Josephine (1763–1814), first wife of Napoleon I, and empress of the French, 1804–09. She was born on the island of Martinique in the West Indies, the daughter of a French soldier. Her full name was Marie Josephine Rose Tascher de la Pagerie. In 1779 she was brought to France and married Alexandre, Vicomte de Beauharnais. A son and daughter were born to them. Beauharnais became a general during the French Revolution. He was guillotined in 1794, during the Reign of Terror.
After the Terror ended, Josephine became a leading figure in Parisian society. A young general, Napoleon Bonaparte, six years her junior, fell in love with her. They were married in a civil ceremony in 1796. On the whole their marriage was happy. Josephine's spending was extravagant, but she was a charming and gracious hostess and helped reconcile aristocrats to the rule of the upstart general and first consul.
On December 1, 1804, Napoleon and Josephine were married in a religious ceremony at Notre Dame Cathedral. They were crowned emperor and empress the next day. Later Napoleon decided to dissolve the marriage. He wanted a wife who would ally him with another European power and who could bear him an heir, as Josephine had been unable to do. Their marriage was annulled on a technicality in December, 1809. Josephine was given a small estate near Paris. Napoleon sometimes visited her to ask for advice.
Josephine's son, Eugéne de Beauharnais (1781–1824), served Napoleon as a general and as viceroy of Italy. Her daughter, Hortense (1783–1837), was married to Napoleon's brother, Louis Bonaparte, king of Holland 1806–10. The third son of Hortense and Louis became Emperor Napoleon III.