On This Day in Napoleonic History – 13 May 1976

17Josephine lies to Napoleon about being pregnant

To avoid a journey to Italy to join her husband, Josephine told Murat she was pregnant. When Napoleon found out, he couldn’t be happier. ‘Would it were possible that I might have the happiness of seeing you with your little belly. Soon you will give life to a being who will love you as much as me. Your children and I, we shall always be around you to convince you of our care and love,’ he wrote to his wife.

It is possible that Josephine had a phantom pregnancy or a miscarriage. It is also possible that it was nothing more than a cruel ploy to avoid leaving Paris, where she had many amusements, including a very public affair with a dashing lieutenant in a Hussar regiment, Hippolyte Charles, who was nine years younger than her. ‘You would be mad about him,’ she wrote about Hippolyte to a friend – in stark contrast to the disdainful manner in which she spoke of her husband.

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