June 10, 2007 cameron

#22 – Au Revoir Josphine, Bonjour Marie-Louise and the King of Rome!

Welcome back! It’s been a long time between episodes. To celebrate our return, we have a very special guest co-host – Prof. Bob Packett from “History According To Bob”! Bob is the Godfather of History podcasting. It was his show that gave me the idea to start our little Napoleon podcast and we’re very excited about having him join us. If you have never listened to his show, we highly recommend it.

In this episode we cover some of the events that happened in Napoleon’s private life during the peace that lasted from Wagram in 1809 until The Sixth Coalition in 1812, including:

  • Napoleon’s divorce from Josephine
  • His attempts to wed Tsar Alexander’s sister Anna
  • His eventual marriage to Marie-Louise of Austria
  • The birth of his first legitimate son known as the King of Rome aka Napoleon II

At the end of the show we have provided a suggested bibliography for this period, thanks to a suggestion from listener Jackm over on the forums.



Comments (40)

  1. Joshua Parker

    Hi great show as always guys,
    Nice to hear Prof. Bob. His giggles about Napoleon made him sound like a real dirty old man 🙂

    You guys talked about how the army associated its luck with Josephine. In the 1814 campaign the young soldiers Napoleon drafted to replace his fallen army of Russia became known as the “Marie-Louises'” presumably due to their youth and Marie-Louise’s youth. I wonder if that was an artificial means to manufacture that same association with luck that Josephine had with the army, and if so who was responsible for it?

    I’m not sure Napoleon’s relationship with animals was as favourable as with children, given he thrashed his horses with overwork quite often 🙂

    The best piece I’ve read on the King of Rome/”the Eaglet”/Napoleon II is this:

    This piece indicates that the King of Rome didn’t fall ill till he was about 15. But I’ve read other sources that indicate that he was always a poorly child possibly due tot he difficult labour. Certainly that’s Max Gallo’s position where Napoleon observes the child as “not very active, things with were not quite right” or something along those lines. The miniseries based on that book indicated that they thought the child was dead even after it had come out of the womb, though that is probably just dramatising. Then again if the King of Rome did grow till about 6 foot he must have been of reasonable health.

    The biography posted above conveys the idea that Napoleon II may have been every bit as brilliant as his father unlike Napoleon III at least in military affairs anyway. I think Napoleon had visions of his son growing up to inherit the kingdom of Italy (Remember Napoleon was King of Italy and had the iron crown) before later becoming Emperor of the French or the French Empire. So he gave him the courtesy title of King of Rome until he was old enough to rule over Italy.

    The Austrians seemed to treat Napoleon II pretty well. He got a quality education and was allowed to learn a lot about Napoleon after Napoleon died. He also went out into Austrian society, Metternich even let him talk with Marshal Marmont. But it seems foreign postings and leaving Austria was out of the question. When he was gravely ill and wanted to travel to Italy for the baths and what not, Metternich blocked the request. I’m not sure Metternich would have been so cold hearted to have wanted the boy to die of TB but I guess wasn’t willing to risk the boy leaving Austria. But it is sad he had such limited contact with his Mother and none with his father. Perhaps his enthusiasm for the military had less to do with similarities to his father but appealed more because it offered a disciplined style of life with a fraternity to which he could truly belong just as many young men join the military for this reason still today.

    I have trouble consoling myself with Napoleon becoming Emperor of the French and remarrying for political reasons. I really think Napoleon demonstrated an uncharacteristic level of naivety on both issues much as he continued to believe he had a strong influence over Alexander who had proven time and time again that he did not value the alliance or was prepared to comply with its terms. Napoleon waited 6 vital weeks in Moscow convinced he could persuade Alexander to peace. Napoleon believed becoming an Emperor would somehow legitimise his rule in the eyes of the other European monarchs and reduce assassination attempts on himself.Then there was the idea that tying himself to the Austrian Royal Family would protect him from them switching sides. Though in fairness they might have stuck to Napoleon if he had restored the original borders of Austria. Austria didn’t want an increasing Russian/Prussian power hold over Europe any more than Napoleon did so were prepared to join France in balancing power. Then there’s the idea that Napoleon could maintain the French Empire beyond his death if he could just have a male child. Napoleon should have known more than anyone else how easily Empires can fall if a leader is incompetent. That’s not to say that Napoleon II couldn’t have managed the French Empire well but history should have no doubt told Napoleon that it was doomed to fall at some point.

  2. Trevor Hardcastle


    Some sources say that there was another unmarried sister of Emperor Alexander I, but she got married once the plans of Napoleon became clear.

    Also, I heard that Napoleon always hinted on the murder of Emperor Paul even in his letters to Alexander I. Are you sure that this whole marriage affair was not a preperation for the Russian campaign? Had Napoleon married Russian roal princess, he could well put legitimate claims on the Russian throne, blaming Alexander in assassimantion of the Emperor Paul.


  3. Antonio

    One of the best shows ever (besides the one about the peninsular war, of course)! I felt like I started to know Napoleon in a more personal level.

    I’ve been waiting for a long time for Professor Bob to start his series on Napoleon and his participation on this show just opened my appetite!

    I only wish Professor Bob agreed to delight us with the participation in more shows – better help him installing Skype, David, those phone calls are getting too expensive!


    Lisbon, Portugal

  4. Nick

    Hi Cameron, Mr. Markham, and fellow Napoleon fans,

    I discovered the podcast a little over a month ago, loved it, and so decided to play the episodes one at a time during my daily commute. I finally (and sadly) caught up in late May, and so I had to wait along w/ everyone else for the most recent episode. well, it was worth it! another great job, and the “special guest” was a treat. and I laughed out loud when Cameron referred to Josephine as a “skanky ho.” classic.

    anyway, I can finally post some comments of my own now, and in a timely manner. most of what follows I already posted as a comment at the end of episode 21 – but I guess no one read it. 🙁

    anyway, here goes.

    A perfect tie in to episode 21, which mentioned the death of Marshal Lannes is something really neat I discovered a few months ago. I had listened to a few podcasts narrated by the Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in NY. The Director of the Met is named Philippe de Montebello. I could never quite place his accent – it sounded semi-British to me, but his last name seemed Italian, and his first name was obviously French. Well, I guess you can see where I’m going with this. The Director of one of the finest museum’s in the world is a direct descendent of Marshal Lannes! I’ve been waiting all month to post that information.

    On another note, for those who would like an alternative to the Sharpe novels, some Napoleonic fiction from the “French perspective,” I’d like to recommend a series of short stories written by, of all people, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle! They can be found in one volume under the title: “The Adventures (or The Exploits) of Brigadier Gerard.” They’re exciting, funny stories, and Conan Doyle seems to enjoy mocking British eccentricities as they would be seen from a French point of view. Cameron, I think you’d especially get a kick out of that. 🙂

    I also managed to track down what I think is the version of La Marseillaise that you play on the podcast. I could only find it as a Quicktime URL though, and I can’t figure out how to download it as a separate audio file. but I’m sure someone w/ more tech skills could figure it out. The link is:


    Last, and also least, the book Cameron recommended in episode 21 on the Letters of Napoleon is published by: “Trafalgar Square Publishing.” oh the irony!

    ok that’s it for now. sorry none of this was particularly relevant to episode 22.
    anyway, can’t wait for the next episode.

    – Nick

  5. Cameron

    Joshua, you bring up a great point – why was Napoleon II crowned “King of Rome” and not “King Of Italy”?

    Antonio – we definitely intend to get Prof Bob back on. We want to do a series of shows at the end of our linear story line where we invite noted historians onto the show to discuss and debate Napoleon. I particularly want to get a couple (like Alan Schom) who are hostile towards him.

    Nick – thanks for re-posting sir! You can save that mp3 by right-clicking on the url above and choosing “save link”. You’re right, it is the same version. Thanks for the Conan Doyle recommendation. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

  6. Cameron

    Trevor, interesting theory about Napoleon’s intention to take over the Russian throne. I’ve never read anything in his letters (or the diaries of, for example, Caulaincourt) that suggest his intention was anything other than peace between the two countries. Even during the 1812 campaign, I don’t get the sense that he was trying to place himself on the throne – he was continually scratching his head wondering why Alexander wasn’t agreeing to the peace terms.

  7. Joshua Parker

    Napoleon had close relations with Tsar Paul so he would have lamented his death and he certainly wasn’t happy that Alexander had murdered Tsar Paul (at least that was the view of Napoleon and his agents in Russia). Napoleon saw Paul’s death as barbaric, he was not fond of the manner of Lois XVI’s death either. In reality though Alexander probably didn’t have direct involvement in Paul’s murder just as Putin probably wasn’t directly involved in litvinenko’s murder. They both were probably killed by their leader’s oligarchical supporters. I’d imagine Napoleon was trying to influence Tsar Alexander in their early communications by reminding him of the fragility and limited legitimacy of his rule. Perhaps also Napoleon sought to draw analogies with himself and Alexander to achieve closer future ties; both Napoleon and Alexander rose to power in a coup of sorts and so could be described as usurpers. I think Napoleon abandoned references to Tsar Paul in later communications when he and Alexander were close.

    I’d say Napoleon didn’t want to name his son King of Italy straight away because obviously the son was too young to manage Italy for some time yet so he just gave him the nominal but related Kingdom of Rome.

  8. Joshua Parker

    Oh and if you want to save that Les Marseilles mp3 file just click the link then go tools/Page Info/Click the Media Tab/then click save as.

    That’s for Mozilla Firefox. Not sure about Internet Explorer but who uses that these days anyway 😉

  9. Nick

    Thanks for the tips on how to save the mp3 file. I feel pretty dumb. but now I can listen to that stirring anthem over and over.
    Vive L’Empereur!

  10. Trevor Hardcastle

    Cameron, you should not take what Napoleon wrote for granted, he would have never written to Alexander that he wanted to marry his sister to claim Russian throne.
    Moreover, if there is no written track of Napoleon’s intention, it does not necessarily mean than he had none. It is silly even to imagine that such a wise man would write about his real intentions or reveal them to anyone.

  11. Joshua Parker

    As Napoleon himself said “bureaucracy is the enemy of secrecy”. He only ever had a 2 secretaries who had access to his documents and in many cases there were no copies kept of orders at all.

  12. Maria

    Hi everybody. As always, fantastic podcast, but it was a little sad one, wasn’t it?
    It’s said that “the Eaglet” was the real father of Maximilian I of Mexico, one of emperor Franz Joseph’s brothers. I don’t know if that is true. But imagine… the emperor’s brother, a grandson of Napoleon! And another tragic life, ending in an execution… and in a widow driven to madness!

  13. Cameron

    Trevor, I agree he wouldn’t have written those intentions to Alexander, but I don’t think he would have refrained from writing his ambitions to Talleyrand or Caulaincourt. There is plenty of scheming and political machination to be found in his letters to his senior staff and ministers.
    On the other hand, I agree that this might have been even too sensitive for him to write it down at all. What are your sources that claim his intention was to claim the Russian throne for himself?

  14. Cameron

    Maria – you think THIS one was sad, wait until the next one when we start the Russian campaign!!!

  15. Emmanuel

    The title of King of Rome was probably derived from the title that was traditionally given to the chosen successor to the throne of the Holy Roman Empire: Rex Romanorum, King of the Romans.

    In the middle ages, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire was an elected emperor, and the title of King of the Romans was more than a courtesy title. It was used by an emperor before the Pope anointed him, and if the title was granted to his son, that was regarded as the formal approval by the electors of his succession to the throne.

    Of course Napoleon’s use of the title could be interpreted as a claim on the throne of Austria. But probably it amounted mostly to a claim to the heritage of Charlemagne and, even further back, the Roman emperors — although the title of “Rex Romanorum” was not in use at that time! (During the tetrarchy, the Roman emperors themselves did use a similar system, using ‘Augustus’ for the senior emperors and ‘Caesar’ for the junior emperors and successors.)

    As for the subtle difference between ‘King of the Romans’ and ‘King of Rome’, this was not unusual nor entirely insignificant. General being king of emperor of named people did not imply the existence of a state — hence Philip II was King of the Spanish, not King of Spain, because Spain as a political entity did not exist. Also famous is the debate about the title of Wilhelm I: He wanted to be Emperor of Germany, his subjects wanted him to be Emperor of the Germans, and Bismarck’s compromise was German Emperor.

    Hence the use of “King of Rome” instead of “King of the Romans” probably referred to the fact that — unlike the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire — Napoleon did control Italy.

  16. Maria

    Emmanuel, Spain existed as a political entity since queen Isabela of Castile…
    Could be the “King of Rome” title similar to “Prince of Whales”, or our Spanish “Principe de Asturias”? Could be the way to refer the crownprince? Napoleon was after all King of Italy.
    Yes Cameron. Russia… will be a sad thing to listen. But I will.

  17. Trevor Hardcastle

    Cameron, I came to the conclusion that the reason behind Napoleon’s desire to marry Russian roalty was to claim Russian throne because it coincides with his next move which was 1812 War. Also, I heard that Napoleon mentioned Paul’s assassination in letters to the emperor Alexander I, so he would definitely used this had he got the chance.

  18. Cameron

    Trevor, I see your reasoning. As we’ll explore in the next episode, the reasons for invading Russia in 1812 possibly had more to do with Alexander’s build-up of forces to invade Poland.

  19. Emmanuel

    Maria, I admit that I may be in error in some of the details, maybe even Philip II’s exact titelature.
    But Isabella and Ferdinand did not call themselves king and queen of Spain — they were Isabella of Castile and Leon, and Ferdinand of Aragon, respectively. Charles I/V inherited these kingdoms separately when first his grandfather and later his mother died.
    In theory, even under Philip II there was not really such a thing as a government of Spain. Legally and administratively, the kingdoms remained distinct, united only by the person of the king (and the sweeping powers of the Inquisition). The king had one council for Castile, and another one for Aragon. Generally, he was scrupulous about ensuring that laws for each of his kingdoms emerged from the right council and respected local customs — although in 1591 he was forced to order a military invasion of Aragon to suppress a rebellion.
    This Spanish monarchy was a loose confederation. There was no joint treasury, not even a joint military budget. There was a joint foreign policy in the sense that the council of Castile (the only one the king personally attended) dictated it. Much later under Philip IV, the count-duke Olivarez tried to “nationalize” the finance and organization of the army — and failed.
    This may all seem rather theoretical, as all the Spanish kingdoms shared one king. But there was at least one very practical implication: Castile, as motor of the empire, financed it, paid the highest taxes and burdened itself with most of the debt.

  20. Emmanuel

    On consideration, it seems I did get the title wrong. The king called himself not Rex Hispaniorum, king of the Spanish, but Rex Hispaniarum, king of the Spains. “The Spains” being the plurality of Spanish kingdoms. On some coins Philip II also added “and king of the new world” (et novi orbus rex).

    Of course he also used a motto that Napoleon probably would have appreciated: Non sufficit orbis, “The world is not enough.”

  21. Cameron

    oooh I like that! Scarface’s motto! I might add that to my coat of arms.

  22. Trevor Hardcastle

    Cameron, have not you thought about why would Napoleon wanted to marry a royal person? It can only be explained if he had some tricks in mind. It would have looked like what Ivan III of Russia did who married a member of Palioloque family to claim Konstantinopole and orthodox faith. So, it is the most natural thing to do for Napoleon to marry some Russian princess and later proclaim himself as the only legitimate Russian ruler. The very fact that the war started in one or two years after this proposal prooves my theory

  23. Antonio


    Now I had a vision of King Phillip II (who was also King Filipe I of Portugal, as the two crowns became united for 60 years, from 1580 to 1640) diving his nose in cocaine and shooting a rifle against armed thugs invading his mansion…


    PS: Actually, “The world is not enough” is the title of a 007 movie, if I remember well.

  24. Mike

    Cameron – just don’t add a cockroach to your coat of arms in honor of Scarface! It’s bad enough my family’s coat of arms has a cricket on it! (my last name means cricket in Italian and/or Portuguese)

    June 14, 1807-June 14, 2007
    Think I’m going to go back and listen to episode #17 to commemorate Napoleon’s victory at Friedland…

  25. Cameron Reilly

    Trevor, I think he wanted to marry a royal for the same reasons royalty has always intermarried. It was about trying to solidify his alliance with Russia. He thought that if he was Alexander’s brother-in-law, he (and France) would gain another level of security and peace.

    Antonio, you’re right! It was a Bond movie. Scarface’s motto was “The World Is Yours”. 🙂

  26. Tony

    Hi Cameron,

    Great show. I have ben subscribing via Itunes and listening each day on my daily walk. Unfortunately I have now caught up, so I’ll have to listen to some of the other podcasts while I’m waiting for another episode.

    However, my post is in response to a comment you made about the size of the listnership. This is my first time to your website, so does the figure of 20,000 count just those subscribers via your site, or also those downloading from Itunes?


  27. Cameron! Why did you mention Josephine’s black teeth! She was very self concious of her teeth and it didn’t seem to matter to Napoleon – I believe he was passionately in love with her regardless of external sexual escapades. Their marriage (as pointed out in the podcast) wouldn’t have ended if they had been able to have children. Josephine of course had early menopause because of being in jail during The Terror, so children were never going to happen. Fascinating.

  28. Just finished listening to the podcast, my very first for this channel! Was enlightening indeed.

    However, Cameron! I didn’t like you calling Josephine a Dirty Hoe *tsk tsk* – I don’t think Napoleon would have liked anyone calling her a dirty hoe. She was so much more than just an ‘older’ woman with ‘black teeth’.

    For anyone interested, there is an excellent trilogy of books that goes into great depth the love affair between Josephine and Napoleon. There are 3 in total, they are all by Sandra Gulland, the first is called Tales of Sorrow, Tales of Woe.

    The books are a diarised version of Josephines life, however Gulland researched Josephine and the Bonapartes clan for many years before writing the books, and as such they are historically correct and well worth reading.

    Look forward to the next Podcast!

  29. Maria

    Phillip II also said: “The sun never sets on my Empire”… Oh Antonio now I can’t stop to think about the King diving his nose in cocaine…

  30. Cameron

    Tony, welcome to the show! The 20,000 (it’s actually more like 26,000) is everyone coming in via all channels each month.

    Bronny, well, if the shoe fits! Okay, maybe the skanky ho comment was out of line. But I really think she treated N pretty shabbily for the first few years. As for the black teeth… I know that in those times it probably wasn’t completely unusual, but still. Ewwwww. What does being in jail have to do with early menopause??? Does that mean Paris Hilton isn’t going to have kids??? 🙂

  31. Maria

    Bronny, I’ve read Gulland’s books three times! I’ve always been pro-Josephine. There is another interesting book by Bernard Chevalier; I don’t know if exists an English translation (I’ve read the Spanish one). In French its title was “Douce et incomparable Joséphine”. I loved this book.
    Cameron, please no… Paris Hilton… A Montana-like Phillip II it’s enough! 🙂

  32. Joshua Parker

    Josephine was actually quite a nice person and was renown for her kindness and generosity. She was always granting disenfranchised people pensions, even the woman who had an affair with Josephine’s first husband.

    She was a bit of a spender though; craftsmen would come to the Tuileries to hawk their wares to her and she would rarely refuse them because she just didn’t like to disappoint people. But she never was a serious drain on the French economy like Marie Antoinette.

  33. Maria, i’ve read Gullands Trilogy so many times I feel like I know Josephine! Well maybe not quite, but i’m sure you know what I mean. I’ll see if I can locate the Chevalier book, i’m always up for more reading on this subject.

    Indeed Joshua, Josephine was reknowned for her kindness!

    Cameron, I think in terms of treating Napoleon badly in the first few years, we need to put into perspective what was going on in her life. She’d had a philandering husband, survived The Terror and had to basically rebuild her life. By the time Napoleon came along, well who could blame her for thinking of him as a ‘funny little man’.

    I do think however, that she grew to love him so deeply and passionately that to me theirs is one of the greatest love stories of all time.

    As pointed out in the podcast, the biggest issue between them was that of children.

    As for The Terror and early menopause, it’s quite well documented that menopause can be brought on by traumatic events such as what Josephine experienced. Or she could just have been unlucky and experience early menopause.

    I think we would all agree that Josephine’s jail compared to Paris Hilton would be nothing alike! LOL!

  34. Cameron

    Oh Bronny, you almost make me feel sorry for her! But not quite. She had a very public and shameful affair with Charles, hardly replied to Napoleon’s letters (I nearly wrote ’emails’!), left him out in the cold while he was the hero of France! She threw his love back in his face. It’s amazing to me that he stuck with her as long as he did. I know they must have had an a deep connection at some level, but from my perspective, he was the romantic, and she treated him very shabbily. Once he became a Consul and Emperor she treated him better but probably out of self-interest. She didn’t want to lose the lifestyle. I just cannot find anywhere in his letters to her any indication that she really saw him as anything more than a ticket.

  35. Well, friends, as usual I’m late to the party. But its fun to read all the postings, so keep ’em coming.

    The title “King of Rome” was chosen for several reasons, not the least of which was Napoleon’s strong interest in the history of ancient Rome. Such a title would tie his dynasty to ancient Rome and the Eternal City. It would also send a message to the Pope and, for that matter, to Murat in Naples. The second city of the French Empire would be the first city of the ancients. The French Senate and the other monarchs of Europe quickly accepted the new title.

    By the way, if Marie Louise had given birth to a girl, I recall reading that her title was to be “Princess of Venice.”

    Cameron, et al, I think you give Josephine a bit of a bum rap. Sure she was unfaithful early on, and I don’t condone that, but in the long run she was very good for Napoleon and I still think he would have been better off staying with her.

    As to why to marry into the Russian or Austrian imperial families, Napoleon believed that blood ties would trump geopolitical concerns. This comes from his Corsican upbringing. It worked for a while, but when push came to shove, it meant nothing.

    “Marie Louises” is a term given to the young recruits in 1813 and 1814. These teenagers were trained on the march. The name likely comes from the fact that Marie Louise was “ruling” in Paris while Napoleon was on the march.

    Josephine’s inability to have children had nothing to do with being in prison, at least not as far as I know. I’ve always believed that she fell down some stairs and sustained some internal injuries. By the way, I’ve met Sandra Gulland and think her books are an excellent way to learn more about Josephine.

    We’ll try to do another podcast this week. The Russian campaign is rather grim, but its actually one of my favorite topics of discussion, so be forewarned as to the length and number of episodes on the matter!

    Best to you all,


  36. Elizabeth

    Dear Cameron,

    “A skanky old hoe” Really Cameron? Please keep your slut-shaming out of your podcasts they have no place in the 21st century and are just plain offensive. Only 15 minutes before this remark you were talking about Napoleon’s extramarital affairs. Its a shame to see double standards still alive and well even after 200 years since Napoleon death.

    • Cameron


      I’m sorry to hear you think those remarks were offensive and a double standard. The “hoe” remark was obviously meant as a joke and I’m sorry if you didn’t pick that up.

      Allow me to clarify though. Josephine is known to have had several extramarital affairs during her marriage to Napoleon including quite early on in the marriage, too. He isn’t known to have had any before he found out about her affairs, however once he was convinced that she was being unfaithful on a regular basis, he was heartbroken also started having affairs, somewhat out of revenge. So there’s no “double standard” in play. She played around while he was out on campaign, so he eventually did too. I’m not judging either of them. People do what they have to do.

      According to Wikipedia, “slut-shaming” is defined as:

      “… a label for social control of sexuality by exposing a woman to shame for engaging in – or being perceived to engage in – unlawful, abnormal or unethical sexual behavior. Some behaviors and events which may expose women to “slut-shaming” include dressing immodestly or provocatively, requesting birth control, having premarital or casual sex, or even being raped or sexually assaulted.”

      I obviously wasn’t accusing Josephine of any of those things, only of having extra-marital affairs. And I wasn’t attempting to shame her (she’s been dead for nearly 200 years) or anyone else who has had extra-martial affairs. I was pointing out (humorously) that she was having affairs during her marriage to Napoleon.

      Finally, I think sex is great and congratulate anyone who gets it, anywhere, anytime, in any manner, as long as it is with consenting adults.

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