Empress Joséphine is most often known as the wife of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte–the irony being that neither of them were particularly French. Josephine was born and raised on Martinique, a Caribbean island in the Atlantic that had changed hands several times between major European powers during the 1700s. And Napoleon was born on the Mediterranean island of Corsica which had been Italian until its occupation by France the year Napoleon was born in 1769.
Individually they were complete unknowns in French society, somewhat barbaric, and personal wrecking balls in their own ways. And the chances of them ever meeting was so remotely small that it’s no surprise that supernatural intervention was credited, or blamed, for their eventual union. Together they become the power couple of the 1800s.
Not surprisingly, their relationship and the empire they built together eventually came crashing down around them due to the extremes of their personalities. For all of Paris society’s openness during their time, this couple had a fundamental communication problem with both of them talking past each other more often than not, enhanced by the bombastic emotions exhibited by them both.
But they came tantalizing close to running Europe for most of the 1800s, the result of which the world we live in would be an entirely different place, had they not failed during the buildup to the French war with Russia.
What if Josephine had had children with Napoleon? And what if Napoleon had ended his war with Russia with a marriage of one of his children into the Russian monarch instead of an unsustainable British embargo?
To do so, would have required that they both overcome their most base instincts—the need to prove that they belonged and the subsequent actions that were always their go-to-places when they felt that they didn’t.
Would a long happy life together have made it worth it?
Empress Joséphine | Happily Ever After
Elusive Magazine | 2020 April
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