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November 11th, 2008

8:16 PM

Joséphine de Beauharnais

I've been reading up on the life of Marie Josèphe Rose de Tascher de la Pagerie, more commonly known as Joséphine, the first Empress of France and the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. It's quite interesting - I get this impression that Joséphine is a shrewd aristocrat who, despite a period of imprisonment during the Reign of Terror, managed to bounce back and even become the wife of the great conqueror.

It's quite... sad, in a way, how the sources I've read seem to concur that Napoleon was in love with his wife more than she was in love with him. He left behind many letters, some naughty and some romantic, written to her, and he began having affairs apparently only after he learned that she cheated on him while he was away playing the little conqueror. Napoleon's final words were said to be, "France, the Army, the Head of the Army, Joséphine."

Anyway, maybe it's appropriate to end this with Tori Amos' haunting ballad Josephine, which is about a lonely Napoleon being haunted by memories of Josephine as he was off playing the soldier in a crucial moment of his vanguard.

Josephine
Performed by: Tori Amos
Words by: Tori Amos

Not tonight Josephine
In an army's strength
Therein lies the denouement
From here you're haunting me
By the Seine oh so beautiful
Only not to be of use
Impossible
Impossible

So strange victory
Twelve hundred spires
The only sound Moscow burning
Empty like the Tuileries
Like a dream Vienna seems
Only not to be of use
Impossible
Impossible

In the last extremity
To advance or not to advance
I hear you laughing
Even still you're calling me
Not tonight
Not tonight
Not tonight Josephine

PS: Napoleon had a lovely way with words, at least when it comes to his letters. Those French can be so charmingly dramatic when it comes to passion, don't you agree?

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