Beauharnais, Hortense de

BORN 10 Apr 1783, Paris - DIED 5 Oct 1837, Arenenberg (castle), kanton Thurgau
GRAVE LOCATION Rueil-Malmaison, Hauts-de-Seine: Église Saint-Pierre Saint-Paul, 4 Place de l'Église

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 Geneva 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. Although all Bonapartes were banned from France, she met king Louis-Philippe, with whom she had been friendly in 1815, in Paris. 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.

• Mother: Beauharnais, Joséphine de
• Son: Napoleon III Bonaparte
• Son: Morny, Charles Auguste Louis Joseph, Duc de
• Brother: Beauharnais, Eugène Rose de, Duke of Leuchtenberg

Related persons
• was visited by Byron, George Noel Gordon
• was painted by Duclaux, Antoine
• was visited by Dumas, Alexandre (père)
• was the lover of Flahault de la Billarderie, Charles de
• was painted by Gérard, François
• was painted by Girodet de Roussy-Trioson, Anne Louis
• was visited by Liszt, Franz
• was adopted by Napoleon I Bonaparte
• was a friend of Ver Huell, Carel Hendrik

2/7/1788Joséphine de Beauharnais leaves for Martinique. She had her daughter Hortense with her and left on the ship Sultan. The ship was almost wrecked when it was still on the river Seine. [Beauharnais, Joséphine de]
11/8/1788Joséphine de Beauharnais reaches Martinique . She visited the island where she was born with her daughter Hortense. It was the last time that she would set foot on Martinique. [Beauharnais, Joséphine de]
10/7/1810The Kingdom of Holland becomes part of France immediately by an imperial decree [Napoleon I Bonaparte]
19/7/1815Hortense de Beauharnais and her sons leave Paris for Geneva. Napoleon had surrendered himself to the English four days before. They stopped at Aix-les-Bains. [Napoleon III Bonaparte]
7/12/1815Hortense de Beauharnais settles near Lake Constance in Switzerland. Her son Louis-Napoleon was with her. [Napoleon III Bonaparte]
11/1/1817Hortense de Beauharnais buys the Castle of Arenenberg 
26/4/1831Hortense de Beauharnais secretly speaks with king Louis Philippe. It happened in Paris at the time she was the wife of a Bonaparte and all Bonapartes were banished from France. But in 1815 she and Louis Philippe had been friends. 
12/6/1837Louis Napoleon Bonaparte leaves the USA. He had a good time in New York, but he received a letter from Switzerland from his dying mother Hortense. On the back Dr. Conneau had written 'Venez, venez!'. He decided to return to Europe and boarded on the ship George Washington for London. [Napoleon III Bonaparte]
10/7/1837Louis Napoleon Bonaparte disembarks in London. He had returned from the USA because his mother Hortense was dying in Switzerland. He travelled incognito to Switzerland where he reached Hortense two month before her death. [Napoleon III Bonaparte]
4/8/1837Louis Napoleon Bonaparte reaches his dying mother Hortense. The French government had tried to prevent him from travelling from London to the continent. His friend Persigny helped him to a Swiss travelling permitted for 'Mr. Robinson'. After shaking off French agents he travelled to Rotterdam and then to Arenenberg, where his mother was living. [Napoleon III Bonaparte]
8/10/1837Funeral of Hortense de Beauharnais at the church of St-Pierre-St-Paul at Rueil-Malmaison. Her mother Joséphine was buried there as well. 


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)


• Bierman, John, Napoleon III and his Carnival Empire, Sphere Books, London, 1990
• Knapton, Ernest John, Empress Josephine, Penguin books, Harmondsworth, 1974
Winkler Prins Encyclopedie (editie 1909), 1909
Life and Reign of Napoleon III -

Beauharnais, Joséphine de

Published: 11 May 2008
Last update: 25 Apr 2022