On This Day in Napoleonic History – 17 December 1798

Napoleon sends Lieutenant Fourès away from Egypt

Alexander Berthier gave Lieutenant Fourès his orders to go back to Paris with allegedly important dispatches. It took three months for the round trip from Egypt to Paris, which suited Napoleon perfectly, since he was conducting a very public affair with Fourès’ wife Pauline.

Napoleon met the beautiful 20-year old blonde on 30 November when he opened the Tivoli Egyptien gardens in Cairo. She had been smuggled to Egypt by her husband dressed as Cavalry Chasseur. It was 6 months since Napoleon found out about Josephine’s infidelity, and he was still heart-broken about it. When he saw  Pauline, he knew it was a perfect opportunity for revenge. Within days of their meeting the couple embarked on a relationship and the army began to call her his Cleopatra.

Unfortunately for Napoleon, Pauline’s husband’s ship was intercepted by the British the very next day and he was sent back to Alexandria. He reappeared in Cairo ten weeks before he was expected only to find his wife living with Napoleon at his palace. There was nothing for Fourès to do but divorce his wife, whom he only married a few months previously.

Soon Pauline became Napoleon’s official mistress in Cairo, acting as a hostess in his palace and sharing his carriage. Josephine knew what was going on but in view of her own infidelity she couldn’t complain. When Napoleon left Egypt, Pauline became Junot’s mistress and later Kleber’s mistress. She would eventually make a fortune in a Brazilian timber business and finally settle in Paris. She lived until she was 90.

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