with toil, fatigue, and hardship? Without
his Josephine, without the assurance of her love,
what is left him upon earth? What can he do?
had yesterday a very bloody affair; the enemy has
lost many men, and has been completely beaten. We
have taken the whole country around Mantua.
adorable Josephine; one of these nights your door
will open with a great noise; as a jealous person,
and you will find me on your arms.
thousand loving kisses.
What is extraordinary is that in this passion we
have Napoleon's letters to Josephine that she kept,
but we don't have her letters to Napoleon. So either
he didn't keep them and that would make his passion
a little more lukewarm in a way or maybe Josephine
didn't write to him or would write just very neutral
letters. The latter version is the one I would adopt.
Contrary to popular opinion, Josephine is submissive.
Very calm and gentle and she was Bonapartes
haven of peace. Her only defect was she was a bit
jealous and sometimes she would cry for nothing, but
he would be able to come here to his wife and find
a home and tranquillity. She was always ready to serve
him. Sometimes she would be dressed in her best and
she would be there with her entourage and wait for
him to finish work. She was very soft and very gentle,
which was important for Napoleon because she was the
contrary of what he was.
the First Italian Campaign Napoleon began to hear
the rumors that Josephine was being unfaithful to
him in his absence. He denied these rumors, even to
himself, and his letters became even more passionate
am going to bed with my heart full of your adorable
I cannot wait to give you proofs of my
How happy I would be if I could
assist you at your undressing, the little firm white
breast, the adorable face, the hair tied up in a scarf
a la creole. You know that I will never forget the
little visits, you know, the little black forest
I kiss it a thousand times and wait impatiently for
the moment I will be in it. To live within Josephine
is to live in the Elysian fields. Kisses on your mouth,
your eyes, your breast, everywhere, everywhere.
days later he returned to her apartment in Milan, only
to find it empty. Josephine had left for Genoa
most probably with army officer Hippolyte Charles, with
whom she was suspected of having an affair. He waited
nine days for her return, but the wait began to arouse
dont love you anymore; on the contrary, I detest
you. You are a vile, mean, beastly slut. You dont
write to me at all; you dont love your husband;
you know how happy your letters make him, and you
dont write him six lines of nonsense
I hope, I will be holding you in my arms; then I will
cover you with a million hot kisses, burning like
mid-March 1798 Joseph's brother finally tells Napoleon
outright of the rumors surrounding Josephine. Yet when
he confronts her she denies everything, angrily suggesting
that if he believes such lies he should divorce her.
Privately she fumes against the Bonaparte family, who
she believes are in league against her:
going to the country, my dear Hippolyte
my Hippolyte, my life is a constant torment! Only
you can restore me to happiness. Tell me that you
love me, that you love only me!
Adieu, I send
you a thousand tender kisses... and I am yours, all
my Hippolyte, they all have my hatred. You alone have
my tenderness, my love. They must see how I abhor
them from the frightful state Ive been in
They see my regrets, my hopelessness at being deprived
of seeing you as often as I desire to. Hippolyte,
Ill kill myself. Yes! I want to end a life which
from now on can only be burdensome to me if it cannot
be consecrated to you.
this "day of the catastrophe," as she referred to it,
Josephine must have contemplated what life would be
like if Napoleon did divorce her. Her behavior from
this point forward was much more amiable and loving
towards Napoleon, and she appeared more willing to accompany
him on his campaigns despite an overwhelming fear of
the opposite could be said of Napoleon, however. Following
this confrontation he realized Josephine could no longer
be trusted, and his love began to turn to resentment.
I think that then passion becomes a little more dormant
in Napoleon, and he doesnt write these absolutely
passionate letters to her. He writes wiser, calmer
letters and from then on they become accomplices,
very close and intimate because while he is in Egypt,
she has prepared the coup. She invites the directors
and leads them to admit that the return of her husband
would bring about a new situation in France, and she
has played an important role so, in fact, they grew
up together in a way. Of course their relationship
changed. They had no more couple relationship.
took a mistress in retaliation: Pauline Bellisle Foures,
wife of a junior officer. She became known among his
troops as "Napoleon's Cleopatra." Tired and discouraged,
he wrote to his brother Joseph:
veil is torn
It is sad when one and the same
heart is torn by such conflicting feelings for one
I need to be alone. I am tired of grandeur;
all my feelings have dried up. I no longer care about
my glory. At twenty-nine I have exhausted everything."
this letter was captured by the British, who gleefully
published it in the London papers. Now all of France
knew of Napoleons changed feelings for Josephine.
Mortified, she hid herself at Malmaison.
finally returned to France in October 1799, after a
year away. Josephine tried to intercept him on his return
journey, but they missed each other in travel and when
he arrived at her house she was not there. He ordered
servants to take her possessions away. When she finally
arrived she was at first refused entry, but she pushed
past the servants and ran to Napoleons room, where
she collapsed outside his locked door, weeping. The
accusations, pleas and shouting lasted for hours, but
by dawn they were in each others arms again. Josephine
would never take another lover, but from that point
on Napoleon felt free to do as he pleased with other
February 1800 Napoleon became First Consul, and the couple
moved into the Tuileries Palace. Napoleon began to flaunt
am not a man like others and moral laws or the laws
that govern conventional behavior do not apply to
me. My mistresses do not in the least engage my feelings.
Power is my mistress."
couple was crowned Emperor and Empress in 1804, and
lived peacefully for two years.