Josephine: Clock Owner
crowned Empress of France in 1804, was a complex lady living in
complex circumstances. Born in 1763, of the poverty stricken but
titled Tascher family in the French Isle of Martinique, she was
raised far from Paris and the courtly schools for girls of
distinction. Although she was very sweet tempered and kind, her
stance and mannerisms evoked life in plantation America rather
than the noble social circles of Paris. Another legacy of her
birthplace: her blackened and rotting teeth were a direct result
of the sugar saturated cuisine consumed during her childhood. In
spite of her noble family heritage, her first marriage to
Alexandre de Beauharnais in 1779 undoubtedly suffered because of
her husband's repulsion of her "provincial ways."
finding herself abandoned with two children, and without family
assistance, she lived for a while in a convent with other outcast
ladies of high birth. This friendly contact exposed her to the
social graces of the day, where she absorbed the rigid guidlines
of behavior like a sponge in water. Here is where she also learned
the detailed rules of extramarital interaction in Paris.
by her "apprenticeship" with women she had known in the
convent, she would lead a successful life when ultimately forced
to leave. She entered the delicate world of political and
financial liaisons as the only means available to her for
maintaining a life style suitable of her noble birth and married
name. This forced lifestyle has contributed unfairly to her
lasting reputation as a tarnished and immoral woman. In addition
to her physical charm (as long as she kept her lips sealed), her
goodness of heart and willingness to help those in need won her
many friends and connections. She became known as a woman who
helped solve difficult family problems.
French Revolution broke out, she and her husband were reunited in
prison in 1794. He went to the guillotine; she came out of it
alive, but barely so. Her prison experience was concentration camp
like, during which she endured unimaginable hardships as well as
faced the daily possibility of public execution.
probable that her former contacts had something do with her
survival, and her ordeal only served to strengthened her
convictions in her selected life style. After her release, and
without any other source of income, she continued to attach
herself socially to wealthy and influential men of her day. She
began involving herself in questionable but profitable businesses
as well. She was very happy during this time, having finally
achieved semi-financial stability, independence, a renewal of her
health and a life reunited with her children. She soon had money
enough to live a very affluent life style, which attracted the
attention of numerous men.
Napoleon during this time. He was looking for a woman of wealth
and position. She became attracted to him as he began rising in
rank and reputation within the new French government. Napoleon
fell in love with her most passionately, and it was not long
before they were married. At the time of marriage, she, however,
was neither in love with him, nor ready to relinquish her
sharpened survival techniques to a second husband of unknown
immediately after her marriage, she continued with her adulterous
behavior, making money and maintaining her social connections.
Napoleon, on the other hand, came from a large family with strong
familial loyalties. When his family met her, there was an
immediate clash of life styles. His brother Joseph began urging
his brother to leave her as soon as he met Josephine.
eventually realized he had to force isolation on Josephine to
ensure her total loyalty to him. When the time approached for him
to become crowned emperor, their marriage was in a shambles.
Marital strife and the threat of divorce in isolation backed her
into a corner of submissiveness as she was crowned Empress.
Empress, her time was filled with many state functions and duties
which she performed with great skill and she was loved throughout
Paris. She traveled all over Europe and her charm and social
graces were universally appreciated. It was at this time, in 1805
that Napoleon gave Josephine the clock which has become known as
the "Empress Josephine Clock."
Napoleon had made clear to her that it was a matter of time before
he would ask her to step aside. Having lost many of her previous
contacts, she feared for her future and was at the mercy of
Napoleon. She performed all official duties flawlessly and with
feeling. Their marriage was probably extended beyond what it might
have been because Napoleon seems to have deeply loved his wife in
spite of her lack of loyalty.
was finally pushed out of the marriage by Napoleon in 1809. He
wanted a royal heir, and soon married Archduchess Marie Louise of
Austria in 1810. Josephine's life after that was in retirement,
but was never secure. Without her former connections, she was
completely dependant on Napoleon for an annual allowance. His
remarriage, the birth of his heir, his fall and the invasion of
foreign powers were all stressful times where her future and
personal safety were in doubt.
in 1814, Josephine caught an infection and quickly died. Her adult
life had been almost completely without peace or lasting security.
The one source of happiness, her children, was a legacy she was to
leave Napoleon. Her son, Eugene served Napoleon faithfully like a
son, and her daughter, Hortense, married into the Bonaparte family
herself. Her numerous grandchildren all loved Josephine dearly at
the time of her death. She had shown them the total, treasured
love that only a special grandparent could. They were the chief
mourners at Josephine's huge funeral, which was also filled by the
many other people touched by her life of giving, helping and
this article was taken from the book "Josephine,
A Life of the Empress" by Carolly Erickson. This book is
richly detailed and wonderfully warm in its delivery style.
about Martinique, place of Empress Josephine's birth.
about Malmaison, the place of Josephine's retirement:
Legacy of Flowers
Josephine had a love of gardening, several roses have been named to
remember her and her children. Her garden at Malmaison was something
very special and had over a hundred types of roses.