Tag Archive | Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon and (Josephine) Marie

Muriel's 80th-Me&Remy

Me with a special love, grandson Remy

For years I was captivated by Napoleon, (1769-1821) and read many books about him. On my bookshelf still sits a set of four volumes ‘The Private Life of Napoleon’ by Constant, his valet. Constant thought Napoleon brilliant and tells us, as an example,  that when Marie Louise of

Napoleon by Antoine-Jean Gros

A young Napoleon

Austria didn’t become pregnant immediately, she did so only after Napoleon instructed her not to bathe. I love old books. (The English translation was copyrighted by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1895.)

Study of Josephine

study of Josephine

My own impression is that Josephine (1763-1814) has been badly treated by historians — mostly male. As Napoleon’s first love, she opened doors for the young officer. She already had important contacts, and probably was the brains behind much of his success. Napoleon didn’t realize how much he owed to her.

You can’t deny things went rapidly downhill when he, as self-proclaimed emperor, became too big for his britches and wanting an heir to the throne, he divorced Josephine and banished her from the palace. Big mistake…..

300px-Ingres,_Napoleon_on_his_Imperial_throne

Self-proclaimed Emperor Napoleon

Maria_Walewska_by_François_Gérard

Marie Walewska, Napoleon’s mistress

Of course Napoleon had lovers along the way. Power and money are sexy. There are always women willing to give themselves to men like him. Yet, in all the reading I did, nowhere did I find a word about Marie Walewska, (1786-1817) a Polish noblewoman who became his long-time mistress. I read, sometimes wearily, of battle after battle and his prowess in the battlefield, but never much about his prowess in the bedroom with this beauty.

The young Marie, married off to an elderly Count by her family, (because of an inconvenient prior pregnancy) was not smitten by Napoleon when he marched into Poland. The Poles, however, adored him — they desperately needed his help. No sacrifice was too big to win his favor. Marie, a mere child of 18, was pushed into the affair by Polish nobles and, yes, even her elderly husband. After all, what was one woman’s honor compared to the freedom of your country? Marie obeyed. Well, she WAS patriotic. Wouldn’t you? If you were patriotic?

She already had one son, and was to be the only woman to give Napoleon a son of his own who lived to adulthood, Count Alexandre Florian de Walewski (1810-1868). Her husband, the patriot, continued to be cooperative and willingly gave the child his name. After all, the man loved his country and Napoleon had promised to make Poland a strong, free kingdom. (He never kept this promise.)

Obviously a generous guy as well, when Marie, who grew to love Napoleon, (the guy could be magnetic) divorced him in 1812, Walewski gave her and her oldest son half his estates, which made her wealthy in her own right. She had also moved to Paris in 1810, where Napoleon set her up in splendor. Not bad….

For awhile, the lovers did discontinue their affair for political reasons because Napoleon wanted to divorce Josephine and thought, under the circumstances, it wouldn’t look good. But their feelings for each other persisted.

His marriage to Marie Louise of Austria (1791-1847) produced a son too, who died in

marie_louise of Austria3-f

Marie Louise of Austria

childhood, but Marie Louise fled when things got rough and later became the mistress of a Count. Marie Walewska, on the other hand, remained true to her famous lover although she did marry again. She visited Napoleon while he was in exile and disgrace at Elba to (ahem) console him. This surely was a woman who cared. She later died in Paris while Napoleon was a prisoner at St. Helena. They say the very last word she ever uttered was: ‘Napoleon’.

If you like this kind of thing, you may enjoy ‘Famous Affinities of History’ by Lyndon Orr, published in 1909, which can be found on:

http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Category:Bookshelf

If there is a heaven, they have bubble baths there.

'When in doubt, take a bath' May West

‘When in doubt, take a bath’ Mae West

The buxom Mae West (1893-1980) was thought to be outrageous in her time, but would be considered pretty mild today. She was, however, a smart cookie who once said: ‘When in doubt take a bath.’ West was not the only one who understood the many benefits of bathing, some ancient cultures honored the practice — for instance in the Ganges or the Nile. In Japan, bathing was such an art, participants showered beforehand. The Christians have the baptism and the Jews their mikvah, both forms of ceremonial bathing as well.

An ancient mikvah

An ancient mikvah

However, Genghis Khan (1162-1227), the Mongolian warrior and ruler of the largest empire in the world at the time, definitely didn’t agree with all this washing. As a man not inclined to half-measures, he passed a law making bathing punishable by death. He and his subjects never washed their clothes or bodies — the belief being it would pollute the water and anger the scary dragons who controlled the water cycle. Genghis didn’t want to anger the dragons? Could he have been afraid of them?? In any case, you wouldn’t have wanted to anger old Genghis. He would carry out excruciatingly painful killings with merciless brutality, even before breakfast. He and his gang slaughtered over 40 million people.

Genghis Khan did not allow any bathing

Genghis Khan: He did not allow any bathing

Isabella of Spain: She had two baths during her whole lifetime.

Queen Isabella of Spain: She had two baths during her whole lifetime.

Europeans didn’t used to go in much for bathing either. Consider the very devout Queen Isabella of Spain (1451-1504), she of the Inquisition — who reputedly had only two baths in her lifetime — one at birth and another on her wedding day. Obviously she didn’t consider cleanliness close to Godliness. Surely Columbus deserves our reverence just for the fortitude it must have taken to closely approach her royal personage when he requested she back his expedition. My oh-so-French husband insisted that Napoleon (1769-1821) sent a letter home from the front saying: ‘Don’t bathe Josephine, I’m coming home.’

Napoleon Bonaparte: 'Don't bathe Josephine, I'm coming home.'

Napoleon Bonaparte: ‘Don’t bathe Josephine, I’m coming home.’

Hubby told me he actually saw the letter in a museum. This was my spouse’s way of gently teasing me about my oh-so-over-the-top bathing habits. He had reason to tease, bathing for me has always been much more than a five-minute shower. My favorite baths were special, complete with soft music, scented candles, a dimly-lit bathroom, a cup of hot espresso and luxurious bubbles dancing around me as a I soaked.  During those busy years of home, husband, children, pets and work, those fifteen sumptuous minutes spent in the tub probably saved my sanity.

The first thing I did when I moved into my current apartment was to replace the tub. It had an ordinary bathtub, okay for folks who don’t comprehend what bathing is all about. Shopping for it found me fully-clothed, sitting in a dry whirlpool bathtub displayed at the store — surely a sight to see. But, you can’t just buy any old tub, it has to fit just right. Too long and you slide down, too short and you can’t lean back comfortably, plus the slant has to suit your spine just so, right? Ordinary shoppers were somewhat surprised and amused. One even offered to buy the tub with me in it! He had no idea what he would have been in for.

I still use it every morning, the warm water gently massages my sore knee. My baths remain a luxury and friends in the know are aware a little gift of bath bubbles will bring a dreamy smile to my face. I may no longer need to steal quiet time before a hectic schedule, but arthritis makes me stiff and sore at the beginning of the day. What a pleasure! Surely if there is a heaven, they have bubble baths there.

Surely, if there is a heaven, they have bubble baths there.

Surely, if there is a heaven, they have bubble baths there.