He was an ambitious man with a vision. Napoleon was bullied as a child and few thought that he’d succeed with his temperament. As a young solider, he was not a successful lover. Yet there was one woman who caught his attention and left him wanting – Josephine.
On the week of Valentine’s, here is just one of Napoleon’s loving letters to the heart of his life.
I have not spent a day without loving you; I have not spent a night without embracing you; I have not so much as drunk a single cup of tea without cursing the pride and ambition which force me to remain separated from the moving spirit of my life.
In the midst of my duties, whether I am at the head of my army or inspecting the camps, my beloved Josephine stands alone in my heart, occupies my mind, fills my thoughts.
If I am moving away from you with the speed of the Rhone torrent, it is only that I may see you again more quickly.
If I rise to work in the middle of the night, it is because this may hasten by a matter of days the arrival of my sweet love.
Yet in your letter of the 23rd, and 26th. Ventose, you call me vous. Vous yourself!
Ah! wretch, how could you have written this letter? How cold it is?
And then there are those four days between the 23rd, and the 26th.; what were you doing that you failed to write to your husband? …
Ah, my love, that vous, those four days made me long for my former indifference. Woe to the person responsible!
May he as punishment and penalty, experience what my convictions and the evidence (which is in your friend’s favor) would make me experience!
Hell has no torments great enough! Nor do the Furies have serpents enough! Vous! Vous!
Ah! how will things stand in two weeks? … My spirit is heavy; my heart is fettered and I am terrified by my fantasies…
You love me less; but you will get over the loss. One day you will love me no longer; at least tell me; then I shall know how I have come to deserve this misfortune. …Farewell, my wife: the torment, joy, hope and moving which draw me close to Nature, and with violent impulses as tumultuous as thunder. I ask of you neither eternal love, nor fidelity, but simply…truth, unlimited honesty.
The day when you say “I love you less”, will mark the end of my love and the last day of my life.
If my heart were base enough to love without being loved in return I would tear it to pieces.
Josephine! Josephine! Remember what I have sometimes said to you: Nature has endowed me with a virile and decisive character. It has built yours out of lace and gossamer. Have you ceased to love me?
Forgive me, love of my life, my soul is racked by conflicting forces. My heart obsessed by you, is full of fears which prostrate me with misery…I am distressed not to be calling you by name. I shall wait for you to write it.
Farewell! Ah! if you love me less you can never have loved me. In that case I shall truly be pitiable.
In the end they were separated. She died alone and after he married.He visited her home, Château de Malmaison near Paris and cried at the thought of her death and their failed relationship.
While Napoleon’s mistresses had children by him, Joséphine did not produce an heir, possibly because of either the stresses of her imprisonment during the Reign of Terror or an abortion she may have had in her 20s. Napoleon ultimately chose divorce so he could remarry in search of an heir. In March 1810, he married Marie Louise, Archduchess of Austria, and a great niece of Marie Antoinette by proxy; thus he had married into a German royal and imperial family. (1)
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Lots of love,