Marie-Josephe-Rose Tascher de la Pagerie was born on June 23rd, 1763 in Trois-Ilets, Martinique, French West Indies. She is the daughter of Joseph Gaspard de Tascher de la Pagerie, and Rose Claire des Vergers de Sannois.
She is only sixteen years old when she marries Viscount Alexandre François Marie de Beauharnais, a French army officer. They have two children: a son, Eugene, who will become Viceroy of Italy, and a daughter, Hortense, who will marry Louis Bonaparte and be the mother of Emperor Napoleon III and the Duke of Morny.
The Beauharnais separates soon. The Viscount is guillotined in 1794, and Marie-Josephe-Rose passes near the beheading...
Prominent under the French Directory, despite her poor financial situation, she became the mistress of Paul Barras. The latter, seeking to get rid of her, introduces her to a young officer who seems destined for a successful career: General Napoleon Bonaparte.
Josephine (this is how Napoleon names her) is neither in love nor persuaded the young man's skills, his junior by six years, to find a place in the spheres of power. She however marries him, civilly, on March 9, 1796.
Under the Directory, the couple's life is made of numerous infidelities; it stabilizes during the Consulate.
She is made Empress by Napoleon himself at the coronation on December 2nd, 1804. However, she doesn't give him the heir to the throne he awaits. The desire of the Emperor to found a dynasty forces him to divorce his wife in 1810.
While Napoleon is in Elba, and the Allied armies are in Paris, she is proud to show her garden to Tsar Alexander I. But, dressed too lightly, she became ill and is carried off by pneumonia on May 29th, 1814.