Napoleon, Divorce and Women’s Rights


51vKKAg-jALOn the 10th of January 1810, the divorce ceremony of Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife Joséphine was performed as a grand social gathering, with each of the parties reading out a statement of devotion to the each other. A year prior to that, after a tense dinner together, Napoleon had announced to Joséphine that he had his mind set on separation. The emperor had long desired a son who would succeed him and continue the Bonaparte dynasty, but Joséphine, a widow six years his senior and already mother-of-two had been unable to provide him with a heir in their fifteen years together. Although their relationship was an unusual power-struggle with mutual distrust and infidelities, it seemed to have run deep and their separation had a heavy impact on both of them.

Allegedly, upon learning of Napoleon’s decision to divorce, the empress suffered a nervous fit and fainted, and…

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