She was born in 1763 in Martinique (near the Caribbean Sea), where her French parents had a large sugar cane plantation with 500 slaves. Therefore, she was a Creole girl.
His father was of noble origin, but also a compulsive gambler, and the family had financial problems. An aunt arranged her marriage to Alexander, a wealthy man, Viscount of Beauharnais. Josephine married in Paris, she was 16 years old.
Of course, her move to Paris was not easy. Her husband hated her provincial manners and her little culture. He was always travelling on military campaigns and she had other lovers (in fact, she was called ‘the vicious Creole girl’. They had two children, Eugène and Hortense, but the husband wanted a divorce and he paid a man who accused Josephine of infidelity (he was a slave of Martinique and he received the equivalent of 5,000 $).
Afterwards, Josephine and her two children went to live to an abbey where she met other women in her same situation. They were difficult years which served Josephine to study and to learn the refined manners of the other divorced ladies.
In 1785, Josefina’s father died and she returned to the Caribbean Sea to take care of her possessions. In 1789, when the French Revolution broke out, Josephine was still in Martinique while her husband was gaining political influence. He was a successful military fighting against the enemies of the Revolutionary France.
She lived quietly until 1791, an uprising of slaves in Martinique (they wanted the same “equality” as the French Jacobins) made her to return to Paris. There, she reconciled with her husband ‘at times’. All was perfect until Alexander and his troops lost a battle against Prussia (in the town of Mayenne). Then, the Jacobins (especially Robespierre) recalled that he was a noble and he is imprisoned… Josephine too (in the terrible prison of Carmen).
In 1793, Alexander is guillotined but Josephine was saved thanks to their ‘contacts’ (don’t forget, she was called ‘the vicious Creole’). When Robespierre was guillotined, she recovered her freedom.
But Josephine kept her powerful sexual friends and she met the young general (6 years younger than her), Napoleon Bonaparte. He was keen to marry a “real” French, as he was from Corsica, and he had resorted to several widows who had rejected him (at that time, Napoleon hadn’t got money and women didn’t find him attractive).
Napoleon was always in love with Josephine, but not her, but she sensed his future promotion and married him, being unfaithful on numerous occasions. At least until he was emperor in 1804.
Then, things changed. The former general of Corsica became the most powerful man in the world and he wanted his revenge. Cheats and fights were constant… Josephine could not longer give an heir to Napoleon.
In 1810, with many doubts and political pressures, Napoleon asked for a divorce and married the Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria for strategic conveniences (to make peace with Austria).
Josephine retired to his chateau in Malmaison, near Paris, and she lived in luxury and ostentation cultivating roses (there is a rose with her name).
Witnesses said that the last Napoleon’s word was ‘Josephine’.
Hortense, Josephine’s daughter, will be the mother of Napoleon III.
Life takes many turns!