Eight months prior to Napoleon’s beseeching and, by turns, chastising letter from Verona, Marie Rose Josephine Tascher de la Pagerie, a thirty three year-old widow from Martinique, marries the then twenty seven year-old officer of the French Army.
The marriage is not a love match per se, but one marked by passion and enmity in equal measure. Later they will share the affection of old friends, but on this November day Napoleon suffers beneath the rumors of Josephine’s affair with Hippolyte Charles, a handsome lieutenant in the Hussar regiment.
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Problem is, the pre-Emperor Napoleon is intensely smitten with his sophisticated and vivacious wife. “As for me,” he says, “to love you alone, to make you happy, to do nothing which would contradict your wishes, this is my destiny and the meaning of my life.” His burning fire for all things Josephine, however, earns him much despair during the early years of their marriage. He writes her letters of which she rarely answers. He agonizes and pleads for the proof of her ardor and turns furious when he doesn’t receive it. In many ways he is as fickle a lover as she.
Paranoid and oppressive, his romantic intensity later results in his own affairs, but throughout his life, he does exhibit a rare devotion to her that can never be felled by the chaos surrounding them. Even after their divorce and his subsequent remarriage to the Grand Duchess Marie Louise of Austria, he writes her letters and shows concern for her well-being. He even goes to his death with her name on his lips: “France! . . . Armée! . . . Tête d’armée ! . . . Josephine!”