Napoleon, you were the most celebrated and praised leader in the Western Europe history. You have revolutionised both military training and organisation, sponsored and developed the Napoleonic Code, established the enduring Concordat with the papacy, nevertheless, you have reorganised education.
You should watch this short cartoon, it puts your whole life in a different perspective, an objective one, I must say. It is similar to what Facebook is trying to do with the ‘Year in Review app’, but in a more creative and extraordinary way, suchlike your life indeed.
But, if you are curious about that Facebook app, here is the link:
But, I did not want to write in order to prise you more. I think that every historian is doing this and I do not like to touch upon your greatness. I want to talk about your love life. Yes…I know, everyone is now interested in love life in general… not just yours. But, yours is quite extraordinary, as some say that you were the first genuine playboy. Another point to put on your CV, isn’t it?
Mainly, one of the reasons that I have chosen to talk about your love life, Napoleon, is the fact that you could have any woman your heart wanted, as you were the emperor of France, not a mere peasant. But, you chose Josephine, your greatest love.
Secondly, you are a letter-writer… maybe if you were to live in this era, you would have been using Snapchat, iMessages and Facebook to check if Josephine still loves you or if she’s chatting with another one. On the other hand, you are really a very passionate man, writing with emotions ranging from hatred, love, frustration, despair, anger to longing.
You met her in 1795 when you were 26 years old and Joséphine (or Rose Marie Josèphe Taschereau from Pagerie) was 32 years. I really wanted to write her full name. I find it more interesting.
There was quite a big difference between you two, but who I am to judge? As you were so charmed by her, she became her mistress shortly after your first encounter. I must say that maybe, but, maybe love at first sight is what have struck you, or it was Cupid? After just one year in 1796, you married her! Such a bold move. Congratulation! You know, all the common wedding wishes:
Your special day has come at last,
So make the most and have a blast!
Looking at your letters, dear Napoleon, your relationship was devouring, tumultuous and passionate, full of jealousy – especially towards the end of your life. You know, when we are close to death we are not only afraid that we are going to lose our life, obviously, but we are afraid that everything that we have known, everything that we have loved was really a truth? We question all aspects of our life, especially the ones that are weighting the most for us.
You often wrote to your ‘adorable Joséphine’, when you were out in campaign, sometimes immediately after you have got off your horse. This means true love! Having the person whom you love, always on your mind, always ready to share your feelings. Or, it could be a sign of a highly possessive individual, who needs to be and feel in control. Let’s try to see the better half, Napoleon. You were truly in love with her.
Unfortunately, for you, nowadays, your letters are resonating with the angry, desperate and pathetic texts, e-mails and voicemails that are typically shared on Social Media for a laugh.
I have chosen, for a start one of your most passionate letter, written days after your marriage. You were obliged to follow the French army (as you were the commander) near Italy. There, you must remember, that you have begged her to join you for your honeymoon.
Marmirolo, July 17, 1796
I 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.
Since 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 growth.
Ah! 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.
Seek 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.
I believe that this letter and not just excerpts of it can really show how you really were. You know, nowadays, everyone is taking out of context diverse aspects of a conversation, of a message, both in the manner of a text-message, e-mail or even Social Media update. But, don’t worry, I’m not going to let you be deprived of this aspect. Wait for it…
…. Your waiting time has finished! Here are ten lines or excerpts from your letters that have not only shown that your whole relationship was more than intense and shadowed by jealousy. It is a love story that varies from pure love to pure hate, sometimes both strong feelings being depicted in the same letter. Napoleon, you were, for sure, a personality.
- Just months after you have married, you wrote a very ugly letter for your wife. Let me remind you:
‘I don’t love you, not at all; on the contrary I detest you – You’re a naughty, gawky, foolish slut.’
And this was just the first sentence, Napoleon. Shame on you!
- You, indeed have multiple personalities. In the same letter, after you have blamed your wife, you have ended it in a very cheerful note:
‘I hope before long to crush you in my arms and cover you with a million kisses burning as though beneath the equator.’
- Do you remember when you have begged Josephine to join you in Milan, for your honeymoon, we have talked previously about it. This happened in April 1796:
‘I shall be alone and far, far away. But you are coming, aren’t you? You are going to be here beside me, in my arms, on my breast, on my mouth? Take wing and come, come… A kiss on your heart, and one much lower down, much lower!’
Napoleon, this is what today is called sexting… but you can think about what have you done as 18th-century sexting… where everything has started.
- You are really a ladies pleaser, aren’t you? You knew exactly what to say in order to keep the interest and love alive. We have the example right here:
‘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.’
Maybe, you are a little bit too dramatic and clingy, must I say.
- Your jealousy is in such a great place because you started to play the sympathy card. You are playing actually, the victim. The one who loves the most:
‘I 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!’
- You couldn’t stop, did you? You needed to make sure that she knows that you are nothing without her! Especially if you talk about yourself in the third person. It really makes the difference.
‘Without his Josephine, without the assurance of her love, what is left him upon earth? What can he do?’
You just are, hmm… the Emperor of almost all of Europe? But this is nonsense when we are thinking about what a valuable man Josephine makes you!
7.Why have you exploded when she did not respond? Oh, you jealous little man. If you were to live in the 21st century, this drama would have been all over Social Media, but you are lucky, it’s just this excerpt of the letter:
‘You don’t write to me at all; you don’t love your husband; you know how happy your letters make him, and you don’t write him six lines of nonsense…’
8. But what excites us the most is your dirty talk, which has made me giggle a little bit:
“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.”
9. Because you are no different, even though you are an Emperor, of the typical jealous boyfriend or husband. I have used the word jealous quite often… maybe it’s going to rise some questions about yourself.
‘Adieu, 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.’
- Does a love story really exist if your relatives have no idea of what are you really feeling? You have chosen your brother in order to confess, in your typically dramatic way:
‘The veil is torn…It is sad when one and the same heart is torn by such conflicting feelings for one person… 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.’
We came to the end of your analysis, Napoleon. It was a pleasure writing to you, indeed. But I have to illuminate you in one aspect. There are various books published with your embarrassing letters. It makes me think about the moment when you had to stay in front of the class, reading a very personal and deep essay, while your peers’ eyes were fixating yours. It is similar to a pray animal.
Poor Napoleon… British people really hated you, because they ‘leaked’ your letters in newspapers in order to humiliate you.
I’m going to leave a link to the book right here, to continue with the humiliation:
For only 20.88 £ – hardback version, because you are an emperor… you do not want the paperback version.