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Friday, 17 May 2013

Names galore!

This is a bit of market research really!
As my followers already know, I've got a selection of names of different eras posted here to help people out with their period heroes and heroines and secondary characters, and you may have gathered that names interest me.
I have been collecting names from around the world in a big book - an old desk diary - for many years, garnering them largely from athletics programmes of one kind or another, like the Olympics,  and I'm starting to get them onto the computer.  I've also been gathering names from different periods where I can in as many places as I can.  What I'm interested in knowing is, would anyone be interested in me publishing this as a quick guide for writers to find appropriate names by place and [where I have it] time?
I know the internet has quite a lot of name sites where you can search by place or culture but is there an interest in having it all gathered together?  I won't be going into meanings, it would be a tome several feet thick if I did that. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Guest Blog: The Empress Josephine

I've been offered a guest blog by the author Clova Leighton, who writes primarily novellas which are  well researched, fun to read,  and who is one of a select few authors who manages to be raunchier than my usual tastes without either making me giggle or get bored and wander off.  [ok,  maybe that's not very flattering but the people who know me well know that I'm a little strait laced...]

Like her or loathe her, Josephine's influence on the fashions of the Regency period cannot be denied, so here it is, from Clova Leighton, whose own site may be found HERE. Call in and check out her writing! 


Josephine (Marie Josephe Rose) Tascher de la Pagerie was born in Martinique in 1763.  She was a French Creole, from a colonial family who had sugar plantations in the island. At the age of 16, she was sent to France to marry Alexandre De Beauharnais, a French nobleman.  Her aunt was the mistress of one of his relatives, and arranged the marriage. At the time she was usually called “Yeyette” by her family and Rose by outsiders.  The marriage was not happy.  Alexandre was a sophisticated young Frenchman, who found his colonial bride too young and gauche.   She was a pretty girl but not a great beauty, with chestnut hair and blue eyes, and a slim figure; she had rather bad teeth which she concealed when she smiled.  She was a woman of more charm than regular beauty. 

The marriage produced a son, Eugene, but Alexandre had mistresses who were more amusing and charming to him.  Rose became more sophisticated and learned the ways of society, but she was always rather lazy and not intellectual.  Her husband however, in spite of his own infidelities, became jealous of her as she matured and became more attractive to men in that pleasure loving society.  When on a trip to Martinique he heard false rumours that his wife had been considered flirtatious with local young men as a young girl, and he began to believe that the child she was carrying at the time was not his. He told her that he would disown her if the baby was born too early. 

Rose was miserable at his jealousy and their marriage ended in a separation. She made a visit to her home when her second child, Hortense, was small.  On her return to Paris, the Revolution was beginning and her husband was one of the liberal minded aristocrats who accepted the changes in society.  She and he got on better, at a distance and she was sympathetic in a vague way, to the Revolution. 

In 1794, during the Terror, her husband was arrested, for the crime of being considered insufficiently committed to the regime and was executed.  Rose herself was also suspected of counter revolutionary activity, and was imprisoned. She was lucky enough to be spared death, when the Terror ended, with the killing of Robespierre.   After her release from prison, she was a young widow with 2 children.  She managed to retrieve some of Alexandre’s property.  She took part in the frenzied pleasure seeking of the post Terror society, and made a living by taking lovers, including Paul Barras, who was the main executive leader of the Directory regime of 1795–1799.   In 1795, she met Napoleon Bonaparte, a young Revolutionary general, who was from a poor but noble family in Corsica.  He fell insanely in love with the charming woman who was six years his senior, and they became lovers. 

From then on, she began to be known by his pet name for her, Josephine. She was not in love with him, but she decided to marry him for security.  His family disapproved of the marriage, as Josephine’s reputation was well known in society and his mother, in particular was puritanical.  She did not like the charming, elegant woman who had taken her son.  His sisters and brothers were equally hostile and did not welcome her into the family. 

Napoleon left for war in Italy two days after his wedding and wrote his wife some of the most passionate love letters in Western history.  She was indifferent to him.  She engaged in an affair with an army contractor, Hippolyte Charles, who accompanied her to Italy when she went to join her husband.   Her husband was too intense and serious to engage her attention.  

For some time, Napoleon was besotted with his wife, but later, when he went to fight in Egypt, he learned of her infidelity.  He was furious, and decided angrily on a divorce.  When he returned to France, however, Josephine and her children begged him to forgive her and give her a second chance.  Her tears and persuasions won him over, although he was never as much in love with her again and he took many mistresses.   But he still had feelings for her and her social skills and charming friendly personality were a help to him when he became involved in French politics and took over from the corrupt Directory, as First Consul.  He said of her “I only win battles but Josephine wins hearts for me”.

Her being from the old aristocracy helped him to win back some of the Nobility who were willing to make their peace with the Bonaparte regime.  Napoleon was often rough and ungracious in his manners but she was universally liked.  She was extremely extravagant, and spent a lot of money on her own appearance and on her houses, but she was also generous to many charities and loved for her good hearted nature.   She loved flowers and created a beautiful garden at their private home, Malmaison, a small country house outside Paris.  She was something of a patroness of the arts. 

 Napoleon cared for her and went to her for comfort, and he deeply loved her 2 children, as if they were his own.  However his own family continued to dislike his wife and to agitate for him to get rid of her.   Josephine seems to have remained faithful to him, after her affair with Hippolyte Charles ended, although he had many other women, and was not discreet in his affairs.   Josephine tried to accept his mistresses but at times she made jealous scenes. She was aware that as she was several years his senior, she was not likely to give him an heir, and when he became Emperor, he wanted a male heir to his throne.   She continued to remind him that he had never fathered a child on any of his women, whereas she had had borne two children, so he hesitated from putting her aside, not sure that the lack of children was her fault. 

Josephine’s sweet nature was well known but in her fear of divorce, she showed a more selfish side.  She had persuaded her daughter Hortense to marry Louis Bonaparte, Napoleon’s younger brother, in hopes that when they had children, who were related to both of them, her grandson and Napoleon’s nephew, her husband would choose one of them as his heir.  But the marriage to Louis was very unhappy. He was insanely jealous of Hortense, and made her miserable with his spite and jealousies.  He became obsessed with the idea that she was unfaithful to him and did not want Napoleon to choose one of his sons as an heir; because he elected to believe that her eldest son was actually Napoleon’s own child.  

The child Napoleon Charles died in 1807 of croup.  After a few years, Louis and Hortense separated and she found happiness with another man, Charles De Flahaut.  

Napoleon had been part of the wild and free and easy society of Revolutionary France, where marital and other rules had been abandoned, and divorce became easy and people engaged in frequent changes of partners.   But at heart, he was a Corsican, something of a backwoods man, and puritanical.  He disapproved of women having a role in politics or being allowed too much sexual and social freedom.  His Napoleonic Code made divorce a lot more difficult and he tried to avoid scandals at his court. 

Btu in order to have an heir, he seriously began to consider a divorce.   In 1806, his sister Caroline, a very ambitious woman, provided him with a mistress, her “lectrice” (who read books to her,) Eleonore Deneulle de la Plaigne.  She intended to keep Eleonore secluded so that if she became pregnant, Napoleon would be assured that the baby was his, and it might provoke him to get rid of his wife.   But Murat, Caroline’s husband, a notorious philanderer, also had access to the girl, and when she bore a son, (later known as Count Leon) Napoleon was not sure if it was definitely his child. However shortly afterwards, he took another mistress, Marie Waleswska, who was a virtuous and lovely Polish girl of 18 who fell in love with him and left her elderly husband to be with him.  She became pregnant in 1809, and this time, Napoleon was quite sure, thanks to Marie’s virtue, that he was the father of her son (Alexandre Walewski).   So it was only a matter of time before he would try to divorce Josephine. 

By now, Josephine had long since fallen in love with her husband and she desperately hoped that she would not lose him.  In the end, she agreed to a divorce, for the sake of his having an heir and he assured her that she would still be his closest friend and that she would still have the rank of Empress. She had a generous financial settlement.  She was miserably unhappy for a time, after the divorce and Napoleon’s marriage to the Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria, who was only 18.  But she had many friends and her son, daughter and grandchildren, who were glad to visit her. She still spent extravagantly and it was rumoured that she eventually consoled herself with one or two other lovers.   Napoleon visited occasionally and brought his baby son to see her.  Her life was not unpleasant, but by this time her husband’s empire was crumbling.  He had over extended himself and was unable to hold his vast frontiers.  His military genius seemed to be failing him. 
In 1814, he abdicated and was exiled to the island of Elba.  The Bourbon king was restored to his throne.  Josephine was still popular in society and was visited by the Russian Czar Alexander, who was won over by her charm.   She may have hoped to use her influence with him to get some favours for Napoleon who had been deserted now by his Austrian wife, Marie Louise.   She continued to hold parties at Malmaison to entertain the many visitors who came to Paris in the wake of Napoleon’s defeat.  But she caught a bad cold which turned to an infected sore throat and died at the age of 51, in her beloved home, Malmaison.  

Napoleon was deeply upset to hear the news of her death and realized that in her way she had been much more loyal and loving than his second wife had been.  When he returned to Paris, on his escape from Elba, he visited Malmaison and spent time alone in the room where she had died, weeping.  

Napoleon divorced Josephine to have a legitimate heir.  But ironically his son by Marie Louise, Napoleon II, died young and never had any children.  Yet Josephine’s two children both had families and these Beauharnais children married into the royal families of Europe.  So in the end, Josephine’s descendants sit on many thrones in Europe.  Her son Eugene De Beauharnais was a good solider and loyal to his stepfather.  He married a Bavarian princess and had 5 daughters and 2 sons.   After the wars, he took the title of Duke of Leuchtenberg.  One daughter, Princess Amelie married the Emperor of Brazil.  Another – the Princess Josephine married into the Swedish royal family.  Hortense had three sons by Louis Bonaparte.  Her first child died young, her second, Napoleon Louis died as a young man.  The third son, Napoleon III did revive the Empire and sit on the French throne for many years.  Today, she is known as a charming and lovely woman who was an important part of Napoleonic history, and who is famous for the beautiful home that she created, which is still a tourist attraction, and the gardens she developed.