Beauharnais, Hortense de

NOBLEMAN (FRANCE)
BORN 10 Apr 1783, Paris - DIED 5 Oct 1837, Arenenberg (castle), kanton Thurgau
GRAVE LOCATION Rueil-Malmaison: St. Pierre - St. Paul

Hortense de Beauharnais was born premature and initially her father Alexandre de Beauharnais denied that she was his daughter. Around this time he separated from her mother, Joséphine Tascher de la Pagerie. Joséphine took Hortense to Martinique in 1788. In 1790 they returned to France. Joséphine and her daughter had missed the storming of the Bastille, but in 1794 Alexandre died under the Guillotine. Joséphine narrowly escaped the same faith.

Hortense was educated at a girls' school in France. In 1796 Napoleon Bonaparte became her stepfather. At first she and her brother Eugène distrusted him, but Napoleon treated them as his own children and soon they admired him.

Hortense loved Duroc and spent the winter of 1800-1801 with him, but she was forced to marrry Napoleon's brother Louis in 1802. It was a bad marriage. Louis probably loved Hortense and Hortense probably didn't love Louis. They had three sons. The third was born in 1808 and would become Napoleon III in 1852.

Louis was king of Holland, but Hortense refused to play her part and preferred to be in France. In 1809 Louis asked his brother for a separation, which was refused. Hortense lived her own life now and in 1811 in an inn near Lake Genva she gave birth to a son whose father was Auguste De Flahault.

After the fall of Napoleon she resisted attempts of Louis to get the custody over their two surviving children. Tsar Alexander I of Russia protected her and her mother and she was created duchess of Saint-Leu by Louis XVIII. When Napoleon returned from Elba he was cold to her, but she put her children forward and he pardoned her. After the defeat at Waterloo she did follow Napoleon to Malmaison. She was no longer under the protection of Alexander now and was forced to go into exile. She lived in Augsburg and Switzerland. In 1817 she bought a country house in Arenenberg.

Hortense refused to give Louis a divorce and she ended her affair with De Flahaut. In Arenenberg she received visitors like Madame Récamier and Dumas. Her sons both supported the Italian revolutionary movement. Napoleon-Louis died of measles in 1831 and she helped Louis-Napoleon flee to France. Allthough all Bonapartes were banned from France she met king Louis-Philippe, with who she had been friendly in 1815. After consulting the king she moved on to England with her son. Louis-Napoleon settled there and Hortense moved back to Arenenberg.

In 1836 Louis-Napoleon's coup at Strassbourg failed and he was put on a ship to America. There he heard that Hortense was seriously ill and he immediately returned to Europe. He reached Arenenberg just in time to be at Hortense's side when she died.

Family
• Mother: Beauharnais, Joséphine de
• Son: Napoleon III Bonaparte, Empereur des Français
• Son: Morny, Charles Auguste Louis Joseph, hertog de
• Brother: Beauharnais, Eugène Rose de, Duke of Leuchtenberg

Related persons
• was visited by Byron, George Noel Gordon
• was painted by Gérard, François Pascal Simon, baron
• was visited by Liszt, Franz
• was adopted by Napoleon I Bonaparte

Sources
Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleon III, Josephine, Marie-Louise, Eugenie, King of Rome, Prince Imperial, Consulate, First Empire, Hundred Days, Second Empire, Napoleonic Empire

Images

The grave monument for Hortense de Beauharnais at the St. Pierre-St. Paul church in Rueil. It was placed there by her son Napoleon III.
Picture by Androom (09 Mar 1995)

 

The St. Pierre-St. Paul church at Rueil-Malmaison, where Joséphine de Beauharnais and her daughter Hortense were buried.
Picture by Androom (09 Mar 1995)

 


Beauharnais, Joséphine de

Published: 11 May 2008
Last update: 6 Jun 2010