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O 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. Since I left you, I have been constantly depressed. My happiest is to be near you. I live over in my memory your tears, your affectionate solicitude the charms of the incomparable Josephine kindle a burning and a glowing flame in my heart.


Napoleon and Josephine are known as the great love affair in history.


They're up there with Anthony and Cleopatra. They're even up there with Napoleon's nemesis.


Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton. And the great thing about this relationship.


Is we know the intimate details of.


It because of hundreds of passionate letters he sent to her over the years.


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.


There's an apocryphal story that as a young girl growing up in the Caribbean island of Martinique, a fortune teller told Josephine that one day she'd be Queen of France more than a queen. Whether that really happened or not, I suspect fortune tellers told young girls they'd be queens quite a lot. However, on this occasion, it did actually come true. In Napoleon's new world order, josephine became the first empress of the French.




She was born in June 1763. She arrived in continental Europe as the young wife of a politician, Alexandra de Bojame, with whom she had two children. She'd been married at just 16. She'd found her husband unfaithful on multiple occasions, and while living in France, they soon divorced.


In 1794, at the height of the.


French Revolution's terror, alexandra was arrested for treason. Josephine was thrown into prison. In the end, he was sent to the guillotine, but she managed to negotiate her release. After the Revolution, Paris was perhaps a.


Little bit like certain places after the.


First World War, a time of sexual liberation, renewed prosperity and freedom. The ordeal had been a terrible one for Josephine. To deal with the trauma that she'd been left with, she and other survivors lost themselves in debauchery socializing and sex. Josephine became a mistress, a courtesan to rich men. She was glamorous, she was smart. She was alluring. She had an elegant figure with a magnetic aura, though it said she had bad teeth, she made sure that she only smiled rarely. She had several strategic affairs with influential political figures. But as she got older, passing 30, she knew she had to secure her future. The men she was having dalliances with weren't interested in marriage, she had to look elsewhere. It was in 1795 at a ball hosted by Paul Barrass, one of the most important men in France, and her sometime lover that she met, a 26 year old stocky Corsican, Napoleon Bonaparte. Supposedly, Barras wanted rid of Josephine because she'd grown accustomed to a lavish lifestyle and she was burning through his money. She was looking for a man who could support her. And Napoleon was looking for an experienced, aristocratic woman who could help smooth his way into the upper echelons of politics and society.


It may have started as a relationship of convenience, but it wasn't long before Napoleon was smitten. You're listening to episode three of our series on the great French commander and the subject of the new Ridley Scott movie that everyone's talking about. Today we're delving into Napoleon's love life with Josephine and other lovers who occupied.


His attention when he wasn't on the battlefield.


There was only one woman who I.


Could call on to do this episode with, a woman who I got to.


Know as a matter of convenience, but with whom I am also now smitten.


And that is the incredible Dr. Kate Lister.


She's a sex historian and she's the host of our sister podcast, Betwixt the Sheets.


She and I met fittingly in a former lace factory in the East End.


Of London to poke around into Napoleon's private life.


Kate, welcome to the show.


Hi, Dan. Thank you for inviting me onto the show.


Good to see you. Now, this will not come as a surprise to you, but I was a serious loser, bad hair, friendless, teenager, 14 year old in particular. And so I feel I got some empathy for these struggling despots of history. What was Napoleon? Because Napoleon did not have an easy Tween age early teenage life. Right.


I mean, he came good in the end, sure, but he conquered everything. He made up for it.


Right. But as a kid, he's from Corsica. We'd have had a strange accent. He was from a bit of a rough aeroscapic background, but he would have been at school with loads of people that were much posh than him. What was that like?


It was rough for him. It was rough. He was quite awkward, he was quite clunky is sort of the only word that I can think of, is when people very relatable, when people write about him, he's kind of scruffy, he's kind of awkward, he doesn't quite fit in. And it's not just the accent that makes him stand out and the fact that he does it's not quite an impoverished background, but by the standards of the people he was running with, he was practically a peasant. That all made him stand out. But he wasn't great at talking to people. He wasn't blessed with the gift of the gab and endless charm.


Okay, I'm going to come to an expert here, dating expert girls like the talking thing, don't they do? Right? Was he successful in his first romantic adventures?


They also like the imperial conqueror thing.


Oh, yeah, that's fine.


It came post ostalitz.


He could pull anyone. What about upfront? What about beginning?


Right. He writes a lot in his diaries. So we have got the sources about his earliest sexual encounters. And like many young men in France, Napoleon lost his virginity in a brothel.


He's a teenager at this point. Is he?


He's 18, he's 1818 and running around Paris.




But what's interesting about it is he seems to have a real aversion to sex and sexuality. He is really uncomfortable around it, whereas his peers were just, let's go, let's do it, you can't get them out of the brothel. He writes about it, that he's really upset that he can't stay away from this. Debauchery is the word that he uses.


He's quite serious minded, isn't he?


Very serious.


He thinks he's one of the great world historical figure, even as a teenager, and therefore I got the physicality. The muckiness of sex is kind of freaking.


He thinks mucky is a good word for it, but he's also desperately attracted to it. So the time he manages to lose his virginity, he picks up a sex worker on the street and he writes about this in his diary, like he's recording an experiment. It's the weirdest thing. And the way he talks to her and this is from his own perspective, this is his best slant on it. You read it and you just think, you are a strange, strange duck, Napoleon. So he goes up to this. First of all, he spots her and he thinks that she's more bashful than all of the others, so that appeals to him. Right. And then he says that he's usually disgusted by them, that he's usually, like, so revolted, they even look at him. He feels sick, but for some reason, this time he's going to go for it. So he goes over to her and his opening line is, don't you think you could be doing something better to earn your living? And he then proceeds to interrogate about, where did you come from? How did you end up like this? Would you like to be doing something else?


And then he finishes it off with this weird phrasing of like, let's go back to my hotel so you can get your satisfaction, or something. Like treat yourself right. You lucky, lucky girl, getting to have a go on this. And he was a virgin and he draws a kind of a discreet veil over it of exactly what happens. But that's how he lost his virginity. Just going up to this girl on the street and going, you could be doing something better else with your time. Do you fancy a go on this, you're lucky duck?


That is so interesting.


Weird, isn't it?


I love it.


It's weird.


So the French Revolution has started. He's kind of knocking about. He's slightly unsure what's going on. But there are opportunities. There. Are there opportunities sexually for him as well?


There would have been for other people. You're better looking if he'd been more in a mind to actually indulge. But you get a sense from him that he's this really earnest young man, and he does have sex. He writes about it. It is a transaction. He's paying for it, but it's very transactional. And I sort of get a sense from him and I might be wrong on this, but a sense from him that he views sex as this kind of this very weak distraction that lesser men are concerned with. And he almost prides himself on being above that. He's not, because he indulges, but he views it. And people enjoy sex as being weak and distractable.


But you've literally written a book on that, which is why do we humans find sex so difficult, given that we all do it, we're all a product of it, but we find it so difficult to rationalize, particularly if you see yourself as, like, an important rational being who's trying to change the world and a figure of the Enlightenment. And yet this sex is something that he wants but is totally embarrassed by.


I think it comes from reading it in opposition to so you've got this opposition of emotion and sex being that and ration and reason and philosophical thought, and they're often gendered as being it's women that are emotional and seductive, and it's men that are sensible and have sensible thoughts. And that was very much in the mix in Enlightenment thinking. And he was very much a product of Russo's philosophy, although Russo certainly didn't deny himself sex when he wanted it. But I think he viewed himself as a creature of logic, reason and rationale, and he viewed sex as in opposition to that.


It's really, like, almost a bit English. He's kind of coming across as a bit of a North European.


He does seem very uncomfortable with it. But then he channeled all of it into conquering the world, didn't he? So maybe there's lessons for all of.


Us here I'm interested in. The film really hangs around this relationship between Napoleon, Josephine, doesn't it? And right from the beginning, you get a sense that Josephine is sort of tolerating this kind of awkward, jumped up figure.


Yeah, you do. And a lot of their history and the mystery that surrounds them is often packaged as that, is that Napoleon was the one that was really invested, really intense, really over the top, to the point where a restraining order might be might be required at some point, and that Josephine is framed as being much cooler to this. She was older than he was. She was 32 with two kids, and he was 26. And it's often framed as almost that Napoleon was the last chopper out of Saigon for her, that she had to there was nothing else on offer and I never liked that framing of it.


But that's interesting. Is it? Because, yes, she had been the lover of other senior revolutionary figures and she kind of ended up with this Corsican because she was sort of falling from favor a little bit.


I have heard that and I've read that and I know why people say that, but I also think she had a lot going for her. She was renowned as an absolute beauty, but more than that, she was charming and she was funny and she was intellectual. She was one of those people that just exudes charm and she absolutely captivated any room that she was in. I think that she could have found other opportunities. But you've also got to frame it within the fact that, well, she is a single mom with two kids, she's making her money by hustling, isn't she? It's useful to think of it, I think, in terms of being a courtesan.


So she's older than him, she's narrow, scratch, she's done a lot of living.


She has. And her name wasn't Josephine. No, she's gotten down in history as Josephine, but Josephine was Napoleon's name for her. Her name was Maria and she went by Rose before she met just that was her name. One of her middle names was Joseph. Joseph. So I think that he but he basically just went, I now give you a new name. Your name is now Joseph.


That's extraordinary. So I wonder if that was him trying to say, let's have a blank slate. You've lived, you've loved, you've suffered. I'd like you to be someone different now.


It's a hell of a flex, isn't it, that you date somebody, you sleep with someone and then you go, I'm going to change your name. I'm your name is now Steve. But it might have been that. I mean, that's quite I'd never thought about it before as a way of drawing a line under everything that had gone before that she has a new identity, she's a new person to him. Whatever it was, she didn't seem to fight it and she's certainly gone down in history as Josephine, but that was his name for her.


How did they meet?


They met after the French Revolution. It became weirdly fashionable for people who had survived it to get together again, like a post traumatic stress thing. They would have balls and they would call survivors balls. And in the film, you see her with her hair cropped really short. In the beginning, that was very fashionable amongst aristocratic women that had escaped the guillotine because obviously they'd cut all their hair off before they went to the guilty. And you see her with the choker on as well. That was like a status symbol because it represented the blade, which is kind of ironic. You could still see them today. Ruby chokers like these cost millions and millions of francs, symbolizing the revolution of people that got executed for having millions and millions of francs. But anyway, she was there holding court. She was the mistress of a very, very wealthy man. And Napoleon was there too, and he was absolutely entranced by her.


And in the film, that moment is portrayed as a very awkward, supremely talented, sort of troubled genius coming in in his uniform to this party where there's all these sophisticated people hanging out and being cool and they have this moment of chemistry.


I love that in the film where he just kind of goes, I've got an army.


I'm really impressive.


I'm really impressive.


Maybe not in this exact context, but I am.


And she just walks right up to him, don't she? And she says, you were staring at me. And he doesn't even realize that he was. We don't have any records of exactly what that exchange was, but it's often framed as she needed him, she needed his money, she needed his parishes influence. He needed her too, because she was very well connected and she knew people and people liked her. He was very awkward and he wasn't I mean, he was great at rallying his troops and he was great at military tactics and love letters, phenomenal. But just meeting people, people walking around and just charisma. He wasn't great at that, but she was so she had all these connections. She could introduce him to people, she could finesse him. He needed her as well. And I think that he was just one of many, many men that fell.


For Josephine because her background was quite aristocratic. So before the revolution, she was part of France's ruling class. I mean, she has a tough revolution.


She has a very tough revolution. She was one of many aristocrats that was rounded up and kept in jail just waiting. They didn't know if they were going to be executed. They didn't know when they were going to be executed. People would come in and just take them out of the jail each day and they'd just and these conditions in these jails are horrendous. It's just loads of people, men, women, everyone piled in. They don't have enough food, it's dirty, it's crowded. And she was in there for a long time. Her husband was guillotined. She didn't know if she was going to be guillotined. And one of the things that you read about a lot in these conditions now, it wasn't just in French jails all across, if you were pregnant, you'd get a stay of execution. It was called pleading your belly. And that meant that in jails, a lot of women would be trying to get pregnant. That makes perfect sense to me. So there'd have been lots of sexual immorality, there'd been lots of abuse. There's no human rights in a jail waiting to be guillotined. It would have just been horrific.


And she lived through that. And I think a much more sympathetic portrait of Josephine and maybe lots of people went through that is that this is a woman dealing with what we'd probably call post traumatic stress disorder and.


Coming out of prison. She's alive, but her status in society is now dependent on powerful men.


Well, it is so she's an aristocrat. So it's going to be very difficult for her to go and get a job working down the supermarket, for example. She doesn't have that option to her, she has got a little bit of money. She's relying on aristocratic friends. But really what she needs is a wealthy protector. That was just the way this system worked. I think that she could have had other options. Everyone was entranced by her. I think that she loved Napoleon a lot more than is often allowed. I really do.


Or she saw something. She knew he was going places. Yeah, she backed him.


I think Josephine was an amazing hustler. That's what I think. But I do think that she loved him. We often frame it as that she didn't love him as much because we don't have as many of her love letters to him surviving. What we've got is endless letters from Napoleon going, why won't you write to me? You haven't written to me. It's really funny. He's like a petulant teenager, and we never get the letters back from her.


Well, speaking of those letters, we've got some right here. I'm going to read you one of Napoleon's love letters.


Here we go.


Or maybe a couple. So buckle up. December 1795. So early on. So he's not like an all conquering hero. He's doing all right at this stage. Sweet and matchless josephine, how strangely you work upon my heart. You start at midday. In 3 hours I shall see you again. Till then, a thousand kisses midolciamori, but give me none back, for they set.


My blood on fire.


He's good in. He is good.


I mean, it's bit clockworky. I mean, what's going on pre midday?


He writes to her obsessively, like, all the time. He writes to her about how he's thinking about her all the time. Then he hopes she's thinking about him. And I know it's been 2 hours since I wrote you off, but now I'm going to write you again. He can't stop it. He is obsessed with this one would.


Have been a nightmare on WhatsApp he.


Would he really would.


Okay. November 21, 1796. So his career is progressing. A kiss on your heart. And one much lower down.


Much lower.


I'm going to bed with my heart full of your adorable image. I cannot wait to give you proofs of my ardent love. 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. Ala Creole. You know that I will never forget the little visits.


You know, the little black forest.


I kiss it a thousand times and wait impatiently for the moment, I will be in it. To live within Josephine is to live in the Elysian Fields. Kisses on your mouth, your eyes, your breast, everywhere. Everywhere. You're the expert.


What do you make of that? I think he was actually quite a good lover. You know, in his letters, he writes a lot about kissing her down, down, way below and about kissing her little black forest. You have to remember, these are letters, right? Just because he's writing it doesn't mean Josephine might have been there just going, well, that was a lot of promising for nothing. But if we believe his letters, he's very intimate. I think that we're often surprised by people in the past having the kind of sex that we have today. But why wouldn't they? I think he's a giver, not a taker. He seems to be absolutely devoted to this woman.


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And, famously annoyingly, the one letter that everyone's heard of, which is when he tells her not to wash. You haven't been able to stand that one up, have you?


I wish that was true, because it's such a good line and I think it really gets to just the visceral, fleshy realness of sex that I'll be in Paris in three days. Don't wash or don't bathe, or something that's attributed to him. I can't find that actually in one of his letters. I can find historians that write about it. But when you go through their sources, they've got another historian and another book and it might exist and I've just not said, but I've never actually seen.


Doesn'T have the Caitlist of Seal of.


Approval, but he does write I want to kiss you down down below and talk about kissing her little Black forest. So just because he didn't say that doesn't mean that that's not something that he was interested in.


Did he have a nickname for her vagina?


He did. Baron de Keppen.




Which is really and it's really funny, but it's like a really sweet, intimate thing that shows a really playful part of him. Mind you, I don't know who Baron de Keppen was.


No, there might be a whole story there.


It might not have been a nice, playful thing at all.


If anyone knows, please let us know. We'd love to hear your thoughts on Baron de Keppin. What is interesting, it would not be the first couple this has happened to, or, I suspect, the last. As soon as they get married, their relationship seems to get slightly more fraught, bit less sexy. They get married in March 1796. And there's a letter here in which he says, I have your letter the 16th and 21st. There are many days when you don't write. What do you do then? I'm not jealous, but sometimes worried. Come soon, I warn you. If you delay, you will find me ill. Fatigue and your absence are too much. Your letters, the joy of my days and my days of happiness are not many because he's busy fighting the Austrians in Italy. He's not having a happy time. But is that a sense that she's not as into him as he was into her?


We've got a lot of letters from Napoleon to Josephine like that. He's really upset that she hasn't written to him. And it's a really interesting insight into this. A brilliant military tactician. And some people think of as a tyrant, but a leader. And then you've got these letters where he becomes very much like a child. He said, Why haven't you written to me? Write to me. Please write. And he gets increasingly angry with her. And that bit of I'm not jealous, I'm just a bit worried.


Yeah, honestly. Not jealous.


Not jealous.


Later that year, he writes, I don't love you anymore. On the contrary, I detest you. You're a vile, mean, beastly slut. 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. And then slightly later in the letter, he goes, soon I hope I'll be holding in my arms. Then I will cover you with a million hot kisses burning like the equator.


He's all over the place, isn't he?


It's all over the place.


It's the Napoleonic equivalent of leaving a message on red, isn't it? And then not getting Batchy. It is frustrating, but he gets that level of anger at her. But we'll never know if that was that playful. Was that like an in joke? Or did he genuinely mean to call his wife a detestable slut because she wouldn't write to him and because he.


Was actually worried about her having sex?


Well, he was perhaps right to have been.


So what's going on at her end? What do we think is happening?


She had an affair with a lower level well, much lower, napoleon, because he was the top, but a lower level army guy called Ipolita Charles, and it became public knowledge. Napoleon was very, very upset, and when she went to visit him, she traveled to see him. She actually brought Ipolita with her, which is that's an interesting move on her part, I think. But she was having affairs. It did hit the press, he knew about it, and he nearly divorced her as well.


That's right. And actually, that's portrayed in the movie, isn't it, where he's in Egypt and he does hear news, I think, from his brother, but he does hear news in Egypt that she is being unfaithful to. Yeah. Again, though, was that culturally it's France. It's France.


It's France. They're rich. Like, he's having affairs.


He was having affairs, too.


He's having loads of affairs. He had 22, at least, that we know about, really, and a fair few illegitimate children, but patriarchy. So she's the one that's held up and is castigated, and he nearly divorces her, and she has to literally throw herself at him and beg for him to take her back.


And is it super embarrassing? Is it public?


Yeah, it's public.


Is it?


Yeah. No, it'd be embarrassing. It would for him, too. Not just for her, but yeah, there was huge public interest in this because he's the leader of the country and what? You can't even keep your wife under control. You can't even satisfy your wife in the bedroom.


It's interesting, in a way, that he takes her back.


He really loves her. He could have divorced her. He could have chucked out his family didn't like her very much. They didn't like her from the get go. That was the perfect opportunity to have divorced her, but he didn't, because he really, really did love her. And I think she could have walked away from that as well, and she didn't. She went back to him. It wouldn't have been as easy, but she could have been paid off and quietly gone and lived in a house somewhere.


And then there's the issue of sons and heirs right. Which gets dynastic and gets even more complicated, as you've often talked about when it comes to the dynamics of sex in a dynastic culture, because he becomes emperor in 18 four, and he needs to start a dynasty.


Yeah. And it becomes this huge, pressured thing. Why aren't there any babies? We need a baby. Let's have a baby. And a baby boy got to have a baby.


And she's in her late 30s or 40s by the stage.


She was 32 when they met. She'd already had two kids. Yeah, she must be must be late 30s, early 40s by this point. No babies. And there was a big thing about who is it that can't get pregnant? Who? Is it him? Is it her? His family were really angry about this and were pushing for a divorce from Josephine. They were from the very beginning. And then he gets one of his lovers pregnant. So then it becomes this haha. It wasn't me. I'm fertile. I've just proven it. It was used as a he's fertile. She's the problem. She's got to go.


And you've written and made so many podcasts about, like, sex and relationships. Complicated enough. Right. But then when you have to. Have a baby to ensure the continuity of a state of a regime, then what is that? That adds a whole level to it.


It becomes hideously transactional and about the law. And people become more like farmyard animals with animal husbandry. We're trying to breed them as opposed to any kind of romance, because now the dynasty and France is at stake here.


And it's interesting, isn't it? Like different identities. She was a lover, she was a wife, then she's an empress. And well, hang on. If you're an empress, then you've got to be a baby machine.


That's the rule. It's really ugly, but that's it. You've got to make the babies. And he stayed with her for so long, even though no babies were coming and the pressure that he was under, and even when they signed the divorce and they separated and he went off and married a 19 year old, he was still in love with her. He was still besoted with her.


And any hereditary system is difficult, but hereditary system, where you're the first you've basically nicked the crown. You're the first one. Number two is quite important. Otherwise you're just a little busted flush, aren't you?


Exactly. You've got to make those babies.


I thought the movie really captures that kind of tempestuous nature. They have these massive fights. Then she says, you're nothing without me. And then you also see her kind of working rooms, don't you? And he's being awkward and sort of genius like and she's clearly a politician, so I think they would have been a team.


They were a fantastic team, actually. And they did have a really turbulent relationship, many people did. But this was a time when people didn't really marry for love. They married, especially if you were rich. They married for political reasons, for alliances. But I think they really, really did love each other. They could have walked away from this several times over and they didn't. They had a really tempestuous relationship. And the film, I think the film does a really good job of capturing that, actually. That switch all the time between we have responsibilities to France, but we love each other, and then who's actually in charge? He says to her that she's nothing without him. And then she says, you're nothing without me, in a different scene. And it's this real tussle between them. And I think they nailed it. And what comes out of all of it is that these are two people that are just pretty crazy about one another.


What's really interesting for me, you and I have talked about this before, but how? Because the nature of people writing history and the generations that follow, they're not interested in that story, are they? So it is very hard for us to find source material for this, right? Because you have every single boot on the Battle of Australitz is recorded about exactly where it was, exactly every point of the day. But none of the kind of blokes in the mid 19th century that are writing the first draft of history care about her influence on him and vice versa. Right. It's not tough to get there.


There's always been an interest in Josephine. She was very much the It girl of the day. She was a socialite. People were fascinated by her hold over him. But no, people haven't been as interested in the did he really like to go down on a question and also.


What role she played in his regime?


And she played an absolute blinder because he viewed her as the place he would go to to I don't want to say calm down, but she was like this haven for him. She made him feel happy. And in the world that he lived in, that was pretty rare, I would have thought. If you've just been seeing hundreds, thousands of guys having their legs blown off by cannons, perhaps a bit of downtime is quite valuable.


Yeah. He's a busy guy. He's very busy and he's mentally very busy, because even in between the battles, he's like writing law codes and organizing.


Charters for the Napoleonic Code. There was a lot of good stuff that came out, the Napoleonic Code, but it wasn't particularly friendly to women. And I think that maybe Josephine plainaway influenced some of that. Like, he made husbands could divorce their wives on grounds of adultery, not the other way around. It was perfectly right for a husband to murder his wife's lover, not the other way around. So he obviously went, right, I'm going to make it illegal for you to do this ever again. And he really went town with it.


Their own little drama has played out, playing out through the rest of history.




This enduring legal code.


Exactly. And you wonder how much influence Josephine had, because he's writing to her these love letters about, I love you, I love you, love you. And then there's little bits about like, oh, I'm going into battle tomorrow. Huge military movements are being prefaced by a please write me a letter. And you kind of wonder, what influence did that have? If his head isn't in the game, if he's all, Why has it just been written me a letter? I'm not saying that's why he lost the Battle of Waterloo. I'm just saying I'm just putting it out there.


I'm creeping towards the position that insecure, terrified men should not be allowed to wield the power of life and death over the rest of us and control the course of history.


That's an interesting point. Yeah.


And 200 years later, the equivalents of Napoleon have got nuclear weapons. So that is a really exciting, really exciting thought. He eventually divorced. Now, the divorce interestingly in the movie that you get a sense that she's not quite as into it, but the divorce she is really upset about the divorce. She seems to have bought into the Imperial Mission doesn't she? That feels about right.


I don't think she had a choice. I don't actually think that either of them had much of a choice about that.


So the movie's, right, when it goes, Napoleon goes, we have to have a divorce for France. I thought that's quite funny. And he's just projecting. Well, he is, obviously. He always assumes that his fate is that of France as well. But I guess it is true. The future of the regime and stability in France did depend on him having a kid.


It did. And that's what it boils down to. And again, Josephine is often framed as, oh, poor Josephine. She got was it an old or divorced? I can't remember. But whatever it was, it was very public. It would have been very embarrassing. He's gone off so he can marry a 19 year old. I personally think that she played an absolute belter there because she got to keep the title of empress. He made sure that she kept all of her money, which, by the way, she spent like a drunken sailor. She lived in the Chateau Mamont, which was a huge palatial thing, absolutely loaded and doesn't have to have sex with a whingy husband.


What's not to like?


What's sad about that?


And there's some poor Austrian princess has been ripped out of the Habsburg palace and delivered to Napoleon, Austria's most deadly enemy. But she bears him a son.


And she didn't, like, know. She said something like, even the sight of him would make me sick, or would always torture or words to that effect. But boom, there was a baby boy. Done.


And that baby would grow up to be remembered by history as Napoleon II. Although he never ruled over France, sadly tragic life. Died back with his Habsburg extended family in Vienna. Quite young. Napoleon does take the baby to go meet Josephine. It's extraordinary.


Boundaries do not exist for this man. He's such a clutch. The idea that you've sent your wife away, your wife of 15 years, she's now living pretty much in exile. She's been nationally humiliated. So you can have this baby. You're just going to rock up at a house and go, look, this is the baby you couldn't give me TADA.


For me, that just harks back. He hasn't evolved much. First conversation with the sex worker on the street. He doesn't seem to be able to no.


Completely clueless. Right. But that's probably why he was such a good military tactician, not being clueless, but just being that pig headed, that determined that refusing to see other people's perspectives. As far as he was concerned, there's a baby. He's really happy about it. Of course she'll be happy about it. He's happy about it. That's how that one works.


I've got too much empathy, Kate. That's why I'm never going to conquer an empire.


That's it. You need the psychopath part of you.


There you go. Makes you feel better. Yeah. So he is having.


Oh, yeah, yeah. This is France. Of course he's having affairs.


He's got over his whole not willing to have sex thing, hasn't he? Well done him.


He has rather he's moved on from that. I mean, women are throwing themselves at him. But you know what? I think that he actually viewed himself as a great romantic, which he saw as slightly different from sex. I think he saw himself as making love to, especially Josephine. But he did have affairs. He had affairs because he was on campaign for a long time as well.


As Nelson said, every man is a bachelor beyond Gibraltar.


See, there you go. But, yeah, he had relationships. There was one woman known as Pauline that he had a sustained affair with on the Egyptian campaign. She became known as Cleopatra. So other people knew about this. This wasn't secret at all. So he's playing away. There were illegitimate children, some that he acknowledges, some that he doesn't. And how much Josephine knew about this at home, I don't know. I don't know what she would have done about it, even if she did.


His affair that I'm most interested in is with the Polish woman, Marie. I can't pronounce second name.




And we think that may have actually shaped his policy towards Poland. He kind of resurrects Poland as a political entity, but that was quite a serious one. They had a child as well.


They did. One of his most famous affairs was with Marie, the Polish aristocrat. And did he love her? I don't know. But it was certainly quite a famous affair. It resulted in a child, which was not good news for Josephine back home because that, again, was used as further proof that she was the problem and not him. He did acknowledge the child, but he went back to Josephine again.


I was really struck in the movie by Josephine's Dalliance flirtatious relationship with Alexander, the Tsar of Russia. I thought, look at these Hollywood filmmakers talking nonsense. Looked it up. That is actually based in a real story at the time.


It was gossip at the time.


They definitely hung out. They definitely got on really well.


They did. She was it nine years older than he was. Maybe even more than that, I'm not sure. But, yeah, they caused gossip. Yeah, they did. They hung out. They seemed to get along very well. It was an interesting move on behalf of Josephine, that's for sure.


And because, unusually, 1814 Russian troops occupying Paris, he's there. He's the all conquering hero. And they spend, like, chunk of time together.


They spend a chunk of time together in each other's house in relative ish privacy enough to get the press talking? We don't know if anything actually happened.


It must have been devastating for him, reading those reports when he was stuck on his little island.


He must have been absolutely raging. He never, ever let go of Josephine. Ever. Even when they were, I suppose, forced to separate.


Well, and death forced them to separate. Kate not wish to be too poetic here, because that's so interesting that she never saw him return to power in 1850, did she?


No, she didn't. She pegged out slightly before that, bless her.


On one theory, it was said at the time, she got cold walking around with the Tsar, trying to impress him with her off the shoulder dresses. That's malicious gossip, no doubt, but it was around that time. So she falls ill and dies at this very dramatic juncture of history.


I know she never got to see him come back. She was in her early fifty s, I think, and it was an illness that came on quite suddenly. It's probably diptheria and it's just bam. Which was alarmingly common for the time. But, yeah, Napoleon arrived back and she was gone. So sad, isn't it?


It is sad.


The reports of what he was actually like when he found out that she died, when he was a man destroyed. He was in pieces because he'd been away for such a long time, and that she died without him, and she died so suddenly and he thought he was coming back to see her. I mean, imagine that you've traveled across oceans and you've built a fleet and you've commanded ships and you've disobeyed a government, in part, to come and see this woman, and then it's, oh, sorry, she has died, actually, and he was beyond devastated.


And then without his talismanic partner, he goes and loses the Battle of Waterloo.


I love the framing of that, but I'm not quite sure.


I'm not sure she yeah, but he.


Was certainly very sad.


He was a very different man in 1815 to where he was in 18 five. He was far less energetic, far more listless. He probably could have defeated the Prussians and the Brits if he'd been a little bit shown a bit more activity, do you think, after the Battle of Leny. Yeah, but yeah, so it all contributes, no doubt.


Right. His mental state I think his mental state deteriorated what he'd been through. He had a whole lifetime of this, of political uncertainty, the instability of the political life. All right, so you're on top of the world 1 minute and everyone's cheering you and giving you flowers, but the next minute the guillotine is out and they're chasing you through the streets. The stress of that, it'd break anyone.


I think, in general, we're so poorly placed to judge these people in the past and really and trying to get inside their heads because they'd seen trauma.


Like we can't we can't even imagine the stuff that he would have seen.


From her imprisonment elsewhere.


Right. And then he sees the most horrendous things, and then the one thing that cheers him up is going out with Josephine, and she's gone.


So Josephine's gone, napoleon followed pretty soon afterwards, two stories that are contested one is that he did say Josephine on his death. What?


His last words were Josephine, it is contested. I think that it's.


You're giving me that academic look.


I am. Which is that bit where you have to be the academic come and spoil everything for everyone. I would put money on the fact he was thinking about her when he was on his deathbed. But even if it's not true, it's part of their mythology and it's part of the fact that we recognize how much he did love this woman.


And that's the fascinating thing about him. He has this reputation. He's a conqueror and he's an emperor, but the word lover is always quite close because of his relationship, which is not things you get with certain other titanic figures from history.


That's true. But I can think of a couple of Caesar.


They were all shaggers. But you don't go Caesar, conqueror, lover, even though he was an absolute Shagger.




Now, Nelson, you do, because in a way, like Nelson and Napoleon have this kind of fascinating twin narrative around being warriors but also lovers, which is Nelson.


Certainly did his affair with Emma Hamilton. He really loved her as well. Yeah. I think maybe Napoleon stands out as he's a lover and a fighter.


Yeah. Caitlin, thank you very much for coming on and telling me all about Napoleon's sex life.


It was my pleasure. Thank you for asking me.


By the early 1810s, the good times were pretty much over. Napoleon had only just survived a disastrous, a harrowing campaign in Russia in 1812, which was happening alongside catastrophic defeats in the Iberian Peninsula.


In 1813, he suffered probably his most.


Consequential defeat of all, the Battle of Leipzig. On 6 April 1814, he'd been forced to abdicate the throne and go into exile. He was in his mid 40s. He'd been exiled to the tiny Mediterranean island of Elba, just off the coast of Italy. He had technical sovereignty over this island, but it was a pale, tiny, humiliating shadow of the empire that he'd once ruled over. His second wife, Mary Louise, and their son had returned to her native Austria. And it was here they learnt of Josephine's death. On May 29, 1814, he lost his throne. He lost the only woman who later he'd claimed he'd ever loved. Since their separation in 1810, josephine and Napoleon had maintained a fond, a sentimental correspondence. When he found out she died, he locked himself in his room for two days. He was distraught. He refused to see anyone. Her death was a reminder, a kind of symbol of his past greatness. They'd endured such trials together. They'd experienced his meteoric rise from the melee of the Revolution to Emperor of France. He'd shared the news with her of the battles he'd won and those he'd lost. He'd become the man that he was, spurred on by her love.


Throughout her life, Josephine had surrounded herself with the sight and the scent of violets. Two days after his dramatic return from exile, napoleon had visited Malmaison, the private residence where Josephine had lived, and collected violets from her garden. He would wear them in a locket until his death, a reminder of their tumultuous but deep connection. The remaining years of Napoleon's life showed that he would never regain the height that he'd reached when Josephine was by his side. He'd escaped Elba in 1815, nine months after Josephine's death, he sailed the French mainland with a group of around a thousand supporters. He'd managed to recapture Paris, where he was welcomed by cheering crowds as the new king, Louis XII, had fled. But Napoleon's enemies were not going to underestimate him ever again. The moment he returned, a coalition of allies austrians, British, Prussians, Dutch, Russians, French, Portuguese prepared for war against the newly reinstated French emperor, napoleon raised a new army. His plan was to strike each of those enemy one by one before they could unite effectively against him. In June 1815, he marched into Belgium. Napoleon's troops struck the Prussian army, the.


Battle of Lin Yi, and won a.


Victory lou be Napoleon's last. Just two days later, on June 18, he fought the Battle of Waterloo.


His forces were crushed by a British.


Allied and Prussian army. On June 22, 1815, a few days after Waterloo, napoleon was forced to abdicate once again, this time for good. In October 1815, he was exiled, not to the Mediterranean, but to a remote British held island, st Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean, one of the most isolated places on earth. And it was here that he'd endure his final days. Tomorrow, in the final episode in our series, we explore Napoleon's remaining years on that rocky, isolated island. And we look at Napoleon's legacy as the sum of his parts. The commander, the emperor, the lover, the man whose very life is now a psychological concept. The Napoleon delusion. The Napoleon complex. What does Napoleon still mean 200 years later? Why are books still being written and massive movies being made? Was he brilliant or lucky? Or both? I'm joined again by Andrew Roberts, his biographer, who probably knows him best, and we're going to examine the mythology of Napoleon. Join me for our final episode tomorrow. Thank you for listening to this episode of Dan Snow's history hit. Please follow this show wherever you get your podcasts. It really helps us. You'd be doing us a big favor.


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