On This Day in Napoleonic History – 15 October 1785

17Napoleon meets Joséphine de Beauharnais

Some historians believe the future Emperor met his wife-to-be at the house of Paul François Barras, the member of the Directory and Josephine’s former lover. Napoleon’s secretary Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, however, tells a completely different story in his memoirs. According to Bourrienne, Josephine’s son Eugene presented himself to General Bonaparte in order to solicit his father’s sword. Napoleon liked the boy and granted his wish. When Josephine learnt of the kindness the young general showed to her son, she called on him to thank him in person.

Napoleon fell in love with Josephine during this first meeting and the couple soon married. Meneval, who became Napoleon’s secretary after Bourrienne, recalled that ‘Josephine was irresistibly attractive. Her beauty was not regular but she had la grace.’ Although it was true love for Napoleon, it wasn’t quite the case with Josephine, who married for security and would very soon embark on a passionate affair. Despite her initial lack of emotion towards her husband, the couple would later settle into a comfortable marriage and everyone, especially his army, would see Josephine as Napoleon’s good luck charm.

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