HISTORY OF MODERN FRANCE
From the Pre-Revolutionary period to the 3rd Republic 1770-1870 - Part III
25 January 2023
From Martinique to Malmaison: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Josephine Bonaparte
with Chris Boïcos
Josephine Bonaparte had one of the most extraordinary careers of any woman of her generation. Born in 1763 on a sugar plantation in the West Indies she went on to become the unhappy wife of an aristocrat, Alexandre de Beauharnais, in the Paris of Louis XVIth. Scorned and separated by her husband, she was arrested and nearly executed during the French Revolution. Saving herself and her young children, Eugène and Hortense, by her own wits and her affairs with powerful politicians, she married, in search of security, a rising young general who was passionately in love with her, Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1796. From that point she went on to become the most powerful woman in France, first as the consort of the Consul of the Republic and then as Empress of the French and Queen of Italy!
In our lecture we will be presenting all the characters and context of the fascinating and turbulent historical period in which Josephine lived: Her many changes of identity and portrayals, the extraordinary circumstances that lead to her marriages, Imperial coronation, dramatic divorce and finally her sudden death shortly after the Tsar of Russia had paid his respects to her in her beloved country house and gardens at Malmaison, as the most famous woman in Europe.
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