What happened to Josephine Bonaparte? The ‘Napoleon’ character explained!


By historical accounts, Napoleon Bonaparte held a great affection for Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, although not enough to permit her to retain her original name, opting instead to rename her Josephine. Love’s manifestations differ vastly among individuals, after all.

Marie, the inspiration behind Ridley Scott’s depiction of Josephine portrayed by Vanessa Kirby in “Napoleon,” entered the world on June 23, 1763, born to a family involved in the sugar plantation business. The sugar market of the late 1700s mirrored the volatility of the NFT market today—a surplus of product and meager profitability. With abundant sugar and a scarcity of dental care, Marie’s teeth reportedly resembled a sequence of valuable but deteriorating dominos.

Despite this, she married Alexandre François Marie, her aunt’s former lover’s son, after his initial choice (her older sister) passed away, and his second choice (her younger sister) was, indisputably, too young at 12. Their union resulted in two children and eventual separation due to Alexandre’s infidelities and his execution by guillotine in July 1794.


In 1795, Marie crossed paths with Napoleon Bonaparte, a military figure six years her junior, profoundly enamored with her, notably her deteriorating dental condition. He rechristened her “Josephine,” a name that stuck. Despite their differing ages, they became engaged in January 1796 and married two months later, fudging details to minimize the age gap.

Napoleon held an evident fondness for his wife, often expressing it publicly. However, his discontent grew as Josephine failed to produce an heir, particularly significant as Napoleon amassed power. Despite their shared extramarital affairs, including Napoleon’s liaison with Josephine’s lady-in-waiting, tensions arose regarding the absence of an heir. Napoleon eventually divorced Josephine in 1809 in pursuit of an heir, remarrying Marie-Louise of Austria, aiming primarily for offspring.

Josephine lived comfortably after the divorce, while Napoleon constantly ruminated on her death, deeply affected upon receiving news of her passing in 1814. Napoleon’s sorrow was profound, evident in his isolation and grief-stricken state after Josephine’s demise.

Even on his deathbed on May 5, 1821, Napoleon’s thoughts lingered on Josephine, a testament to their enduring and complex relationship that left an indelible mark on the French leader till his final moments.